How to address salary discussions with a potential employer

Discussing money and salaries with a potential new employer is not something that should fill you with dread. If you’ve got to the stage where you’re being asked about figures, there’s a good chance that the employer is starting to give serious consideration to the possibility of making you an offer. Whilst this part of the candidate/employer exchange often intimidates people it really doesn’t need to and you can navigate it easily and without causing any conflict if you’ve done your homework.

Keep your options open

When you apply for a role these days there’s often not a set figure stated in the job ad, besides something like “competitive salary” or “attractive remuneration”, and one reason for this is because clients don’t want to miss out on talent for the sake of advertising a salary that could be just below what their ideal candidate is looking for. Sometimes, especially with start-ups, they’re a little unsure themselves of the true market rates for certain roles and prefer to leave this detail off an advert. The problem this throws up is whether you state the salary you earn with your current employer or the salary you’d like to receive in your next role. Much like the employer, here is where you can also state that you are negotiable on salary, (though you may need to give a range to ensure no one’s time is being wasted).

Cost of living

Our advice to candidates is give some serious thought to what your bottom line figure is, that is to say, how much do you need to earn to cover all your current commitments and allow you to live comfortably. Then once you know this, decide what the ideal, and realistic, salary is that you would like to be earning for the role you’re applying for, and that will give you your range. Besides, it’s impossible to commit to a final salary or consultancy day rate until you properly understand the responsibilities, deliverables and working hours expected in the new role. Therefore, by stating a range and letting an employer know that you’re negotiable on the final figure once you’ve gained a full understanding of the role and package available, doesn’t commit you at this stage and gives the employer a decent idea of what you’re looking for.

Point of negotiation

Once you’ve progressed through the various interview stages you should have gained a good understanding of the role and your new employer will equally have a good idea of your abilities and what you can bring to the table. All being well, an offer will now be made and in order to accept, you need to be sure you’re happy with everything and won’t find yourself back on the job market in 6 months. If you believe you deserve the higher end of the pay range that either you or the employer has stated, be prepared to back up why you feel it’s justifiable. For example, are you taking on considerably more responsibility than in your previous role or performing a very technical role that no one else in the business has the skills to cover or support you with? If you want to achieve a higher salary than you previously earned, this is the time to negotiate. Remember that for your employer, this is a business transaction and it’s unlikely to be the first time they’ve had to enter into discussions on payments for a service. As long as you’re professional, polite and can support why you’re asking for the salary you are, it won’t reflect on you in a bad light, there really is no reason to feel awkward or worried about discussing your expectations.

All clients of course have limits to their salary budgets, and it may be that the first offer made is the best they can do considering factors like their profitability and current pay scales throughout the business. If this is the case and there’s no room for negotiation on the salary figure you were hoping for, but it still meets your bottom line, it’s important to then enquire about any benefits the employer provides as the offer could in fact be more rewarding than first thought. If, for example, they offer flexible working with some days being done remotely from a home office, that could make a big difference to your travel expenses meaning you can afford to somewhat reduce your salary requirements. Is equity or stock options on offer? If the role offers commission or performance related bonus, find out how this is calculated and when and how often it’s paid out. Finally, if the salary offered made is not open to negotiation, enquire about when salary reviews are carried out. Perhaps you can negotiate to have yours as soon as you complete your probation period, meaning you won’t have to wait the usual 12 months for a salary increase once you’ve proved your abilities and value to the business.