Salary Negotiation – Techniques & dealing with questions about salary.


Having demonstrated in the interview process that you were the best person to meet the company’s needs, now is the time to negotiate to ensure that your needs are met.

To give yourself the greatest chance of getting the package that you want, here is the second of three articles in our series on salary negotiation for you to consider and build into your own negotiation strategies.


Salary Negotiation – Techniques


In many ways, salary negotiation is no different from any other form of negotiation:  two parties want to trade, and both want the best deal. However, after you have sold your house, for example, you are unlikely to see the purchaser again. So, if you choose you can play ‘hardball.’  Salary negotiation differs in the sense that you will probably be working alongside the person with whom you are negotiating for several years to come, so use quiet determination and good humour.  Listen actively during the negotiating process and confirm each point of agreement. It is a good idea to make brief notes on key points.  Maintain good eye contact and be conscious of body language. Never be confrontational.

Keep the big picture in mind and stay flexible. Your objective is to secure the best overall package. For example, it may be difficult for the other party to vary the terms of the company’s health insurance plan to include your family members. So, push instead, for a guaranteed bonus or higher car allowance.

Talk salary range rather than a specific figure. For example, if the employing company volunteers a proposed salary of £70,000 respond by pausing and then saying, ‘I was thinking more in the range of £75,000 to £85,000’. Speak in a deliberate way and then shut up. Then, however long it takes, wait for the other party to reply. Pauses and silences are extremely powerful, so use them.

Reinforce the importance of the position at every opportunity, ‘As you have said, this is a pivotal role to XYZ because of ………….’

Wherever possible negotiate directly with the decision maker rather than a recruiter or an HR person. Remember it is the decision maker who has the need and the authority.

Try to avoid negotiating by email or telephone, get face to face if at all possible. If the offer is made in writing you might call the hiring manager, express interest and enthusiasm and then mention that there a couple of points in the offer you would like to discuss with him or her and ask to arrange a brief meeting.


Salary Negotiation – Dealing with questions about salary.


Before an offer is made, you are the seller and the employing organisation is the buyer, thus there is a danger that you will undersell yourself to secure the post if you discuss money before there is an offer on the table. Once the employer has told you that they are going to make you an offer, the power is reversed: you are now the buyer, and they are selling the post to you. In this situation you will be able to negotiate a much stronger package.

Delaying discussion of rewards also has the advantage that when the subject does come to be discussed the organisation will have a much clearer view of your skills and likely contribution to their success.

The two questions you are likely to have to deal with are:

  • What is your present or latest salary?
  • What salary are you looking for?


What’s your current salary?

This is a very common question, but let’s consider why it is asked.  At a mid to senior level no two jobs are the same. The titles may be the same, but the content of the role and the nature of the organisation will be different. At this level there is no market rate; certainly, there is a market range, but that range is wide.

The are a number of reasons why the employer will want this information. They will probably want to find out if you are within their budget and will look for an early negotiating advantage should they decide to make an offer. It is clearly in the employing company’s interest to know your current salary. But is it in your interests? Most definitely not.

You should therefore try to avoid this question if you can, perhaps by saying something along the lines of ‘My current role is different in a few respects, and I would rather be judged on my contribution to this role than on my package in my current one’.

If the question is repeated you may not be able to avoid it without appearing obstructive or giving the impression that you have something to hide. In this case consider how to present the information. If you fear you may be seen as too expensive, talk only about the base element of your salary and use a vague answer, for example if you were on £55K and the post you are applying for is likely to pay £40k to £45k, you might say you earned ‘in the region of £50k’.

You will also want to make it clear that you recognise that there are differences between the roles and that you are not expecting the same salary but be wary of drawing attention to your lack of experience in a sector. You can stress that you recognise the particular circumstances of the organisation and your willingness to be flexible.

If you fear you may be seen as too cheap for the role, then you will wish to talk about the value of your total package, rolling in elements like bonus, car allowance, pension contribution and so on. You might also mention any factors that meant that you were paid less than your worth, without being negative, and say that you are now keen to get back into a successful organisation that can reward ability and results.

Of course, you should not deliberately mislead in either case, but you can give an answer, which is open to interpretation.

One situation where you may find it counter-productive not to give your current or latest salary when asked is in dealing with recruitment consultants. To be able to put you forward for appropriate roles they will need to know certain basic information about you: your job title, sector and salary. You may get over-looked if you do not give this information. The same advice applies if you think you may be seen as too expensive or too cheap. You may wish to focus on the package you seek rather than your current one.


What salary are you looking for?

Again, avoid discussing your requirements until the company has committed to making you an offer. The way you deal with the question will depend where in the selection process you are. If the question is asked at the first interview, you could respond with ‘I have a lot more to find out about this role and I’m sure there’s a lot more you want to know about me before we start discussing salary.’ You may wish to add ‘I’m sure salary won’t be an issue when we come to it.’

If the question arises when you do know a good bit about each other and you believe an offer may be imminent, but it has not yet been made, you cannot use this approach. Instead, you could smile and say, ‘I’m sure we both know that the time to talk about salary is when there’s an offer on the table’ or even, if you feel the circumstances justify it: ‘Am I to understand that you are offering me the position?.’


Look out the third article “Salary Negotiation – Deciding whether to accept the offer and other negotiable elements.”  


If you would like to find out more about this topic, contact us to book your free 90 minute personal 1:1 career consultation:


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