With many employers struggling to attract candidates with the necessary skills and experience, talented jobseekers may find themselves in a stronger bargaining position. While candidates need to be wary of pricing themselves out of the market for new jobs, they also need to ensure they are paid their true worth - or ideally, slightly more. Employers might specify the salary a particular position carries, but there may still be room for negotiation in order to secure a more lucrative contract. The more in-demand your skills are, and the keener a hiring manager is to secure your signature, the greater the scope for a better offer.
In many cases, jobseekers may feel uncomfortable asking an employer for more money. But in order to maximise your earning capacity, it is important to overcome any reluctance to do so. Employers will always be eager to get a good deal financially out of the person they hire, so there is no reason for jobseekers not to do the same. As the saying goes, 'if you don’t ask, you don't get'. Humility may be an endearing quality at times, but it will not help pay the mortgage. Indeed, showing confidence in your abilities and asking employers to stretch a little further might just add a few pounds to your pay packet.
How to negotiate with a potential employer
Employers will rarely, if ever, offer a higher salary without being prompted to do so. If you make such a request it could be rejected outright, but the hiring manager may decide to consider it. If they think you are the best candidate for the role and will add value to the organisation, it is possible some form of compromise could be reached.
But if you are going to ask for a higher starting salary, it is important to make a clear commercial case for the employer to accept your request. You need to be able to explain clearly - ideally with the use of evidence and examples - why it makes sense to pay you more than the advertised rate. This means considering what makes you particularly valuable as an individual - what are your skills and what can they add to the organisation? This should build upon the information you have outlined in your CV earlier in the application process.
Employers may be interested in your level of experience, qualifications and educational background, plus your ability to sell, your industry contacts and personal clients, and perhaps even your knowledge of competitors. The more fact-based your submission is, the more likely the employer will decide to agree to your request.
Discussing pay with a hiring manager
It is important to be realistic when negotiating a higher starting salary - otherwise you could jeopardise your position altogether, with the job going to someone else. Find out how much similarly skilled and experienced individuals working in the same industry are earning - this should help you assess what a good offer is. Speaking to industry contacts, checking salary guides and researching the hiring company can help build up a clearer picture.
If the idea of negotiating over pay unnerves you, it may be worth practising the conversation - running through the different scenarios so you have a clearer idea about what to say. Developing the pitch in your own time, rather than acting on the spur of the moment, should help take some of the edge off. Keeping things simple is advisable - just ask the question in clear, unambiguous terms. Not only will this avoid tying yourself in knots, it will also show the hiring manager that you mean business.
Remember that negotiating a starting salary is a business transaction - so in order for a deal to be reached, there needs to be something in it for both parties. As such, you need to be realistic and reasonable in your demands, and decide upon the lowest offer you are willing to accept. In the first instance, there is nothing wrong with asking for a higher-than-likely figure. If the employer does decide to negotiate, they will inevitably move downwards from your starting point.
Patience can be key
If you do ask an employer to offer more money, it is unlikely they will agree to your request on the spot. It is entirely reasonable for the hiring manager to go away and discuss this with their colleagues or superiors following your meeting, and get back to you at a later point in time. They may even seek additional information from you to support your case, so always be prepared.
Should your negotiation fail, it is important to react in the right way - remaining gracious and composed. Candidates should never take a refusal personally, as this is a business deal. It may be worth asking whether other benefits - for instance, additional annual leave - may be available in lieu of a higher starting salary. Potentially the hiring manager may be able to sign off on such requests, even if they cannot permit additional pay.
Failing to secure a better pay offer isn't the end of the world - after all, you have still managed to secure a new job. This gives you the opportunity to impress as an employee, and demonstrate your true value to your bosses. If you make the right impression during the first few months, your next conversation about salary could end up being much more fruitful.