How to negotiate a higher salary

By Robert Half on 6th April 2022

Estimated reading time: 3.5 minutes

With many employers struggling to attract candidates with the necessary skills and experience, you may find yourself in a stronger bargaining position to negotiate a higher starting salary. While you need to be wary of pricing yourself out of the market, you also need to ensure you are paid your true worth - or ideally, slightly more. Employers might specify the salary a particular position carries, but there may still be room for negotiation. 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.

You 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 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 salary 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. A key element to note when you approach how to negotiate your salary for a new job is the more fact-based your submission is, the more likely the employer will decide to agree to your request.

Related: How good are you at negotiating your salary? [Quiz]

Discussing pay with a hiring manager

It is important to be realistic when negotiating a higher starting salary - otherwise you could jeopardise your position, 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 to negotiate a higher starting salary 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. Keep things simple and 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.

Related: How to answer “What are your salary expectations?”

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 when negotiating salary.

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 offer 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.

How to negotiate salary offers

Do you want to now what the going rate is for your job role? Access our new Salary Guide for a comprehensive overview of the market trends you need to know and average starting salaries for more than 200 roles.

If you're thinking about negotiating salary why not take our quiz below to find out if it's the right time to discuss a pay rise.


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