In a rapidly improving jobs market, many employers are struggling to acquire professionals with the skills and expertise needed to take their organisation forwards. This is creating opportunities for candidates who are able to supply what businesses are looking for - they can potentially strike a better deal when starting a new role.
Jobseekers need to be able to identify negotiation opportunities, where they can push for an improved salary, a greater range of benefits and/or more favourable working conditions. Then they need to have the confidence and measure to press this advantage home, by demonstrating to the employer they are worth making an extra effort to recruit.
- When is it a good time to negotiate?
Jobseekers should research the market and industry they are working in to assess the level of demand for somebody with their skills and expertise. If there are plenty of jobs available in your sector, and average salaries are increasing, this may be indicative of a supply shortage. If an employer is struggling to find the person they need, and you have been deemed to fit the bill, it may be possible to squeeze a little more out of them during negotiations.
If you attempt to negotiate on remuneration or other key benefits, the employer has two options. Firstly, they can rebuff your advances and make a take-it-or-leave-it offer. But if the hiring manager is under pressure to make a suitable appointment quickly - owing to a skills gap within their organisation - and there are few if any other viable candidates, this approach may be deemed too risky. Eager to bring you onboard, the only viable alternative is to try and find some middle ground on pay.
As someone looking for a job, you should be trying to negotiate from a position of strength. Ideally, you should be able to walk away from the prospective role, because you have other options on the table. But providing you are able to make a case for higher pay - showing how your skills and experience stand out from the crowd - then there is always an opportunity. Giving quantitative examples of how you have provided value to your previous employer may encourage a hiring manager to accept your request for more money.
- Setting your sights appropriately
It always makes sense to aim high when negotiating on pay, as the hiring manager will almost always offer less than what you ask for. They are looking to get the best possible deal for the organisation, and essentially this means offering the minimum amount the chosen individual is willing to work for. But jobseekers should always be wary of setting their sights too high - this could make you look naïve and cause the hiring manager to question whether you are the right candidate after all.
Wherever possible, jobseekers should try and prise a figure from the employer first, without outlining their own desires and expectations. If you have made a strong case for a higher salary, the hiring manager may just surprise you with a higher-than-expected offer. Should you be happy with the package on the table, you then have the option of trying to prise out a little more, or simply shaking hands and agreeing a deal.
It makes sense to keep notes of any discussions involving a negotiation in pay, ensuring there is no distortion of what was agreed at a later date. This is particularly important if a range of benefits and incentives are involved, or if both sides have been making concessions. It is important to ensure what was originally agreed makes it into your contract of employment.
- How to negotiate
Negotiation skills training can help prepare you for this process, showing you how to demonstrate your perceived worth to a potential employer and strike a more favourable deal. But working with a recruiter can also help with negotiation. Indeed, this can potentially be more effective than raising the issue of pay yourself with the hiring manager.
Recruitment agencies employ specialists who can discuss the level of remuneration with their client on your behalf. They are likely to have built up a rapport with the hiring manager during the process, be aware of the other potential candidates and be able to weigh up your strengths against the rest of the field. As such, recruiters are far better placed to have an open discussion about what the employer is willing to pay and what you - as the candidate - are expecting.
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