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Salary Negotiation Skills

Learn skills to negotiate salary to ensure you get desired salary hike. Get career tips, labour law brief and more helpful information to advance your career.

We work to earn money to pay for goods and services which will sustain us, as well as provide us with a standard of living which we are accustomed to. So, when we seek new employment one of the key issues which would concern us would be our monthly remuneration. Other criteria could include job satisfaction and career advancement, among others. In this article we will address the dos and don’ts in the process of negotiating the best possible salary package for you.


What are your salary expectations?

In Sri Lanka, possibly like in many Asian countries, any discussion about money is rather uncomfortable. So when applicants are asked to state their salary expectations, their responses are often hesitant, largely because an applicant fears that if he pitches too high he may lose his chance at securing the job.

Therefore, if you are confident of your qualifications, skills and experience and your suitability for the job, it is absolutely necessary to convey your salary expectations through a realistic and well researched answer.

Employers generally expect the applicant to negotiate on the salary package, so you should do so in a non-combative and collaborative manner.

Here are some guidelines to follow when negotiating your salary package with your potential employer.

  • Research

Carefully research the salary norms in the industry for the position you are applying. You should check with others in the industry and also access salary surveys conducted by professional associations, so that you know the range of salaries paid by different organizations in the industry for similar positions.

  • Don’t jump the gun It is not advisable to try and begin a discussion on the salary even before the employer has offered you the job. Once the employer has decided to hire you, your leverage is much greater and your negotiations will yield better results. Also don’t indicate your expected salary in your covering letter, because it is highly unprofessional.
  • Tread carefully If you are asked what salary you are expecting early on in the interview process, then you should tread carefully, because if you mention a sum that is too high it can be a conversation stopper. At this point it would be prudent to mention that the average market rate for a position such as the one you have applied for is ‘x’ amount, and then politely ask whether the organization also follows the norm.
  • Don’t sell yourself short Most employers have predetermined salary ranges that they bring to the table, leaving allowance for negotiation. But they will not necessarily communicate their options with you. Since both parties will want to arrive at a win-win situation, you must not allow yourself to be blinded into making a raw deal.
  • Don’t let unemployment put you on the back foot If you are currently unemployed, don’t let that create a sense of desperation, which will eventually result in a deal that is not completely beneficial to you. Your skills, qualifications and experience are just as good as those of any other candidate (who may be employed at the time), so your current unemployment cannot underrate the value you could bring to the organization.
  • Consider perks and benefits when negotiating the basic salary figure When considering the salary on offer, you should take into account the benefits and perks that the organization may be offering. Some organizations do not have high basic salaries, but they may compensate with benefits such as health insurance for the employee and his family, life insurance, an allowance for mobile phone usage, internet facilities, membership fees to professional associations like CIMA, etc., vacation package, flexitime, working from home and so on. When the financial benefits of these perks are computed, the entire salary package may be more attractive than one with only a high basic salary with no other perks or benefits.

In Sri Lanka, your terminal benefits such Employees Provident Fund, Employees Trust Fund and Gratuity are calculated on the basic salary and not on the consolidated package. Therefore, you will have to make an informed decision as to whether you prefer short term or long term gains.

  • Negotiate with grace Speak from a position of strength rather than weakness. Be confident, but gracious. State your terms but also leave room for the organization to work with you towards achieving that all important win-win situation.
  • Market yourself Remember that as in all negotiations there is a buyer and a seller. You are the seller of services and the organization is the buyer. Therefore, to convince the buyer that he is getting his money’s worth, you have to market yourself through your resumé/CV, your conduct at the interview, your achievements, experience and your qualifications.
  • Don’t discuss personal finances during negotiations The negotiations are between a buyer and a seller, so you should stick to discussing the monetary value of your services to the organization. Don’t discuss personal finances like the mortgage payments on your house or the leasing payments on your car, the cost of your children’s education, and similar matters. These issues which may be monumental to you are of no concern to the employer. Salaries are determined on mutual value and not on need.
  • Don’t presume Even if the potential employer informs you that the company will be conducting a review within a six-month or one year period, and at that point depending on the review, your salary will be increased, don’t relent on negotiating your salary. In the event the review does not take place as planned, and you have agreed to a lower than comfortable salary, then you will be disappointed and that will most often translate into lower performance and poor deliverables.
  • Settling for less Sometimes you may find that even though the remuneration package is less than expected, the benefits from working for that particular organization such as job satisfaction, experience and access to contacts in the industry, may compensate over and beyond a better salary in another organization. Therefore, depending on your long term personal goals, you may opt for a lesser package in order to access a far greater experience. As such you should tailor your negotiation accordingly.
  • Key ingredients for negotiation Pensions are determined by the State for public service employees, and likewise the contributions by the employer / employee to the Employees Provident Fund and the Employees Trust Fund are determined by Statute. So these factors are not up for negotiation.

However, other issues such as training, work time (flexitime), working from home, travelling allowance and health insurance, etc., are open to negotiation. Some organizations may not provide benefits and allowances across the board to all their staff, but may offer them to certain categories. Some organizations may even be willing to extend certain benefits at a personal level. This is why before beginning any negotiations on salary packages, it is critical that you research the salary ranges in operation in the industry in general as well as the benefits provided by the organization in particular.

  • Don’t take too long to respond to an offer If you are offered the job, ask for a few days to consider it, but don’t delay beyond that. The employer may think you are not interested or that you are having many irons in the fire, and waiting for the best offer.
  • Always negotiate It is very important that you negotiate the best deal for yourself. Remember the employer is looking out for his best interests and you should do the same for yourself. Don’t just accept the first salary you are offered, because by not negotiating you may have lost a great opportunity to receive a better remuneration package.
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