Money is a universally taboo subject. That’s why negotiating a salary is tricky not just for fresh job-hunters but even for those with years of work experience. Finding the perfect middle ground between feeling short-changed and being unrealistic is crucial in obtaining the job offer you deserve. We spoke with a group of experts comprised of Talent Acquisition Specialists, Hiring Managers, and CEOs to get advice on the best salary negotiation techniques and the most important things to consider.
1. Know your worth in the market
Knowledge is power so make sure that you do your research upfront. Start by determining the average salary range for the position that you’re pursuing in your geographic area. Glassdoor, PayScale, or Indeed offer great resources to help you do this. Based on whether you have more or less experience than the average person with that job, this should provide a helpful starting point for your salary negotiation. If you feel comfortable, you could also elicit the help of friends or colleagues in the industry.
Definitely do not ask for a salary without having a strong basis for this request. Chris Wilkinson (Head of Talent, Forward Partners) emphasises that you need to “do your research upfront, know your worth in the market, and have all of this in your head before talking numbers with a company”, while Sorabh Dhir (Founder and CEO, docuvo) puts it quite simply as: “Don’t go in blind”.
2. Understand your limits
Chances are that higher packages correspond with more responsibilities and higher expectations. Don’t get distracted by the dollar signs and take on something that is beyond your capabilities. As Chris says, “know where your red lines are in relation to your commitments”. Similarly, Sorabh stresses that “same as any negotiation, know your limits”.
“Chances are you will be left pretty exposed in a startup if you are overpaid and underperforming, so be realistic and negotiate accordingly” – Chris Wilkinson
3. Always go second
When a potential employer asks what salary you expect, don’t feel pressured to answer first. Change the direction of the conversation instead. “Mention that you want to know more about what the position will entail”, advises Nick Larkins (Head of Talent, Hire Space), “and ask the employer for a figure”.
If you’re a woman, going second is even more important. Statistics have shown that female candidates undersell themselves by 15-20%, so a woman’s most powerful salary negotiation tool can actually be silence. In her experience, Hanna Sanford (Talent Acquisition, OneFineStay) found that “female candidates are more likely to undersell themselves – so let the employer provide the first number”.
4. Check your priorities
Again, don’t let the dollar signs distract you during your job hunt. Examine the role you’ve been offered in detail: Will you be learning new things and challenging yourself? Will you have access to a great mentor? Is there plenty of opportunity for growth? If the answer is no, the initially high salary might not be worth it in the end. “Prioritise growth and education over money instead”, says Samantha Hepburn (Partnerships Lead at General Assembly). “You might be offered 60k but if the role is something you’ve already been doing, you’re not going to learn anything. How will you be able to go above that in the future?”
“Always take long-term reward over short-term cash” – Chris Wilkinson
5. Corporate versus startup salary
From the company culture to the dress code, working at a corporate is vastly different from working at a startup. It should come as no surprise, then, that negotiating salary also requires different tactics at a startup versus a corporate. Due to their limited resources, startups are less likely offer fringe benefits such as health insurance or paid pension. Instead, you might wish to negotiate on having flexible working hours or being able to work from home. You might have more scope for creativity, so why not try asking for a dog-friendly office?
“Why go into a startup for corporate pay packets? It screams wrong mindset” – Chris Wilkinson
At a corporate, see what additional benefits could be offered, such as gym memberships or health check-ups. Although a corporate salary can be higher than a startup one, beware of the “brand-name discount” – some companies use the weight of their well-known and reputable brand to get away with offering lower salaries. As with everything else, whether this is worth it will depend on your priorities.
6. Equity options
If you believe in the product of a startup, you might wish to consider equity options when joining. When determining the value of your equity, be sure to ask what percentage of the company your shares actually represent as being told a standalone figure is likely to be meaningless. Click here for more advice on negotiating your equity wisely.
Thanks to our experts for their top tips. Are they colleagues you’d love to have?