Raise your Salary through Negotiations

by Calum Coburn

Negotiate a higher salary with your employer. Get more value by expanding your negotiator skills for better pay, benefit, bonuses and promotions.

As an employee, once you've been offered that ideal employment position or are still relentlessly seeking your ideal job, sooner or later you will be sitting down to negotiate salary. Once you've read the information below, you will not only earn more money through raises and job lucrative job offers, you will gain the respect of your new manager.


Power can be described as an impartial force that we need to understand and use to our best advantage. Some people erroneously believe that the employer has the power. There are several reasons for this misconception. Employees all too often deduce their reasoning on the basis that the employer pays the salary; the employer chooses the candidates; the employer has already determined the pay grades and bands; and because the manager holds the position power etc.

While it is true that these are all sources of power, and they each demand adequate respect and research. In truth however, a person really only needs one particular source of power. This is the power that really counts. What is it? It's the power of having another job offer.

Just because you've discovered the 'perfect job' does not necessarily mean you should stop interviewing. There is nothing that can make you more appealing to a prospective employer than having offers from the competition. You may learn that your perfect job isn't so perfect after all.

The Company Policy Objection

There are occassions when a company will claim it cannot accede to givng you any concessions when it alleges - "We can't do that, it's Company Policy." The problem is that if you back down and accept this excuse at face value, your employer will be holding all the best cards. A sure fire way to make sure an employee does not raise their expectations.

One means you can employ to challenge this objection is to immediately ask your employer the reason why the company policy was originally made in the first place. Employers frequently don't really know the answer. As a result, they are placed in the un - envious position of having to re - evaluate a possibly outdated in non - applicable policy. The more information you can garner, the more you will be empowered to get around this stonewall response. Your employer may claim that if they make an exception for you. this will open the floodgates for all other employees to request the same concession. The point to remember though is that rules always have exceptions. You can do this by considering and explaining to them that your sitiuation is special and unique enough not to be used by all their employees.


Trading is equally germane for a salary negotiations as well as a company negotiation. An example can be "If I forego my current holiday leave to start early for you, then I would like the company car." Do not give up a concession wiothout getting something in return. Use If - Then statements. Start by ranking each of your interests, and then ask yourself which of these interests would make a good trade - yet remain flexible.

Most positions today carry an associated salary range or 'band' for their grade. This makes salary negotiations more challenging. Negotiations will require greater creativity in creating an ideal package. In any negotiation - information is power. We sugges you find out the salary range before your interview.

If you are presently employed and going for a promotion, your task is simple. First, start by talking with someone who is already working for this prospective employer - ask them. On the other hand, you could go ask your personnel department. I recommend you not ask your prospective manager, as this could lead to premature discussions about your own salary expectations.


Grade is an increasingly important issue given the narrow salary ranges grades dictate. As a client related to us, he was so pleased to accept the title "Financial Director" that he only later learned that most other company directors were a grade higher and were paid handsomely more. It is important to ask about the differences between the position you are being offered and the next 2 grades above. There could be 2 grades between you and your manager. The worst scenario would entail not receiving a higher grade, but at least have shown ambition and foresight. Your interview will provide with important insight and agreement on performance measures that spell the difference between grade promotion.

Performance Bonuses

Performance bonuses are no longer simply related to sales professionals. Bonuses can be thought of as another component of your salary offering. Since bonuses are paid only if you exceed a target, it would be wise to discover just how stretching the target is. Remember to ask about how often this quarterly or annual bonus is going to be paid. Some employers prefer offering performance related bonuses instead of a salary raise to an employee.

You should be mindful of the risk where managers either ease their foot off of the accelerator after target is achieved, or of deferring invoices into future periods. As an ambitious manager or executive, you have an opportunity to propose your being paid a higher bonus for every pound or dollar that exceeds the target.


Time is clearly the most precious of your tradable commodities. Before you agree to give valuable time to your employer, do your math first. One simple means to measure the value of your time is to divide your salary by your hours to get your effective hourly rate. So a position paying 70'000 with 60 hours per week pays less per hour than 60'000 with only 46 hours per week (22.4 versus 25 per hour). Which figure would grab your attention first in an advertisement? So rather than negotiate salary upwards, you may find it more practical to negotiate your time down. If you are confident of meeting their expectations, then you could always ask for more vacation or to work 4 - day weeks.

External Principles and Measures

Practic stepping into your manager's shoes is almost always an illuminating and vital experience. To ensure you really are in their shoes, ask a friend to play your role, whilst you play at being your 'manager to be'. The more realistic you make the experience of being someone else, the higher your chances of mind - opening discoveries.

So what can you learn whilst in their world?

This is dependent on the quality of your questions. Here are some questions to pose whilst in their shoes:
What challenges & ambitions does hiring this candidate promise to solve?
What interests underpin these?
Can you rate these interests in order of importance?
What are your concerns and reservations?
What previous achievments should I be most interested in learning more about

When to Discuss Salary

When should you raise the issue of salary? It's true that "Until you have created value, any price is too high." Only raise the issue of salary only after you've convinced your employer of your future value to them. This means salary should only be discussed towards the end of your negotiation. You should have already calculated how much more profit they will be earning through employing you, and how much less risk they will be facing. These are your best sources of objectivity and fairness to assess your salary offering. Should you disagree with a proposal as too low, no doubt they will ask you the reason why you feek this way, and why your own counter proposal is any better than their offer. Since we are persuaded by reason, and moved by emotion - be diligent when researching your reasoning. Some general comparisons to draw include: what does the competition pay similar grade professionals, pegging salary increases to inflation or government salary rate increases, case studies of where a new practice that negates the 'company policy' excuse has worked well for another company.

Be cautious not to leave salary negotiation for the very last. Why? If you've already traded away everything you have to offer and want 70'000, whilst they are offering 60'000 - you will most likely settle somewhere near 65'000. You can bet this battle of wills probably won't be an enjoyable way to start your business relationship. To reinfoce your trading position, find out what they are most interested in, and hold this back until the issue of salary is raised. This way you will be able to trade something of great value to them (which may be of little or no cost to you, e.g. an early starting date) for a higher salary. It is not crucial who mentions salary first.

'Salary Expectation' Boxes

When you come accross 'Salary Expectations' boxes from agencies or employers - should you fill them in? Absolutely not! Without your knowing the hours, bonus package and benefits, office size etc this figure isn't applicable. Companies regularly use this figure as a price ceiling against which to bump your head in later salary negotiations. Always leave the box blank.


Using benefits as leverage is a concept every professional negotiator understands and uses. The concept simply means that you ask your employer to make concessions that cost them very little - while in return make concessions that are of great value to them. How do you accomplish this? The first step is to put yourself in their place and ask which interests they value the least and which ones the most. So rather than boost up your salary, an employer may find it comparatively easy to pay for. Examples of these might include insurances (health, life or redundancy), a laptop computer, home broadband or extra telephone line, car allowances, subscriptions, training and development, relocation, better/ larger office space, title, flexi - time. These benefits either cost your employer nothing or are tax deductible.

The cost to an employer to hire an employee is an area few candidates pay enough attention to. For example, should they choose to hire another candidate to save a few thousand in salary, what might be the cost if this employee proves to be a poor performer? The charges of employment agencies are commonly large. Many candidates usually need at least 6 months to have a positive ROI (return on investment). This time accounts for their training period, and adapting to the new role and getting use to the company. If they are being over managed or under performance review, this can take some time and eat up considerable organisational resources. Then of course they would need to seek out a replacement. I've no met an executive who relishes injecting valuable company time scanning for prospects and starting the interviewing process all over again. Of course they would prefer not to steal time from profitable company projects. So don't dismiss whatever advantages you have over the next candidate. Your skills will have a solid payoff to your employer.


How truthful should you be with your prospective new manager? Before the 1980's, many negotiation text books cencentrated on ethically questionable tactics to gain the advantage. We don't promote the use of dishonest tactics. Rather, we teach delegates how to counter these tactics when confronted with them. Since a good long - term relationship between you, them, and the company vital, we would suggest you be as honest as is customary to your situiation.

Current Earnings

"What is your salary in your current position?" This dangerous question is a common tactic used to cap your current salary ambitions. In the words of Edward E Cummings "Always the beautiful answer who asks a more beautiful question". You can negate this move by asking to learn more about the position before you get into detailed salary discussions. If the question is raised once again, have your research about the salary of the offered position and similar positions at hand. If your present position either doesn't provide a meaningful comparison or is comparatively low, then briefly discuss your reasons why this figure should not guide current discussions. Consider the message this question conveys - that your new manager trusts someone else's historic judgement more than their own judgement. Ensure your new manager has all the information they need to make up their own minds by accurately assessing and valuing your future contribution.

Salary Expectations

"What are your salary expectations?" In response, ask what the normal salary range for this position is (assuming you haven't already uncovered this information). If asked once more, set yourself apart from the thundering masses by stating "I am much more interested in doing (type of work) for (organisation's name) than I am in the size of the initial offer." If asked yet again, a great reply is "I will consider any reasonable offer." This may raise an eyebrow, and along with it raise your pay cheque.

Your story telling skills are crucial at interviews. Take the time to remember and rehearse the stories of how you saved your previous employer "X" and completed project "Y" on time. The simple fact is that words on a resume are not read, most are skimmed or glossed over. You can't afford to leave out your relevant achievements to chance. Stories will also stick in your interviewers mind, helping you stand out from the herd as tha manager recalls the most prominent candidates they want to invite back. It is largely through succinct storytelling that you make an impression and start creating value in the eyes and ears of your employer.

Some people are terrific at negotiating for others, yet fall short when negotiating for themselves. Your interviewer is likely to be acting as an agent for the the interests of the organisation. Conversely you will likely be acting for your own interests as the principal salary negotiator. So ask yourself how you might fight harder for your own corner? If you do fight harder for others, then think of the benefits your family or those closest to you will gain through your getting a better agreement. Since to most people money is meaningless on its own, think of all the things you would like to derrive from your salary, and then imagine your life without these things and experiences (if you don't negotiate well). The reason I add this last step of 'life without' is simply that I've found most business people are more likely to act so as to prevent loss, rather than to attain something new.

Silence should be your close friend. Americans are reputed for wanting to be highly productive with their negotiation time - making silence an uncomfortable experience. So avoid lowering your offer to break the silence. Either remain silence or ask if you can assist with their thinking. Remember to remain silent whilst considering your options.

Several psychology studies suggest that the first few moments when meeting someone new are the most important. This is because we form an impression and decide whether we like or dislike someone in this miniscule moment of time. Some studies suggest that as much as 90% of our impression is forged at this stage. So our 'chemistry' with others is made or lost in roughly the first 60 to 90 seconds. Some studies even suggest this happens in our first 4 seconds! Considering you won't have exchanged much conversation in this time, and most certainly nothing of real meaning, that only leaves what isn't said. So consider carefully your apparel and how you hold yourself, your demeanour, your vocal qualities, and of course your attentiveness and rapport skills. A large unspoken question you will be answering every moment of the interview is "Does this person fit in with the team and organisational culture?" Whilst you should be yourself at interviews, be your best!

Finally, be careful you don't negotiate yourself into a job you don't really want. Salary negotiation is only one of the many significant components of a job interview. Be prepared by asking all the relevant questions necessary for you to assess whether the job, team, boss and organisation are worthy of you.

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