Job Search: 6 Tips for Being Better at Salary Negotiation

Women are less likely than men to negotiate for higher salary when a job offer is made. Why? The reasons range from not wanting to come across as nit-picky and not knowing how to negotiate, to fears of being “punished” — alienated or rejected — for requesting better compensation. These are valid concerns, particularly for women in countries like Ghana or Nigeria where being outspoken is typically regarded as undesirable for a woman and usually comes with social consequences. But while negotiating one’s salary might be an uncomfortable experience, not doing so can be costly.

Recent research on the American workforce suggests that 30–40% of women negotiate any part of their job offer compared to 45–55% of men. The number dips to 20–30% for millennials (people born between the 1980s and early 2000s). Professionals who don’t negotiate their first few salaries stand to lose an estimated $1million over the course of their careers and ultimately contribute to the gender pay gap. We might be dealing in cedis and naira on our side of the world, but the fact remains: whether male or female, not negotiating can be more painful in the long-term than the few moments of discomfort you might experience during a negotiation. How exactly do you set yourself up to earn a few extra naira, cedis or rand each year? Here are six things to consider.

Negotiate salary from a place of strength

Look at salary negotiation as a problem-solving mechanism; a process that will ensure mutual benefit for yourself and your potential employer. Focus on what value you bring to the team — your education level, previous career achievements and results, any skills you possess that were listed as ‘desirable, but not required’ on the job description — and how that will help the company achieve its goals. At the end of the day, you want to sell yourself and put your best foot forward. That means staying positive and firm as you relay why you are worth more. Speak with conviction and confidence.

Back your case up with numbers

How much does someone with your profile earn in the industry? What are the living costs for the city you will be working in? Are the company’s financials on the up? What are your average monthly costs? Show your potential employer that you have done your research. Websites like Glassdoor and Payscale which offer market research and comparison tools are a good starting point. Alternatively, you can talk to friends, colleagues, or other people in the industry to get a general sense (think networking and informational interviews).

Realize there’s no harm in asking for more (Always negotiate)

If Oliver Twist was able to do it and all he got was ear boxing, you’ll be just fine. The truth is most organizations or companies never offer their highest price on an initial job offer — that’s because they expect that you will negotiate — and even if they do, there’s typically some legroom in the budget to accommodate your request. Stand your ground. After all is said and done, the worst they can say is ‘no’ and even then, chances are the original offer will still be on the table.

Benefits: Think in packages, not items

Most of us might refer to job negotiations as a “salary negotiation”, but in reality what we are negotiating is compensation, and that goes beyond the monthly salary we might receive. By focusing solely on the money, we sideline job benefits which can be equally important, especially if you have unique circumstances like a medical condition or have to move your entire family (young children included) from one city or country to another. Negotiate on at least two fronts — salary and benefits.

Is the proposed salary before or after tax deductions? What is the policy on performance increases or bonuses? If the salary offered is at the barest minimum (meaning the least you are willing to take), switch gears and negotiate for benefits like health insurance, transport and/or housing allowance, reimbursement for moving expenses, vacation and sick leave, and professional training. This will not only help ensure that your budget is factored in, but could also affect your peace of mind and make a big difference on the job front.

Hold your cards close to your chest

The ideal period to discuss salary or compensation is after you have a job offer in hand and before you sign the job contract — not after or during a performance review. Ideally, you should have a draft contract before you accept a salary or compensation offer. During negotiations, try to hold off on quoting an amount until the very end of the negotiation — that’s when you have the most negotiating power. Until then, your goal should be getting a good sense of what your potential employer is willing to offer.

Many recruiters ask job candidates what their previous salary was and what their expected salary is during the job interview. This is not by chance; by responding to both questions you essentially tell them what salary bracket they should place you in. Instead of giving a figure for each job you have recently held, reiterate your interest in working with them, demonstrate your awareness of the going market rate for someone with your qualifications and experience, and indicate your willingness to discuss compensation package (not just salary).

Take time (at least 48 hours) to review an offer before accepting

For a variety of reasons. Firstly, it allows you to make sure that the job at hand is indeed a good fit for you and ties into your career goals. A draft contract should give you a sense of the various elements of your engagement with the company. Secondly, you create space to think the offer over and discuss its implications with your family, spouse, parents — whoever might ­­be affected by it. If you have more than one interview or offer on the table, the two-day review period will prove critical for making a final decision. Letting prospective employers know you have similar or better offers can also improve your chances of a better final offer.

Either way you look at it, you’re better off negotiating — your children and grandchildren will be thankful you did. Do you have any salary negotiation experiences or tips to share? What worked and what didn’t? Leave a comment below.

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NB: This article was originally published on my website Circumspecte.com