There are many ways that a company can go about recognising the work of its employees. It can be done in the form of promotions or even special rewards for jobs well done. And while these are certainly welcoming from an employee’s point of view, most of them will also agree that, when it comes to recognition, few things mean more than a pay raise.
Increasing your professional income is also vital for your career advancement and progression when and if you decide to move on to another role, whether it is in the same company or not.
Ahead, we will explore how employees and job seekers alike can evaluate their worth as contributors to the company, as well as how they can negotiate for the salary they deserve, be it during job offers or at annual appraisals.
Learning to be a negotiator
Not everyone is a born negotiator. Just like how price-bargaining is an acquired skill, successful negotiation, too, requires a very different mindset. Most candidates do not do enough when it comes to negotiating for a higher salary.
Obviously, the first rule when you go into a salary discussion is to never settle for the first salary amount put on the table. Ahead, some of the following tips and tricks to get a higher salary.
1. Do your homework
Just because the salary offer feels like it is enough to cover your expenses doesn’t necessarily mean that it is the market average. As such, it is critical to do your market research and know what your role is worth before you step into an interview and negotiate for a higher salary.
One way to do so is via our Salary Comparison Tool, which gives a comprehensive overview of all major sectors in various markets, the key roles and functions involved, as well as their respective salary estimates. This will allow you to calculate the average salary range based on your sector, location and work experience. This salary tool is updated every year to reflect current industry norms and average salaries in the current market.
There are also websites like Glassdoor you can explore; these typically share salary numbers revealed by members and are categorised by job positions for easy viewing.
If that is not enough, you can take your research a step further by simply talking to people in the know. It could be someone already in the industry or even a recruitment consultant who can give you the latest updates. With all the research gathered, you would be able to enter a salary negotiation with a lot more confidence.
Related: The highest paying jobs in Hong Kong
2. Know your value
Your value to the organisation is sometimes more than just the position that you are applying for. For instance, if you are applying for the role of a marketing director with 20 years of experience already under your belt, you are going to be able to command a certain amount of salary.
However, if you are applying for the same role with the same industry experience, but with added bonuses of entrepreneurial background and experience in Search Engine Optimisation and social media marketing, you are going to be bringing a lot of extra skill sets and value to the table.
Furthermore, if you know for a fact that the company you are applying for does not have, say, an SEO-driven content marketing strategy, then your knowledge in that area is suddenly going to be worth a whole lot more.
As you can see, even though the job titles are the same, the difference in the job description can be quite stark. These peripheral skills you have developed over the years will allow you to take the industry standard when it comes to salary and increase it. It is also always a good idea to familiarise yourself with the industry, find out the most in-demand skills and bank on those during your negotiation.
3. Ignore your previous salary
One mistake that many job candidates make is to base your salary negotiations on your last drawn salary. While it is always better to earn more than your previous job, using your last drawn salary as a yardstick is by no means a good gauge.
Unless you feel that you have gained zero skill since your last job, ignore your previous salary altogether. Instead, look at your objective value to the company and compare that to the industry standard that everybody else is getting.
It is also not uncommon for job descriptions to require candidates to submit their previous salaries. It is a good idea to ignore that or reserve the discussion for the interview itself. Revealing the amount even before the interview will put you at a great disadvantage.
Should you reveal your last-drawn salary?
If you are applying for a new job and the hiring manager or recruiter asks for your last-drawn salary even before talking about the job, respond with something like, “I’d like to find out more about the position and the responsibilities, what the team’s like and the company culture before discussing salary. In any case, since you mention, may I ask what is the salary range you’re considering for this position?”
Whether they give you a number that is slightly lower than what you have in mind, let them know and say that you would still like to learn more about the role. After that, you can demonstrate how your skills would make you a valuable employee and then work on salary negotiation when you got the job offer.
However, if the salary range is way lower than what you have in mind, ask the hiring manager if the amount can be adjusted for the right hire. If the company has a fixed budget that can't go higher, it would be best to decline the interview and move on.
At some point, you would have to share your current salary number.
In the Hong Kong market, whether working with an MNC or local company, many employers request the last drawn salary before being able to get approval for the hire. This serves as justification for the proposed offer and is often a set part of the administration process, says Gabriel Nam, Partner at Page Executive Hong Kong.
Related: How to make a career change
4. Think beyond your base salary
If the company cannot offer you a higher salary, you can also find out what are the KPIs to achieve in the next six months and ask the hiring manager or your current manager if your salary can be reviewed in the months ahead at that point.
Also, calling it ‘salary negotiation’ is, admittedly, not accurate, since you are actually negotiating more than just the base dollar value. Aside from the base salary, you are looking at the basic benefits that come along with your employment.
For instance, the salary on offer might be lower than the value you have in your head. However, the benefits that come along with the salary might actually be attractive and more than compensate for the balance. As a job applicant, you want to take these additional benefits into consideration when negotiating for a raise.
If the salary on offer isn’t enough, perhaps you can negotiate for other benefits in your compensation package, such as better health plans, flexible work arrangements, additional leave, training opportunities, etc. And while we are on the point, don’t be limited by your imagination.
There are plenty of benefits beyond the conventional, from tuition assistance to free coffee. Just remember: this is a business transaction, and everything is negotiable.
5. Hope for the best, but expect the worst
During salary negotiations, a good idea is to give an amount on the higher end and work your way down from there. If the higher offer is accepted, then it is good news for everybody. If it is rejected, adjust accordingly and try again. After all, what’s the worst thing that could happen?
Rejection just means you need to recalibrate and renegotiate, and if the company cannot appreciate what you can potentially bring to the table, at least you know to take your expertise someplace else.
Remember: if you don’t ask for a pay raise, you are likely not going to get it; if you do ask for a pay raise, there is at least a chance that you might just get one.
No real guarantees in salary negotiations
At the end of the day, there are no real guarantees in salary negotiations. Beyond the value you can potentially bring to the company, there are many considerations to be had from the employer, HR point of view and also factors, such as tight budgets and even tighter competition.
With that said, if you don’t even attempt salary negotiation, then you are doing yourself a great disservice in the long run. So do your research, enter a negotiation and take the conversation on from there.
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