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Negotiate a higher starting salary

Fortunately, negotiating a higher starting salary doesn’t have to be daunting. With some clever planning and a rock-solid game plan, you can get the best possible deal from your new employer without breaking a sweat.

“The first thing you need to consider when negotiating a higher starting salary is how much your skills are worth,” says Steve Plant, national sales manager at Reed Personnel Services. “Ask yourself what you’re good at and why, as well as what makes you stand out from your competitors.”

As with any successful negotiation, information is crucial, so arm yourself with facts and figures before you attempt to nudge the numbers up.

“Find out the current market value of your role by talking to colleagues and looking at salary guides,” says Plant. “Try to research the salary history of similar roles at the company that wants to hire you, as well as their ability to pay what you’re asking.”

Once you know your going rate, Plant recommends you take your specific experience and education into consideration. And don’t forget to include the unique values you can bring to your new role, such as useful contacts or industry knowledge, too.

“Research and assessment are crucial, but so is giving the subtle impression that you’re in demand,” says Plant. “A good employer will respect you more, and feel you’re more valuable, if they know that you’re professionally sought-after.”

When it comes down to the negotiation, kick it off by confidently stating a higher salary than you’re willing to accept - you can accept less later if need be. Try to let the employer do most of the talking, and ask open-ended questions so you can gain additional insights.

Again, information is crucial, including knowing what you’re willing to accept. So establish a bottom-line in advance and decide at what point, if any, you’re willing to walk away from the job offer.

“If they counteract you with a lower offer, ask for time to think about it, step back from the process, and critically assess what’s on the table,” says Plant. “This way, you can go back to them with additional information to justify your position.”

And if you really want the job but your new employer isn’t budging, consider negotiating on the other perks included in your total salary package, such as bonuses and annual leave.

Finally, a word on expectations: if you haven’t clearly proven why you’re worth more, it’s unlikely you’ll persuade your new employer to sweeten their original offer.

“If you accept an offer that's a little below your true market value, keep in mind that starting pay is just that,” Plant says. “You can always increase your salary later.”

Published: 07 September 2007

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