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Need advice on salary negotiation with a potential employer?

Be precise, use numbers not percentages.

You saw a position advertised, you were curious, you investigated, they met you, you like each other and now it’s getting serious. HR or the recruiter flat-out asks you what your wage expectations are. What would you do?

Naturally, you want the best deal possible, but go too high and they may write you off. Of course, you don’t want to provide too low a figure either. Here’s some advice on how to handle the money situation during a job investigation process – assuming you actually want the role.

1. Going through a third party can make it easier

Salary is a personal and emotive topic. Pay negotiation is not an everyday part of your relationship with your potential employer. Getting a recruiter involved can take the heat out of the discussions. You can be open, honest and aggressive with the recruiter without annoying the potential employer.

Generally, recruiters want to create a win-win situation; they will tell you honestly if your expectations are reasonable and/or achievable.

2. Be clear on the figure that you are willing to live with

If you are working with a recruiter, let them know the amount you will accept happily and the figure which you will walk away from without bluffing (it’s okay to have a gap between the two). Can you imagine selling your house at an auction without letting the auctioneer know the reserve price and the sell price? Sending a recruiter to the negotiation table without clear instructions will leave you open to getting a worse deal.

3. Give precise numbers, not percentages

More times than not, candidates who give percentage-increase goals don’t even know how much money their request equates to. Talking in percentages gives your potential employer the impression that your primary motivation is how much extra you get, not the job. It could also convey the impression you would go to another firm if they offered a percentage point more.

If you do have a percentage in mind, take 30 seconds on a calculator to do the math before discussing compensation. You will look more credible and serious about the role.

4. Negotiating on your own

If you are negotiating on your own, make sure to keep these in mind:

  • Before going into the meeting, make sure you are clear on your "accept happily" and "walk away" numbers. Make them sensible and achievable – steering your career is not about winning the lottery every time you change jobs.
  • Give your potential employer two numbers:

    a. Your current package

    b. The package you would be content accepting

  • Explain what you are on today – and don’t miss anything. It could create problems if you keep coming back with extra benefits the firm needs to cover.
  • Make sure the numbers match your salary documents. Almost all companies will ask for salary verification as part of the offer-signing process.
  • Let them know when your next salary review is, and what increment you got the last time.
  • Finally, list a number you would be pleased with and let them know you would accept the position at that figure (or better still, above that) without hesitation. Explain that if the pay cannot reach that level, you welcome a proposal and that you will think about it.
  • You must reveal your "walk away" number immediately, if the offer proposed is below what you want.
  • Some potential employers will ask for your “bottom line,” so there may be times when you feel cornered into giving the amount. But if you do, rest assured that when the offer comes, it will be what was stated. You can’t win them all.

Mark Verrall is the practice director, banking, for MRI China Group in Hong Kong.

AUTHORMark Verrall Insider Comment

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