When negotiating a salary you must manage your expectations. If you successfully apply for a job with a set salary, then you already tacitly accepted the fixed amount, which makes negotiating for a higher salary difficult. However, if the role was advertised with a salary bandwidth, then obviously you want to earn towards the higher end of that bracket. If you applied for the job via a recruiter, they will negotiate on your behalf, but you need to discuss with them what is an acceptable outcome.
Before negotiating with the employer, either directly or through a recruitment agency, research the industry salary brackets for your role. The salary can vary depending on the management level, sector and location. This knowledge will frame your negotiations and help you to recognise what is a realistic salary.
In addition, take into account all aspects of the salary. Lots of people get fixated on the basic salary, but also look at the other benefits offered, including health insurance, life insurance, gym membership, travel allowance, discounts, and bonuses.
You should also think in terms of a career and not a job. Don’t fixate on short-term earnings, and instead look at the long-term trajectory. A job with good career progression may lead to greater earning potential over the next 10 years.
Nevertheless, be prepared to negotiate. In the Armed Forces, all salaries are banded and everyone follows the rules, while civilian salaries are more fluid. You will not usually be offered a higher salary, unless you ask. Many employers will even expect you to negotiate, because it shows enthusiasm for the role and assertiveness.
You need to have reasonable expectations. You can normally negotiate within 10% of the advertised salary, but asking for more than this may lead to the employer withdrawing the offer and you needing to find another job.
Your tone and approach is vital: be polite and confident, but never rude or aggressive. You need to explain why the employer should pay you more. Your reasons should be evidence based, such as the value of your skills and experiences.
Renegotiating a salary after being in post is more difficult. For the first six months you are mostly learning and probably providing less value to the employer. Either have a salary review in your contract, or discuss it in your annual review. Set the expectation from the start that you want to actively progress.
Finally, although a good salary is important, having a job you find fulfilling is vital.
Ask the Expert
You can read Simon’s answer, as well as other industry leaders, in the latest issue of Pathfinder Magazine – the monthly magazine for Service leavers. The OA edits a regular article called ‘Ask the Expert’, where career questions are answered by a panel of experts. Read the full article.