08 June 2006

Salary negotiation skills

Knowing what you're worth in the marketplace is key to effective salary negotiation. There are a couple of factors that determine your worth in the marketplace.

Knowing what you're worth in the marketplace is key to effective salary negotiation. There are a couple of factors that determine your worth in the marketplace.

These factors mainly centre on your particular skills set, its weight in the marketplace, your desire to work at the particular company or in the position you’re being interviewed for. So how do you determine your weight in gold?

Establishing what you're worth and what the job is worth to you will arm you with the negotiating power you need. Sounds easy, doesn’t it?

In truth, the South African employment market is a tough nut to crack. Only few sectors enjoy skills shortage, unemployment is rife and we are often faced with the dilemma of accepting a job when offered for the sake of getting one.

When however considering the fact that you are building your career and do not want to your CV to exceed 50 pages due to a very long display of work histories (translate: job hopping!), you might want to reconsider your negotiating tactics during the interview phase.

This is truly the time when you have the most negotiating power. Don’t fall for the ‘review after 6 months’ – these carrots can often dangle for years!

Five guidelines that will help you to achieve your salary and benefit goals:

  • Establish your worth by consulting salary surveys in HR or financial publications or the Internet applicable to your skills set, geographical area and industry. Reputable recruitment agents will also be able to assist you with this type of information.
  • Remember that any employer will always try to spend as little as possible, for as much as possible. Therefore it is imperative that you delay any discussion of salary as long as possible and rather focus on the art of convincing the employer that you are the ideal candidate for the job.
  • The ideal time for a discussion of salary is deep into the interviewing process when both you and the employer have a strong interest in one another. There will be times, however, when an employer will attempt to engage you in a discussion of compensation early in the interviewing process. If asked about your salary requirement, give a range in which the low-end figure is 10 percent above your current salary.
  • Know that you are not in a position to negotiate your salary until an offer is made.
  • Consider the full compensation package. It is not only about the monetary reward, you also need to consider:
    • Growth opportunities within the company
    • “Hidden” benefits such as share options, parking, salary progression, expense coverage, profit sharing and access to training and technology.
    • Benefits can make up to 30% of your remuneration package – assess the value of medical aid, pension, accidental life insurance, overtime payment, incentives, annual bonuses, performance bonuses

When Negotiating Salary

  • Thank the employer for the job offer.
  • Do not negotiate at the time of the original offer. Ask for time to consider the entire compensation package.
  • Decide whether you are going to negotiate in writing or in person -- depending upon your strengths.
  • Just do it! Most employers are willing to negotiate at least one or more elements of a compensation package.
  • Negotiate with the proper attitude and demeanor. Never make demands. Always say you are hoping for more instead of expecting more.
  • If the salary is not negotiable, consider other compensation issues, such as a signing bonus, performance bonuses, share options, more frequent raises and performance/salary reviews. You could also consider other non-compensation perks, such as job title, company car, additional leave days, insurance costs or study assistance.
  • Be sure to get the final offer in writing!

(Jenni van der Merwe,, June 2006)


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