Whether it’s at a job interview or an annual employment review, negotiating a salary can be an uncomfortable exercise.
It can be somewhat awkward asking for a specific salary, partly because you don’t want to come across as arrogant or greedy, but also because you may not know how much you’re actually worth.
To help ensure you’re being paid what you deserve, we have compiled this guide of useful salary negotiation tactics with information on how to find out how much your peers are earning, and using that information to your advantage. You need to be able to justify your pay rise request, and the following guidelines will help you to do so.
Before you begin
Consider your current standing
If you’re looking to negotiate a higher salary at your current place of work or for a job you’ve been offered, you would benefit from identifying your place in the business and using that to inform your decision making. Ask yourself the following questions:
- How big is the operation?
- How valuable am I to the operation?
- Can the business afford to give me a pay rise?
- Has anything changed since your last salary review?
- Why do I want a pay rise?
While you can read plenty of sage advice about negotiating a salary increase, none of it will be relevant if your circumstances make success improbable. Answering these questions will give you a realistic indication of whether you can justify asking for a pay rise, or whether you should hold off for the time being. The likelihood is that these questions will be some of the first things discussed if you ask for a salary increase anyway, so answering them can only serve to benefit you.
Be realistic about your value to the business
It’s good to get a grasp of how big the business is and whether they have the finance available to facilitate a pay rise, otherwise they may consider your request a little insensitive or short sighted. While a 5% pay rise may not seem very large, it may have a knock-on effect throughout the business, so always think about the big picture rather than just your personal standing.
At the same time, considering why you actually want a pay rise is also very important. Think about your life circumstances and whether you would seriously benefit from a pay increase — would it improve your quality of life or your family’s life, for example. Would it allow you to perform your job better or enjoy your work more? These are things you should discuss in the negotiations, not simply that you feel ‘it’s about time’ you received a salary increase. Focus on how it would increase your value to the business, not simply that it would allow you to pay your mortgage off quicker.
Know how much you should be earning
If you investigate the industry-standard salary for your job role, you can negotiate your wage based on what others outside your company are earning. As a result of our comprehensive Microsoft Professional and Dynamics salary surveys, we can tell you how much you should be earning whether you’re in an entry-level role or are a seasoned industry veteran, with location-based data to take cost of living and local economy into consideration.
Data via Microsoft Dynamics Salary Survey, Centre for Cities, and Tech City.
For example, we can tell you that the average salary for an entry-level role as a Microsoft Dynamics CRM Project Manager in the UK is £45,178. If you are earning less than this, you can use our data to support the notion that you are underpaid for the work that you do. This is objective information as a result of extensive research and can’t be disputed, so be sure to make the comparison if you measure up short.
Benchmarking is one of the more successful salary negotiation techniques and is likely something that your employer will also try to use. After all, how else are you supposed to know how much you should be earning without comparing your salary with professionals at other companies with your level of qualifications and experience? Doing this research yourself will ensure you go into the interview with your own data, and that you do not have to rely on what your employer is telling you.
Make your employer aware of industry behaviour
As a result of our survey, we found that 21% of Dynamics professionals were considering going freelance in the next 12 months. This is complemented by the fact that freelance and contract Dynamics work is becoming more prominent. Given the cloud functionality of Microsoft back-end products, it’s actually becoming less important for an employee to be on site, or even permanently affixed to a company.
You could highlight that the industry is moving towards freelancers and contractors, as around 25% of Microsoft professionals in the UK (15% in the USA) are now working on a freelance basis. Without threatening to leave as such, you could mention that you’ve researched the benefits of working on a contract basis but that you would much prefer to work for your employer permanently. This lets them know that you are still committed to the cause, but have plenty of prospects elsewhere should you become unhappy or get a better offer.
Set yourself salary boundaries
While you should never reveal what salary you’d be willing to settle for, make a mental note of your higher and lower limits. Is there a figure that if met or exceeded you would accept immediately? Is there a figure so low that you would consider it insulting? Work out where your goalposts are and negotiate in light of those — how else are you supposed to negotiate without first knowing whether you’re compromising or overreaching?
5 salary negotiation tips
Approach with friendly enthusiasm
Approach the negotiation with a friendly enthusiasm so that the discussion is a collaborative effort as opposed to you holding your business at ransom for more money. Focus on all you’ve achieved at the company and what you’d like to do in the future, or if it’s a new job offer, describe what excites you about the company and what you’re looking forward to working on. Try to make the discussion as non-adversarial or confrontational as you can, as you won’t get that pay rise if the employer is on the defensive.
Clarify what it is that you want
While you should refrain from leading with your desired salary, you should tell the employer whether it’s purely your salary you’re looking to improve or other associated work benefits as well, such as healthcare, profit sharing, bonuses etc. Setting out a clear structure will help the other party understand your needs and your position.
Lead with facts, not opinions
As previously alluded to, it’s much more effective to persuade using objective data such as salary research rather than how much you think you should be earning. Regardless of how hard you work, if other people in your sector aren’t earning as much as you’re asking for then the likelihood of you being successful is extremely small. Always make suggestions based on hard research.
Appreciate the position of the employer
Tell the employer that you understand how much the business makes and where you fit in the organisation, and that your request takes that into consideration. Explain that you want to be a valuable part of the team and therefore aren’t asking for more than the company can afford.
Pitch your big idea
Do you have an idea for how your department can perform better or more efficiently? Now is definitely the time to bring that up. Having a great idea proves that you are invested in the business and are finding ways to make it run better, which is a very valid reason to give you a pay rise.
Negotiating a salary in your current job
Salary negotiation email
If you’re looking to raise the issue of a salary increase with your current employer but you’re unsure how to broach the subject, you could always position it to them in an email. While this is relatively impersonal, that could actually be a better way to approach the subject given that salary negotiations are often perceived as a little awkward and uncomfortable. Notifying your employer by email gives them a chance to process the information on their own terms and react accordingly.
While internal emails tend to be relatively short and informal, you will need to adopt a professional tone in this case. Circumstances are always different depending on the size of the business, but these emails are usually sent to your manager as well as a HR representative. If you have a good relationship with those working above you then you could briefly speak to them about your intentions, but it’s always good to have all of these conversations documented so that evidence is recorded.
Salary negotiation letter
A slightly more formal approach would be a salary negotiation letter sent to your manager and an HR representative. There’s no saying that delivering a letter will be any more or less effective than an email, it will just take longer for all of the relevant parties to review your request. An email can always be forwarded whereas a letter must be passed around or scanned. If you do send a letter, make sure you save a copy of its contents or scan it before delivering, so you have a permanent record of your request on file.
Salary negotiation template
Regardless of whether you choose to send a letter or an email, your salary negotiation request should contain the same information. It doesn’t have to be a long essay, as ideally you will do most of the negotiating in a face to face meeting — that is the purpose of this communication, not to get a salary increase but to set up a meeting. All you have to include is the following information:
- You would like to set up a meeting
- In this meeting, you wish to review your salary
- The reason for reviewing your salary
- Why you think you should be entitled to a salary increase
In application, this will look something like the following salary negotiation email/letter sample:
I would like to set up a meeting with you and [HR] to review my salary. While I enjoy working for [business name] and am looking forward to my future here, I would appreciate the opportunity to discuss my salary in light of [the higher rate of pay elsewhere/the rate of pay inside this business/the extra workload I have been given etc].
I’d like to think that I’m a valuable part of the team here at [business name] and so would be thankful for a chance to speak openly about this together. Please let me know when you are free for us to talk.
Download Nigel Frank salary negotiation template
Negotiating a salary for a new job
Negotiating a salary for a job offer isn’t as uncomfortable as doing so for your current job. For a start, you don’t have to see them every day if it goes pear-shaped, and you’re not battling against already-established personal relationships in the process. There’s also a greater deal of scope for negotiation, as you haven’t already agreed upon a salary in the past.
If you have already accepted the job but not signed a contract, you may be met with more resistance as you technically already agreed to the terms of the job on principle. If you haven’t accepted the job, you have the opportunity to play it cool and consider your options. The employer obviously wants you working for them, and they might be willing to offer you more money to secure your services. Then again, they might not be.
Using other job offers as leverage
If you have prospects elsewhere that aren’t as attractive but offer a higher rate of pay, you could always highlight this with the employer. After all, they have committed to hiring you and are obviously willing to pay for your services, so what's to say they wouldn't be willing to pay a little bit more given the competition they have? You're hot property, so negotiate for the salary you're worth.
Dear [prospective employer]
Thank you for your recent job offer. I enjoyed coming in to interview and learning more about the position, so am delighted to have been offered the role as [job role].
While I’m very interested in working for your company, I have been offered [X much] more elsewhere. I’m afraid I couldn’t justify turning this money down, and so request that you consider increasing my starting salary to compete with my other offers, in which case I’d be happy to come and work with you.
Download Nigel Frank leverage template
You would have to be in a fortunate situation to have more than one job offer on the table at a time, particularly as it can take so long to apply for jobs and attend subsequent interviews.With the help of an expert recruiter, you could apply for multiple jobs at a time without expending any energy.
Our recruiters will tailor your CV to each particular job role and let you know whether you have any success. This can be particularly useful if you are considering multiple different career paths in the IT field, as consultants have knowledge of niche industries as well as associated sectors. Be sure to upload your CV to be matched with thousands of jobs across IT and digital.
There are a number of different approaches you can take to negotiating a higher salary for a new job. You already know that the employer is impressed by you, evidenced by the fact you’ve been offered the job, so think about what it was that set you apart from the rest of the candidates — these are the reasons you deserve a higher salary.
- Wealth of experience – think about whether your level of experience commands a higher salary, given how much industry knowledge you can bring to the role. Do you have more experience than is required in the job description? Identify this and use it to your advantage.
- Good qualifications – if you have a recognised certification or a relevant qualification in your field that you feel sets you apart from other candidates, you could use this as means of negotiating a higher salary.
- You enjoy your current job – while you are actively looking for a new challenge, that does not mean you don't enjoy your current job. You may need an extra incentive to leave a job you are happy to do, and that incentive could be a higher salary than the one offered.
- Lifestyle adjustment – relocating for a job gives you the chance to negotiate a higher salary based on the lifestyle adjustment. For example, the cost of living may be higher where your new job is located compared to where you were settled beforehand, which is a perfectly legitimate reason to ask for more money.
- Industry standard – if you research what the standard salary is for your industry and location, you could use this as a basis for your salary negotiation. Consult our Microsoft salary survey to find out the average wage in your branch of technology.
Making a salary negotiation counter-offer
In your current job, the likelihood is that you will have submitted a request to negotiate your salary before receiving a salary offer or a chance to negotiate said salary. For a new job, however, you could respond to your initial salary offer with a counter-offer. A counter offer is a more direct way of asking for a higher salary, and will usually involve you detailing exactly what you want, as opposed to keeping your cards close to your chest in a negotiation environment.
In terms of how you make a counter-offer, the guidance already given should be considered as well as the following tips.
If you are concerned with certain elements of your salary offer and wish to address them in your counter-offer, don’t be vague. If you were hoping for a higher salary offer, explain exactly how much you want and why you think you deserve it, as opposed to just hinting that the offer is too low.
Include everything in your counter-offer, not just certain elements. The nature of a counter-offer means that the employer may need to meet with their colleagues or management and discuss what it is that you need and whether they can provide it for you. They certainly won’t appreciate receiving more requests from you after they’ve already convened to discuss your previous requirements.
Be grateful but firm
Show that you appreciate the offer you’ve been given and that you understand the position of the company. However, you must state that it is not in line with your expectations and, more importantly, explain why. Showing gratitude will let the employer know that you are not simply out for more money, but are looking for a compromise that will benefit both parties in the long run.
Avoid negative ultimatums
While you are making a counter-offer, at no point mention that you will walk away if you do not get what you want — this is implicit, and mentioning it will only make the employer less enthusiastic about giving you what you want.
Ask for a face-to-face negotiation if you prefer
As an alternative to laying out all of your requirements in a counter-offer, you could instead set out your concerns and request a face-to-face meeting so all of your requirements can be discussed and negotiated.
Salary negotiation counter-offer template
If you’re looking to send a counter-offer email or letter, following this basic template will help you to get your desired result without committing a faux pas in the process.
Thank you for your recent salary offer of [amount]. While I am grateful for the offer, I was hoping for something more in the region of [desired amount or a salary range]. This is more in line with [industry standards/my level of qualification/my experience/the work load].
I am very much looking forward to working with you, and so hope we can come to an agreement on my salary to ensure we get started as quickly as possible. If you prefer, we could set up a meeting to discuss both of our requirements in greater detail.
Download Nigel Frank counter-offer template
• Consider and understand the position of both you and your employer.
• Negotiate freely and honestly. You aren't doing anything wrong, and it's better to agree on a fair salary now than to feel underpaid six months down the line.
• Don't reveal how much you would settle for, but make a mental note of upper and lower limits of your desired salary.
• Research what salary you should receive based on industry standards and your experience.
• Play to your strengths. Set up a face-to-face meeting if you have a good personal relationship with Management/HR, or focus more on an email correspondence if you feel more confident that way.
• Make use of our free salary negotiation templates, inserting your appropriate skills and salary requirements.
• Upload your resume to be matched with thousands of jobs across the IT sector and discover fresh new challenges at a higher rate of pay.
If you have worked for the same company for a long time and feel that you are underpaid, it's time to do something about that. A salary negotiation can be a delicate situation, but by learning how to write a professional letter asking for a raise, you can avoid bad feelings and achieve a good outcome. Keep these things in mind when you ask for a raise.
Support for a Raise
In order to give yourself the best chance for receiving a raise, your request should rely on objective criteria. Make your request after you complete a successful project, when you are underpaid compared to the average employee working in the same sector, or when you have managed to create a good work climate that allows your company to function better, preventing layoffs and resignations.
Choosing the Right Time
Typically, employees tend to ask for a raise around the end of the year, but this request can be made anytime. When you have just landed a good deal for your company, you don't want to wait until the end of the year; you want your success to be fresh in your supervisor’s mind. If you wait until the end of the year, you might find yourself competing against your colleagues’ requests.
How Much to Ask For
The main goal of your letter should be to get a face-to-face meeting with your boss to discuss a raise. With that in mind, you should avoid talking about numbers in the letter. The amount of your raise should only be discussed during the interview.
There are no rules regarding the amount to ask for. However, your request should rely on concrete arguments. You should also avoid asking for a high number thinking that you could then negotiate it down, as this can antagonize your employer. You should ask for the amount that you think is right considering the objective elements that you will present. Avoid comparing your salary to that of your colleagues.
Through the Proper Channels
Depending on the organization of your company, your letter should be addressed to the highest decision-making authority. This may be the CEO, your manager or the HR department. Though it is not required, it is professional to address your request for a raise in the form of a signed letter rather than a simple email.
A Basic Letter Template
Now that you are ready to write your professional letter asking for a raise, include the following information:
- Subject line. Be clear and obvious that you are asking for a raise. For example, you can write "[My Name’s] Pay Raise Request."
- Greeting. This should be formally worded, including Mr., Miss or Mrs. and the recipient's full name.
- Your request. First, include market research stating average pay in your industry for your position. It is strong to include this external data before you formally request a raise. The United States Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics is a great place to find national wage data.
- Accomplishments. Focus on recent accomplishments within the last six to 12 months.
- Accolades. Sometimes, your manager or person responsible for your pay raise might not know everything you have done for your company. If any person in the company has praised you for your work, make sure to include that information as well.
- Conclusion. Reiterate your request for a pay increase. Keep this to two or three sentences.
- Signature. Thank the person to whom you address the letter for their time and sign the letter, preferably by hand.
What Happens After?
There is nothing that obligates your superiors to give you a pay raise. Several factors may affect the decision including your company’s current staffing situation, available budget and current performance. If your supervisor or boss decides to consider your request, you will probably be asked to come for an interview a few days after receiving your letter. If you have not already received a response, you should focus on being persuasive with fact-supported arguments for the day of your face-to-face meeting.
- Have an amount in mind when asking for a raise, and be prepared to explain why you deserve it. Take copies of commendations and reviews with you to the meeting.
- If you come off as bragging or discussing things in terms of what you want, rather than explaining how the company benefits, you may not get your raise. Stay low key and factual when discussing your accomplishments.
About the Author
Michael is a business journalist focused on entrepreneurship. He is a mechanical engineer and freelance writer, having earned a Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering from Washington University in St. Louis. His articles have appeared mostly online. He has blogged for the small business section of Chron writes about various business and entrepreneurial topics.
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