Do your research
As the old saying goes, ‘knowledge is power’. The first important step in negotiating your salary is being well informed about the salary ranges typically offered for the kind of work you do. This involves spending some time to research what someone with equivalent experience and skills is currently earning in the same industry. This will give you confidence that your salary expectations are realistic and reasonable. While getting direct access to information about salaries can be difficult, you should try to talk to people within your chosen field.
There are a number of websites that provide information about pay rates in different sectors. First of all check out the website of your prospective employer to see if there is any information about salary and conditions as well as the websites of professional associations and unions for your particular sector. Good places to start are:
- Careers NZ has information on salary and wage levels and employment trends in their ‘Jobs database’ section. Click on the job title to find out more information on pay rates.
- Trade Me has a salary guide section
Find out information about the needs and interests of your counterpart in the negotiation e.g. the company website and job description. Contrast these with your own needs and interests. Identify what areas of interest you and your counterpart share. Thinking about the possible goals of the other party in the negotiation will help you meet their goals and create a ‘win-win’ situation.
Before you negotiate you also need to assess your particular situation. You need to be clear about the pros and cons of negotiating, what leverage you might have, and what your goals are as well as those of the other party.
It helps to ask yourself the following questions:
- Do the benefits of negotiating in this situation outweigh the costs?
- Can I have influence in this situation?
- What are my interests in this negotiation?
- What are the interests of the other negotiating party?
Make sure you know what your goals are. If you don’t know what you want, it is unlikely you will be able to ask for it. Goals need to be realistic but with a touch of aspiration as they can be a self-fulfilling prophecy. Determine how your goals meet the employer’s interests (list 3-4 points).
Think about negotiation in the broader context of an ‘employment package’, not just in terms of pay. As part of your package, your employer can offer you many other perks and benefits. These perks and benefits can increase the financial value of ‘the offer’ as well as improve your working conditions.
Some common perks and benefits that you may want to consider in your negotiations are:
- Flexible hours
- Working from home
- More sick leave
- More annual leave
- Company shares
- Free or subsidised healthcare/health insurance
- Support for professional development and study
- Use of a vehicle
- Subsidised or free vehicle parking
- Performance bonuses
- In-house gym or free or subsidised gym membership
- Clothing allowances.
Choices give you bargaining strength. In a salary negotiation it is important to think about your other options in case a good deal can’t be reached. What are your alternatives? Do you have other job offers or prospects to weigh up against this one? If you have no alternative but to take what is being offered, and the other party realises this, then you are in a weaker position and you will probably be more anxious to take anything you can get. Try to build up some viable options before you negotiate so that you are in a situation where you can make a choice as to what works best for you.
Research suggests that when women adopt an advocacy role and are negotiating a salary on behalf of another person, for example a colleague, they perform as well as men.
A 2010 study by Emily Amanatullah randomly assigned people to one of two negotiation roles: one in which they advocated for themselves, and one in which they were bargaining for a colleague. The experiment found that the advocacy role uniquely affected female negotiators: female negotiators advocating for themselves made larger concessions than male negotiators or female negotiators advocating for a colleague. Amanatullah explains:
"When women negotiate for themselves, their assertiveness could be seen as running foul of gender expectations. But if women are assertive on behalf of someone else, it does not violate gender stereotypes. It reads as caring, not overly demanding or pushy."
Situations such as job interviews and negotiation discussions can be difficult to predict as you don’t know how the other person will behave and respond to you. There are so many different possibilities as to how the scenario will unfold. This can create anxiety.
Obviously, you can’t completely plan the negotiation ahead of time, but a little preparation and practice will help to alleviate this anxiety. Think about some of the various directions the negotiation might go and develop responses to each potential scenario. Plan out different approaches to what you might say and how you will say it. Role-play various scenarios if you can. By practicing ahead of time you will feel more prepared for the conversation and more confident.