Navigating The Stormy Sea of Salary Negotiation

Friday, March 14, 2014

When should you bring up money in an interview? What if you are not happy with the offer? People Matters address your negotiation queries in this question and answer article.

Should I bring up the subject of “money”? 
In an interview, never talk about money until all of the following conditions have been fulfilled:

• The interviewer raises the salary question. 
• The interviewer raises the salary question. 
• The interviewer raises the salary question.

This points to an interview ‘don’t’ - never ask about salary and benefits unless they ask first!

If you bring up the subject of money, it will certainly leave an impression - a negative one.When interviewing apprentice trades people a number of years ago, I asked the usual question at the end of one interview: “have you got any questions for me?” In response, the candidate answered “what is your sick leave like?” It certainly made an impression on me, the wrong impression!

At what point in the interview process can I expect an employer to discuss salary and benefits?
It is not a case of ‘when’ but ‘what’ in relation to salary and benefits. Your future boss could ask the question at any stage of the process - at the screening interview, second interview or at the job offer stage. The key is to recognise what the salary question signals.

If you are asked about salary the focus of the interview has shifted. It has moved from sales (you selling your skills) to negotiation (trying to find an acceptable solution to both parties). With good preparation and practice you will be able to move on to the next stage, buying (getting the job offer)!

What if I’m not happy with what they offer? 
The ‘offer’ you receive should reflect your preparation for the interview, how you have demonstrated how your skills match what they want and the market rate for the position.

Part of your preparation involves deciding on a remuneration range that you will negotiate within.

Before you even attend the interview, figure out how much you need to make from this job if it is offered to you. Then think in terms of minimum and maximum figures. Minimum is what you would need to make if you were just barely ‘getting by’. The maximum is the salary that you realistically expect with your present skills set and experience. When you are calculating your salary range, do not forget to pay attention to fringe benefits.

The next step is to research the market and find out if your range is realistic. For example, the Central Statistics Office (  provides regular earnings surveys as

You now know both your salary expectations and can anticipate those of your future boss.

If, however the ‘offer’ does not meet your expectations you need to adapt your negotiation strategy (see next question). Remember, the groundwork for this discussion was done during your preparation for the interview. You will have pre-prepared negotiation tactics and can utilise the most suitable approach depending on the situation you face.

What should I do if I’m offered irrelevant benefits- eg, family health insurance when I’m single? 
If you are offered what you perceive as ‘irrelevant’ benefits, the signal that your future boss is sending is “I want to have you on board - we can negotiate”. So, negotiate!

There are a number of approaches that you can take:

Honest John: 
This is where you are completely direct and candid about what you expect. You can baldly state your parameters (“I want a basic of between €35,000 and €40,000 with OTE of €60,000 to €65,000”). Alternatively, use your research to support your position (“with my experience and skills, the current rate for this position is €35,000 to €40,000 basic with OTE of €60,000 to €65,000”). The downside of this approach is that you have scant room to maneuver outside of the declared range.

With this ploy you propose an extra, previously unmentioned issue for consideration just when the deal is about to be clinched. For example, an additional days’ annual leave. The item is of definite benefit to you, but is typically not worth losing the entire deal over from your potential employers’ perspective. As a result this devise puts pressure on your future boss to concede. The risk with this approach is that your future boss may call your bluff.

Promising potential: 
If what is been offered is lower than your minimum starting point you could argue that by taking you on board at a higher rate, you will provide them with a greater return-on-investment than by employing a less skilled person. Use your past achievements as an illustration of your impending future success. Of course, the type of job that you are pitching for must be amenable to quantification. For example, sales, marketing, production manufacturing operative, etc.

If promising potential is not an option, an alternative may be to ‘trade off’ terms and conditions of employment. The compromise will be based on the relative importance of the items to you and your future boss, leading to a mutually acceptable package. For example, reduced annual leave to ensure an early finish every Friday. For this strategy to work, both sides must feel that they are ‘winning’.

What are your top negotiation tips? 
Once a satisfactory deal has been made, avoid the temptation to say ‘yes’ immediately. Thank your future boss for the offer; re-iterate that you want the position but that you need time to ensure that it is the correct decision. Ask for supporting documentation to copper fasten the agreement, particularly the contract of employment and a job description. Take a day to examine the contract of employment to ensure that it is legally acceptable and restates what you agreed.

How do I proceed if I feel “fobbed off”? 
It may not be possible to agree a mutually acceptable package during salary negotiations. If you do not want to lose the job offer, you can agree to review the situation in the early stages of your employment with the company. This can be done following your successful completion of a probationary period and should be incorporated in to your contract of employment.

If you were not able to agree a mutually acceptable job offer, thank the company and mention that you hope that you will be able to work together at some future stage. It is also worthwhile to send a letter of thanks to that effect. You never know, in time maybe the company will realise that you, at the package that you want, is really what they need! The moral of the story is ‘never burn your bridges’!

Does my offer have to be in writing to be legally binding? 
You can have a legally binding verbal agreement or a legally binding written agreement. To be ‘legally binding’ means that there is an offer, it has been accepted, there is consideration (money!) involved and an intention to create legal relations.

It is of course, more prudent to have a written offer and this should take the form of a contract of employment. To be valid, this contract must be signed by your future employer as well as you. So if you are currently in employment, do not resign until you receive a signed copy of the contract that you are happy with!

People Matters is a career coaching, soft skills training and consulting company. Sue Mulhall is the founder and Director of People Matters.

For further information please contact:

Sue Mulhall People Matters 3
0 Delbrook Park 
Dublin 16 
T: 01 - 2961578 
M: 087 - 9060717