The Elephant in the Room: The Do’s and Dont’s of Salary Negotiation

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Salary negotiation. Raise your hand if you agree that it’s one of the most dreaded parts of any hiring process.

You’ve made it to the final round of interviews and now it’s time to agree upon a salary. Or maybe you were asked during the pre-screening phone call. No matter at what stage it comes up, salary is often the elephant in the room.

Most people find it hard to talk about money in a professional setting. They come across all types of mental barriers. What if the amount they ask for is too high and they don’t get offered the role? What if they seem greedy? What if you set the bar too low? What if, what if…

Feeling the same way?

We’ll give you some tips based on our experience as a recruitment agency and we hope they help you find the best approach to salary negotiations. We have also prepared a ready-to-go answer for when they ask the question during the interview.

First of all, why are they asking?

The salary expectations question is a tricky subject for job seekers. But most of the time, it’s not there to trick you in any way. When interviewers and employers ask you what your preferred salary is, they are trying to answer two questions:

  • Do they have the budget to hire you?
  • How do you value your own skills?

Should you mention a word of salary and if so, at what point?

As a rule of thumb, only mention your salary expectations during an interview or application process if you are asked about them. It might leave a bad impression if you are the one to initiate the salary talk. Of course, if you go through the final round of interviews and the employer/agency hasn’t touched on the topic, do open it for discussion.

Remember: if you are applying through a recruitment agency in the Netherlands, it’s part of your recruiter’s job to confirm your salary expectations prior to the interview. Recruiters know the budget range of their clients and can manage your expectations early on in the process.

Here are Some Salary Negotiation Tactics

When it comes to salaries in the Netherlands, you need to know a few essential things. First of all, you have gross and net pay. The difference? Your gross pay is your salary before any tax and cost deductions. The net salary is what you actually get paid at the end of the month.

In the Netherlands, there is also the Vakantiegeld, or 8%/8.33% holiday allowance on top of your gross annual salary. Always make certain that the amount you are offered is the base salary excluding all allowances and bonuses.

Here are some actions you can take in order to prepare yourself for salary negotiations.

1. Do some benchmarking

Use all available online resources you can find to compare your salary preferences to the current market.

We advise you to do average salary benchmarking based on the specific industry of the job and not across all sectors. Also, salaries are largely defined by your location. So a simple Google search containing the name of the role (or a similar one in the industry) and the city/country should do. For example, type into Google something like: “executive assistant Amsterdam salary”. You can also use the Salaries search function on Glassdoor.

In addition to making your online research, connect to people on LI with a similar position to the one you are interviewing for and ask them what salary they believe adequately corresponds with the role. This way you are not directly asking them how much they earn and you are more likely to get an answer.

2. Be sure what the position entails

It’s not easy to put a price on your skills and time, especially when you don’t know enough about the position. You have to be fully aware of what the role will involve and what will be expected of you. Don’t forget to take into account how many years of experience you are bringing to the table. That’s a good leveraging point when discussing your desired salary.

3. Don’t be arrogant

First of all, we advise you to never bring up the salary in the first interview. Rather, try to do it at the final stages of the process.  By then, you’ve already built a more substantial rapport with the company and the interviewers.

Being arrogant or demanding at any point in the hiring cycle won’t help. Some candidates are led by the belief that if they aim higher, this will guarantee a great starting base salary. The truth is some job seekers have better negotiation power than others. Try to stay realistic and do your homework. Otherwise, you risk making a bad impression and cutting in half your chances of being hired.

Can a Recruiter Help You Negotiate a Better Salary?

When you apply for a job through a recruitment agency like Blue Lynx, you get support through the whole recruitment cycle. To save yours and your recruitment consultant’s time, discuss the salary with them as early as possible in the process.

Why? Because recruiters usually know how much their client budget is for each position. Disclosing your desired pay to your recruiter will give them the chance to manage your expectations and negotiate with the company on your behalf. Also, your recruiters will prep you well with topics you should and shouldn’t touch upon during the interview.

If you are not a good negotiator, having someone to do it for you is the best thing ever. Recruiters are responsible for building that bridge between what’s best for you and their client.

What if the Salary Is Published but It’s Not Satisfactory?

Most companies won’t include the salary in the job ad. But once in a while, you get ones where you know the exact salary or a range from the get-go. Usually, this means there is little room for discussion.

If it’s lower than your desired amount you have two options: compromise or try to negotiate further down the line.

Sometimes candidates compromise on salary because of other benefits and perks that may come with the role in a non-monetary shape.

But maybe you still want to try and persuade the employer to a higher number. In this case, your negotiation power depends on how flexible the company’s budget is and the demand for professionals like you. Most times, you won’t know the former. However, you should know where your skills & experience stand in the market.

Again, in this scenario, go back to doing your research. Many factors play a part too. Are you applying for a junior or mid-level position? What’s the competition like? How long has the company been trying to fill in this position? How well do you fit the profile requirements? All or any of these may tip the scales to your (dis)advantage.

How to Actually Respond to Salary Questions?

We’ve prepared a sample answer to a question such as “What are your salary expectations for this role?” and it goes like this:

“I am open to discussing your offer as you probably have a set budget for this position already. However, I can provide a salary indication based on the average pay for similar roles in this industry in *country* and the unique skills and experience that I will be bringing to the team. I would feel comfortable accepting an offer between *provide a salary range*.”

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