How to negotiate the salary you want with your new employer

Starting a new job gives you a unique opportunity to position yourself as a valuable asset to your new employer, with a starting salary to match. But how do you decide what that salary should be, when should you start negotiating and how you can convince your employer?


Leave negotiations as late as possible


In an ideal world, you would not start negotiating your salary until an employer has already offered you the role. At this stage, you have impressed them at interview, they have decided they want to employ you and are invested in bringing you on board. Starting discussions at this point automatically gives you an advantage.


However, employers will often bring up salary expectations at a much earlier stage, either during an interview or even the pre-screening process. It’s common for an interviewer to try and establish what you are currently being paid, to give them a baseline of the minimum you are likely to accept. If you find yourself in this situation, replying “I’m looking at roles with salaries in the range of…” will help to keep the focus on your desired, rather than your current, salary.


Do your research


Of course, in order to specify your ideal salary range, you need to know what you are worth and establish which rates are competitive. You don’t want to start off too high and risk being undercut by another candidate and not offered the job, but it’s also important to avoid selling yourself short. Once you’ve started in a role, it’s extremely difficult to make any significant changes to your salary.


Different companies in different sectors have their own pay scales, so it’s very important to research your specific area. Here are some ways in which you can establish base salaries:


  • Visit job boards to look at the range of packages being advertised for similar positions
  • Websites such as Glassdoor, Reed or PayScale allow you to check salaries for specific roles in your sector
  • Websites aimed at the legal sector, such as RollOnFriday, can give you typical salaries offered at actual firms
  • Ask contacts working in your sector for their opinion – networks like LinkedIn can be great for crowd-sourcing professional advice


Justify your worth


When you do start to negotiate your new salary, it can help to think of yourself as a product – you want to be the premium version, rather than a cheap knock-off. It’s important to prepare your justification for that level of salary in advance and to be persuasive and consistent in your arguments.


During the negotiations, try your best to remain calm but assertive. Coming across as too eager can weaken your position, but appearing too laid back and unengaged can be interpreted as either overconfidence or a lack of professionalism. If you get an initial rejection, don’t automatically accept defeat, especially if it’s from HR rather than a line manager. It is worth persisting and putting forward your case. However, be prepared to compromise once they have improved their offer. Quibbling over small increments is ultimately likely to annoy them and may damage your working relationship before you even start.


Don’t attempt to bluff an employer by referencing fictional job offers at a higher salary level. This is a very transparent ploy, and companies usually don’t respond well to this kind of pressure – you could find your offer is withdrawn rather than increased. However, if you do genuinely have another offer on the table, be up front about what is being offered, although it’s best to avoid mentioning the competing company’s name.


Think about the whole package


When considering an offer, it’s also important to weigh up any additional benefits, such as holiday entitlement, health cover, pension contributions, gym memberships etc. Even if an employer is not able to offer you your ideal salary, the savings you’ll make from these benefits may be able to bring your income up to the right level. Smaller, more flexible organisations may even consider allowing you to take the cash equivalent in place of benefits.


You also need to factor in any bonus payments to your decision, as these can help to boost your earnings significantly. However, make sure you are absolutely clear on the terms and conditions attached to any bonus schemes, as some can spread payments over a period of time to incentivise you to stay with the business, which may not be what you are looking for.


Whatever kind of bonus package you are offered, don’t forget about the tax implications – all benefits are taxed in kind.


Ask for a guaranteed pay review


If an employer remains unconvinced about your worth, you could ask for an early pay review to be included in your contract. This gives you a chance to demonstrate your value to your new employer and justify a higher salary. Make sure that the criteria and time scale for this review are very clear, so there’s no opportunity for an employer to back out once you’ve fulfilled your end of the deal.


Use your consultant


Of course, all of this negotiation is much easier if you are going through a recruitment agency. You can simply specify your desired salary, and leave it to your consultant to negotiate directly with the client. As most consultants’ fees are based on a percentage of your salary, it’s in their interest to get you a good deal.


If you’re looking for your next career move in the legal sector, or would just like some advice on what salary you could expect, get in touch with us on 0333 370 46 16 or