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7 things no one will tell you about salary negotiation

Written by Anke De Bleecker on 20 August 2020 for Tech Professionals

Even though it might seem like you don’t need it right now, the time will come that you’ll be thankful that salary negotiation was a skill you focused on at one point. Whether you’re starting a new job, are up for a promotion at your current employer, or just don’t feel that the value of what you do is reflected in your current paycheck, being able to approach these things objectively and calmly will definitely impact your total compensation in the end.

Preparing for, let alone having a conversation on this topic might seem daunting but when you do, it’s good to keep these 7 things in mind.


#1. Find out what you’re worth

To get a feel for your desired salary, you’ll need to know your current market value. This will help you justify the amount you think you’re worth when negotiating with your hiring manager or boss.

If you are researching a new company or debating a job offer, reach out to peers, colleagues, or people in your professional network, and find out what they know. You can even talk to recruiters (they’re probably stalking you anyway, so why not?) and ask them what people with your experience and expertise are typically worth. Find out what they know. You may not get a specific figure, but you may get a salary range, which can be a helpful starting point.

Once you’ve defined your range, go online, and start doing some research. Glassdoor is an excellent resource as it lets you compare salaries with millions of other employees and see whether you are being paid fairly. You can get a free, personalized salary estimate and use it to compare your job offer or paycheck with the salaries of other people with similar roles and responsibilities.

If you are further on in your career and thinking about asking for a raise, you can start by looking at the company or organization itself; is there a salary ‘band’ or ‘grade’ for your position? The HR department will (or at least should) definitely be able to assist you.

#2. Be willing to walk away

Many people tense up when they are asked about their salary expectations during the hiring process and give a ‘range’ instead of a specific figure. But remember, if you’re really hoping for the higher number but give a lower number as well, you are more likely to receive an offer you’re unhappy with.

That’s why you should not only have an ‘ideal’ salary in mind that you would be ecstatic about receiving but also a ‘walk-away’ point that’s too low. Deciding that last figure is never easy, but trust us, it’s important to know.

#3. Never underestimate likability

Companies don’t negotiate, people do. One of the best strategies for salary negotiations is trying to be likable during the interview process. This dramatically increases the chances of the other side being willing to get you the best possible offer. Being likable is about more than being polite: it’s about managing the tensions a topic like this can come with or pointing out certain shortcomings in your current offer and doing all of this while maintaining your authenticity.

Build a body of evidence that proves why you’re worth the amount you’re asking for. Show how you can add value to the organization, how you can boost the bottom line, and save costs. Back up your statements with concrete examples of recent achievements and successes. This will help you justify your demands without coming across as greedy and lets you be persistent without seeming petty.

#4. Don’t try to win all the time

If you recently aced a negotiation class, the temptation to prove your negotiation chops can seem irresistible. Our advice? Don’t haggle over the small stuff. Again; companies don’t negotiate, people do. There’s a time and place for everything, and fussing over tiny details isn’t the smartest strategy; it may even jeopardize your potential future working relationships.


For example, peppering your current or prospective boss with questions about the finer details of your job offer may see you burn through goodwill and cause your working relationship to sour. If certain things are important to you, absolutely discuss them. But consider directing them to an HR representative rather than your line manager.

The exceptions to this rule would be special requests that you think the hiring manager is stalling on for fear of breaking precedent. In this case, speaking to your boss may prove fruitful as they’ll benefit more directly from your work and may put in a good word on your behalf.

#5. Don’t forget about (extra-legal) benefits

It’s perfectly normal to focus on your perfect salary during negotiations, but don’t overlook all the other ways you can get value from a company. Even if your salary expectations aren’t quite met, you can often find ways to boost your overall package by exploring other avenues. Figure out what’s important for you – a (bigger) company car, extra days off, extra stocks or options – and put that on the table before you get to the offer stage.

One of the best benefits you can negotiate for is professional development opportunities. At Exellys, this is a given but this is definitely not the case everywhere else. Courses, training, and seminars aren’t cheap but can have a dramatic impact on your future value. If your employer is willing to cover the costs of professional certifications or professional, this can offset a less than ideal pay offer. The trick is doing your research beforehand so that you know what types of courses or training you want.

#6. Do a dry run

One of the best ways to prepare for this conversation is to take a trial run beforehand. Initially, it doesn’t matter whether you have a conversation in front of the mirror, make a video, talk to your dog, or have your friend or family member role-play as the hiring manager. The important thing is that you start practicing your talking points about your accomplishments and why you are worth what you are asking for.

As you get closer to the offer stage of your job search, role-playing with a real person becomes much more important. They can confront you with challenging questions and rebuttals that may help you find ways of being more convincing. This will give you the confidence you need to tackle anything that might pop up during the actual phone call.

#7. Expect to be told “No”

The fear of rejection and being told “No” is the reason why most people find salary negotiations tough. But an often overlooked fact of negotiations is that they only start after someone actually says “No”. Your interests are never going to be perfectly aligned with those of your employer; negotiation is all about finding common ground where both sides feel they are getting something of value.


The best approach is to be direct and say something like, “I would be so happy to take this position, but would like to be making X”. If what you’re asking for is beyond the hiring manager’s budget, they’ll let you know. That doesn’t mean you can’t take the job! It’s all just part of the process. The important thing is that you asked and can start to reach an agreement.

Final thoughts

Whether you’re applying for your first ‘proper’ job, wanting to ask for a raise, or simply feel that you’re worth more than what you’re currently getting, you’ll definitely want to keep these pointers in mind. Salary negotiation is simply about justifying why you’re worth what you’re asking for and going in with positive intentions will increase your chances of getting a positive result.

If you need a hand or want to know how we manage to secure the best starting salaries for ambitious tech professionals just like you, feel free to get in touch. Good luck!

About Exellys

Exellys is a Tech Talent Incubator. We match ambitious companies with the finest tech talent. Are you ready to drive the innovations of tomorrow? Ready to make an impact and become a future-fit digital leader?

Whether you are a graduate or (young) professional, Exellys will unlock your full potential by guiding you to a challenging work environment that perfectly matches your personality, expectations and ambitions.

On top of that, you are enrolled in one of our very own training and coaching programs (based on your personal and professional ambition and experience). This means that, while working as an Exellys consultant, we are helping you to bridge your ambition to excellence.

Through intensive training and coaching, you’ll gain the essential skills, competencies and knowledge necessary to become the highly effective professional you aim to be.

Become an Exellyst and get in touch with us today!