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How can you manage your salary expectations?

Posted on from DMJ Recruitment

Talking about money is often uncomfortable, but in today’s economic climate, managing salary expectations has become more difficult than ever. What can you as a candidate do to ensure you receive the best offer?

Do your research

In these tighter economic times, many organisations are under pressure to keep costs down. Employers and candidates may have very different ideas of what pay-scale a role falls into so it is wise to keep an eye on vacancies for similar roles in the same profession to ensure you are aware of market rates.

A reputable recruitment agency will advise you on current rates early in the application process and help you to negotiate should you need to. HR departments almost always have a pre-determined budget for recruitment which, in the current climate, they are more often than not, adhering to. Despite this, there are signs of some flexibility – particularly at the senior end – as organisations seek to bring in the very best talent.

Be prepared to negotiate

Most business sectors follow salary trends and generally these have only been subject to inflationary increases in recent years. There has been much talk in the media about pay freezes and job cuts but many potential employers will still ask for your salary expectations. Don’t be afraid to ask if this is negotiable – after all if you don’t ask, you don’t get. It’s imperative that you are realistic with your expectations so refer to the industry standard for your role and use this as the basis for any request. Some believe you should say you are open to negotiation to appear willing and flexible. Others believe you should cut to the chase and name your price. Remember not to underestimate your worth, and beware of companies who are only interested in the lowest bidder. If you do negotiate your pay, give reasons to support your case and outline what you will offer the company in return.

However if there is no room for movement, consider what else the organisation is able to offer you. Does the company offer any informal or formal training schemes that will add to your skill set? Or is there the chance of a secondment to another of the businesses offices or the offer of a sabbatical further down the line? Base salary shouldn’t be the deciding factor when you are thinking of a new position – your future career progression ought to be at the top of your agenda. And remember that although the UK is facing austere times, and the thought of leaving the security of your current job may be perhaps putting you off a move, changing your career path shouldn’t be ruled out.

In it for the long haul

Ask yourself, where do I hope to be in five years’ time? For employers, retaining talent within a business is just as important as securing it. So if you are not offered the starting salary you were expecting, take into account the attractiveness of the overall benefits package. A potential hirer may also offer perks such as pensions, health care, childcare vouchers or flexible working arrangements so ensure you research what you may be entitled to before you rule out opportunities.

For in-house lawyers, company secretaries and senior finance staff , we’ve seen an increase in Long Term Incentive Plans (LTI) being offered as a way to not only draw talent in, but also retain it. LTI schemes - which are increasingly non-performance related and often come in the form of company shares - are well worth considering if you perhaps don’t receive what you perceive to be an appropriate base salary. Also take in to account when your salary is contracted to be reviewed. For example, if you are joining a company around review time, it may be possible to work out a slightly higher wage where as if you are scheduled a pay review six months into your contract it may be better to wait until then. When the time comes, make a list of the reasons you think you warrant an increase and come prepared with examples of your achievements. 

Remember that career progression opportunities are just as important as the size of the pay packet. Employers should attempt to offer fair and competitive wages, even in austere times, but working environment, location and added benefits should also be crucial factors when you are considering your options. As the economy recovers, salaries will once again begin to rise. But for the moment it is wise to concentrate on the whole package when deciding which career path to follow.

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