When it’s not listed or advertised as part of the job description, asking about how much a job pays or negotiating salary can be a tricky topic to raise in a job interview setting. Many people would advise not to bring up salary in the first interview at all, for risk of sounding like it’s the only factor you care about. But is that still the case?

Our guide below will help you better understand when and how to bring up remuneration, and what to say when negotiating salary during the interview process.

Research market salaries first

Before your job interview, you need to research the average industry salary for your job or similar roles in your field. This will help make a stronger case for the salary you are after, as no employer is going to agree to a number you've plucked out of thin air. Michael Page’s Salary Calculator for job seekers has useful salary benchmarks for various industries, which is a great starting point for understanding salary averages in your sector. When searching for jobs, also make note of how much they are paying when it is disclosed in the job ad, or if you find out during an initial phone screening from the recruiter or hiring manager.

Decide on an acceptable salary range

Once you have an industry-standard salary range, figure out where you belong on it. Are you new to the industry? Aim for the lower end of the range. Do you have rich experience and have taken on extra qualifications? Look towards the higher end. Don’t forget that what you’ve done can be just as important as how long you’ve done it, so it’s crucial to include that in your self-assessment.

Also consider your cost of living. Start with the sum of your total bills, add how much savings you want to have, and be realistic by including spending money. It’s important to have at least some funds for recreational costs for any career, or you’ll quickly get burned out.

For the top of your range, be a bit more generous but remain realistic, especially during times of economic crises or market downturns. On the other hand, make sure you decide if you are comfortable accepting the lower end of your salary range.

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Know when to ask about salary

It goes without saying that salary should not be the very first thing you bring up in a job interview – sometimes it may not be appropriate to ask about it in an interview at all. As a general rule of thumb, wait until the interviewer brings it up first – otherwise it’s usually acceptable to bring it up after the second or third interview when the likelihood of a job offer is high.

In any case, be sure to conduct yourself as professionally as possible to strengthen your chances of negotiating a bigger salary when the time is right. This includes dressing properly, establishing rapport, impressing with your experience and readiness to succeed in this role, and following up with a thank you email after each interview.

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Practise what to say when negotiating salary

Whether it’s during the interview process or when you’re given the job offer, salary negotiations will eventually come up. If your hiring manager asks about your expectations, have your salary range at the ready and make it clear that you’re willing to negotiate.

If the situation calls for it, state why you should earn the salary you’re asking for, not just what you should earn. This might include referring to your previous experience, industry standards living expenses, or any other information that objectively justifies you getting paid what you’re asking.

And finally, remember to show your enthusiasm for the job – not just the pay packet.

Take time to assess the offer

Before you accept the job, you need to decide if the salary offer is high enough. Remember, you don’t have to answer immediately – it’s often okay to ask for a little time to make a decision. If the hiring manager needs to fill the position urgently, this could both influence how much time you get to decide and if your prospective employer is willing to pay more to secure you for the job than waste more time in the hiring process.

When weighing up whether or not to accept an offer, go back to our salary comparison calculator to see how it compares with the rest of your industry. Enquire about and also keep in mind any other benefits the company is offering you: a company phone, laptop and other work equipment, or a company car could save you a lot of money and saves you the inconvenience.

Also consider if the company offers opportunities to progress from your starting role – will you be advancing each year after your annual review, could promotions happen sooner than that or have most of the staff had to wait a few years to be given a raise or salary adjustment? Figure out how often they reassess your work, which is typically when you ask for a raise. If your job offers a commission, make sure it is a structure that suits you and find out if the structure is changed often.

Make a counter-offer if you need to

It’s okay to ask for a higher salary if the offer isn’t as high as you expected, based on your research, experience and what the new job will require of you. However, you will probably only have one chance to renegotiate – so make it count.

Be honest. Ask for a reasonable increase and emphasise why you deserve more by referencing what other companies are paying for the same work and detailing how your expertise can add value to their company.

Also keep an eye out for additional benefits instead of a salary increase. Businesses often prefer giving you extra benefits over an increased pay because it costs them less, so negotiating for peripherals is a great way to add more value to your total salary package. Paid leave, getting reassessed for a raise sooner, or even a paid parking spot are great perks to consider.

If they refuse your offer, don’t panic. It’s up to you now whether you want to accept the job at that salary, or politely decline. Remember your worth here and don’t take a job for less than you deserve, unless there are non-monetary benefits on the table that you can’t pass up and will be happy in the role until you get the opportunity for a salary appraisal.

Planning your next career move for a better salary? Talk to a Michael Page recruitment specialist about employment opportunities and salary averages in your industry.

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