How do I approach salary negotiations?

Friday, 27 Jul 2018

Q: I have worked as an accountant, for both Big Four and small firms, for 15 years and I am returning to Hong Kong after 10 years away, so I am looking to get back into the job market here. I earned a fairly high wage in my job in Australia and I would like to keep my salary on an upward scale. I have never before had to negotiate a wage though and I worry that I might be a little out of touch with salary trends in Hong Kong. How do you think I should approach the process?

A: Welcome back to Hong Kong. You’re in luck – highly qualified finance and accounting professionals, such as yourself, are currently in high demand and low supply in the city. Your background in large international organisations and your overseas experience will place you in a strong position to negotiate a higher starting salary when starting a new job.

First thing first: know what you’re worth. The only way to benchmark your salary expectations in line with your skill set and experience is to consult an industry salary guide. Some employers may ask about your expected salary early in the hiring process.

Giving a wide pay range might seem smart – hedging your bets against pricing yourself out of a job. But if you tell a potential employer that your acceptable pay range is HK$300,000 to HK$400,000, don’t be surprised if you’re offered HK$300,000.

After doing your research, you should know your baseline salary – the number under which you’d be willing to walk away from a company. Being willing to state a specific number or range will help you and the potential employer figure out if you’re on the same page and if it makes sense to continue the hiring process.

And remember, as with any situation in business, expect to negotiate. Hiring managers will often open negotiations at the lower end of salary ranges because they expect job candidates to negotiate. Show courtesy and professionalism, which will demonstrate to your potential employer that you’re confident in your abilities and know your worth. Don’t go overboard though. In any salary negotiation, arrogance gets you nowhere – no matter how good you really are.

Keep in mind that your overall salary package is more than a paycheque. It also includes benefits such as annual and medical leave. Sometimes your employer may not meet your monetary demands, but that doesn’t mean negotiations are off the table. Work with the hiring manager to find a win-win solution by asking for better performance-based bonuses or take into account flexible working hours or telecommuting benefits.

If the hiring manager does not accept your counter office during a salary negotiation, demonstrate that your requests are justified. Show how the company will benefit from your expertise by citing examples of how you have added value to your former workplaces, such as streamlining processes or finding creative ways to save money.

Show your employers that you’ve seriously contemplated and studied all the facets of their offer – and you’ll have a better chance of starting your new job with the compensation package you deserve.

This article originally appeared in the Classified Post, 19 May issue.

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