How to Bargain Salary & Benefits with Your Future Boss


So, you’ve navigated the interview process and have just been offered your dream job. Now the hard work begins - it’s time for the dreaded salary and benefits negotiation. Here are some tips to get you prepared:

Understand the Perspective of Your Future Boss/Company

However much the company may like you, they still have one big thing to think about: Can they afford you? So, remember this is a two-way street. Your champagne tastes might not match their beer money. Be open to negotiation. At the same time, there’s no reason to think that they’ll pay any more than they get away with. So come at the process from a position of strength.

Be Prepared

Don’t just pick a number out of thin air. It’s paramount that you do your research first. Look on job boards, for example Monster or Indeed, for data on comparable roles in your industry. Check out the annual salary guides for jobs in Hong Kong produced by Morgan McKinley and Michael Page. See what you can find on LinkedIn. Maybe even speak directly to a recruitment consultant.

This should at least give you a ballpark to work with. To ensure you don’t sell yourself short, have a list of why you are worth the figure you’ve come up with. This could reflect your years of experience, how much you are currently earning (be truthful!), your qualifications, the client relationships you can bring with you, and so on. Fair enough, you might love the job so much that you’ll be happy to take a below-market remuneration. But keep in mind that what you accept now can become the reference point for future roles.

The employer may well throw in a question during the interview process (“What kind of salary are you looking for?”). If they do, try to deflect it. If you can’t, at best give them a range to think about (say, HK$20,000 – HK$30,000). Try not to commit yourself. Ultimately, this is meant to be a conversation for when it’s clear they want you and you want them.

Don’t Forget the Benefits

It’s not just about your salary.

Many see benefits as a side issue, when really, they should be treated with the utmost respect. The value they can add to your overall package can be considerable, particularly if they include healthcare and housing allowance. And it’s not just the financial aspect either. If you were entitled to membership of a private club, think about the access you’ll get to an expanded social and professional network.

Before you start negotiations, know what benefits are particularly important to you. Once you’ve found out what’s offered, negotiate if necessary for those that matter to you.

Bid First or Bid Second?

Conventional wisdom tells us that you shouldn’t make the first offer in negotiation. The theory is that you can be more strategic if you let the other person show their hand. Sadly, it doesn’t always play out that way. There’s a ton of research that shows that making a first offer, in fact, can give you the advantage by helping you to anchor the negotiations to a figure. Whichever approach you do choose, the important point is to go into the negotiation with as much information and confidence as possible. If you know your market’s pay dynamics and have the poise to sell what you know, you’ll be in a great position.

Get It All in Writing

Make sure that everything agreed upon in conversation is written into your contract. You wouldn’t be the first candidate to have been promised rainbows and unicorns during the interview, only to experience some big oversight when you’re actually on the job.

Godfrey Oyeniran

Career coach, financial coach, passionate about personal transformation.

2 min read

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