6 Essential tips on negotiating your salary from an expert career advisor

Don't shy away from discussing money but strive to achieve a bump in your salary with some of these helpful strategies
Sarah Geraghty
Negotiate a salary hike with proven strategies
Negotiate a salary hike with proven strategies

PeopleImages / Canva Pro 

Pay negotiations are always tough, so tough in fact that a recent survey by Salary revealed that only 37 percent of people always negotiate their salaries, and 44 percent have never even brought up the subject of a raise during their performance reviews. 

This chimes with my experience advising clients daily on how to communicate effectively at every stage in their careers. The most experienced engineers are as likely as their new-starter colleagues to do everything they can to avoid “the money conversation.” 

Most perceive the offer they’re given as “set” – that it’s been generated in a formulaic way, based on years’ experience or previous salary for example. 

Whether you’re looking for a salary increase, a lateral move, or a whole new job, follow the steps below to help you confidently get that bump to your bank balance. 

1. What's the mutual gain?

In my experience, the most frustrating part of any pay negotiation process for the employer is the other person starting from what they want, with no regard for where the other side is at. 

A negotiation is not about you squeezing out as much as you can from the company. It’s about getting the best for both parties. Scope out the reasonable end position for both you and your boss.

What are their pressures? Needs? For example, can they afford to give you an increase? How many others are looking for the same? 

A two percent increase can seem small, but if 100 people work in the organization, that’s a large increased cost to the company balance sheet.

Any pay negotiation should be about mutual gain, not one-up-manship.

2. Know your worth

My clients (no matter how experienced) tend to do one of two things – under or overestimate their value. There are a few outliers who have no idea whatsoever. Do your research. What is the market paying someone with your experience? 

This information is vital. People often go into negotiations for a pay increase like they’re haggling at a market. You need to be clear on a few key things in advance.

What’s your ultimate aim? What’s your ideal position? What’s good value for you? What’s your fallback? What’s the lowest you’ll go?

3. Think about your achievements

Keep the negotiation fact-based. Your feelings and personal opinions are irrelevant. Stick to the information that will persuade your boss to make the decision you want to be made.  

Don’t sell yourself on vague terms, such as, “I am hardworking.” What exactly did your hard work deliver? Did your team leadership skills ensure the delivery of a recent project on time and under budget? Be specific.

Include a focus on the future, that says, “my ability to build strong relationships with external stakeholders has proven invaluable for securing new contracts – I plan to do more of that”, or “the success I had in mentoring graduates – I’m keen to help more new entrants develop their analytical skills.”   

You’re trying to show how an investment in you, in the future, will be paid back by virtue of the things you’ll be doing. 

4. What's your goal?

Work out your goal. For example, how does the entire package impact your work-life balance and therefore influence the work choices you can make? 

Then work out your bottom line: What could you trade or accept to get to that goal? 

That might mean delayed pay rises, or having to work in an area you don’t want to for a period of time. If you are prepared to work towards a clear goal, then you are in a better frame of mind to negotiate.   

It should also help you to think about your options. For example, if your boss can’t give you the $4,000 you were looking for, but can give you $2,000, have you thought through other benefits that could make up the difference?

For example, support in getting a further qualification that is beneficial to both sides. Or extra holiday days. You might decide that an extra two weeks off in the summer is worth as much to you as the $2,000 that they can’t cover.

5. Keep emotions out of it

You need to make sure in meetings like this that you are never at a point of emotional confrontation. There shouldn’t be any emotion in it. And if you can’t keep emotion out of it, you’ll struggle.

It’s the manager’s job to keep costs as low as they can, while still keeping you happy. You shouldn’t be braced for conflict. Your approach should be “I can justify all of this” and go into the meeting positive and upbeat.

6. Avoid employment terms and conditions at interview

Negotiations should start on terms and conditions once you have been offered a job. If asked about salary at the interview, base your answer on your market research––do your homework on your value in advance. 

Now you know how to approach the pay negotiation, take a look at some of the roles available now on the Interesting Engineering Job Board and start preparing for the next step on your career journey.

Staff Engineer (Manufacturing Engineering), Thermo Fisher Scientific, St Louis

The Thermo Fisher Scientific St. Louis site is a multi-product and multi-client bio-pharmaceutical site with manufacturing facilities for pharmaceutical products for both pre-clinical trials and commercial applications. It is looking for a Staff Engineer with a minimum of five years’ experience––preferably in bio/pharma––and is particularly interested in those with excellent project management skills and a strong understanding of cGMP.  

Engineering Technician, NEWTON LLC, Riverdale

Newton is searching for an Engineering Technician to perform mechanical and electrical assembly activities on in-house NASA and DoD projects. You’ll need a High School Diploma, and a Trade school certification is desirable, along with two to five years of experience in hands-on mechanical assembly.

Engineer (Software Process Engineering), Samsung Electronics, Mountain View

Samsung’s eCommerce engineering team is expanding globally and as part of that is seeking experts in Software Engineering best practices who can prove their ability to take projects from scoping requirements through to the launch as well as having a good understanding of computer science fundamentals and object-oriented programming concepts.