Matt Wensor

Editor at Faang Interview Coaching

  • 5 min read

How to Negotiate Salary

A common theme in questions asked by candidates applying to Faang companies is “How do I negotiate my salary?”

Why do companies have negotiable salaries?

In a lot of jobs, companies will advertise jobs with a fixed salary, and this is the way most of us tend to travel through our economic life. Applying for jobs with a fixed salaries chosen for us by bosses and executives. We get no choice in our salary, though we may achieve a promotion or pay rise if our work is truly exceptional. So where does the idea of salary negotiation appear?

Mainly in two areas. Area 1 is that these companies are in an incredibly strong financial position, they make far more money than they would ever need to pay their staff and thus they can be open to a much wider salary range depending on the employee or role in question. This would never happen within smaller companies as they themselves are struggling financially and can only afford to pay staff a fixed salary dependant on their contribution to the overall turnover itself. For the most successful of companies, they tend to follow the philosophy of “It costs a lot more to lose people and to recruit replacements than to overpay a little in the first place”.

The 2nd area (and most important) is the reason why certain companies (especially huge organisations like the Faang companies) are prepared to negotiate their salaries. It’s because the work required here is of an exceptionally high skill level, and prospective employees are incredibly valuable assets to any company. Being a high value asset to a company means you and your services would be valuable to any company, and here appears a very interesting situation. If you are an employee who is wanted by every single company, because you are the best. You then have the freedom to choose the company you want to work for, and a large reason you would choose a certain company is that they pay the most. This is why companies are open to negotiate a salary for the highest value workers, because if money is no object, you of course are going to want and attract the highest value workers in the marketplace.

So now I understand why, but how do I negotiate in my interview?

In this section, we will go over why you may be asked about salary negotiation early on in the interview process, how best to answer these types of questions and how best to put yourself in a position of high value to attract attention and set yourself apart from the crowd. It’s a trick question, designed to eliminate you.

The true value of your answer in this area depends a lot on what stage of the interview process you are at. Many companies are only truly interested in your salary requirements if they are seriously considering hiring you, and thus serious talks would happen at the later stages of application.

So why would employers ask this right at the beginning, even in your first interview?

A lot of employers use this type of question as a filter. As harsh as this sounds, companies at the top of their field get a lot of applicants wanting to work for them, so asking direct questions about salary can deter or filter out a lot of unsuitable or inexperienced workers right out of the gate. If their average salary was £100,000 per year, and you asked for £1,000,000 they know you aren’t being serious. Also, if you asked for £20,000, they will also know straight away you have no idea what the usual going salary for this role is within most companies, and write you off as inexperienced or just that you don’t value yourself and your work.

This is good for the interviewers, because right away they can separate the inexperienced or time-wasting applicants from the serious and employable options. Eliminate the people they don’t want, and spend more time on those they do. So, if you are asked this right in the beginning stages of application or interviewing, be aware – They may be testing you to see what you are made of.

So how do I answer?

Well, just by knowing this golden piece of information above, you have a great advantage over a lot of other people. The first counter-move you can use against this question is to ask them questions. Most companies will actually have an approved salary range for each approved role, there is room for negotiation, however there would usually be an approved range from upper management for each applicant to negotiate from. By asking this, if they tell you the range is for example £85,000 - £100,000, you can then say “yes, this would be acceptable”. What if they push you further for an answer, or do not have an ‘approved’ salary range? Your second go to move is to give a wide range – The absolute worst thing you can do here is to give a fixed figure. By saying ‘Well, somewhere in the region of £50,000 - £100,000 depending on the finer details of the role, I would need more information on the role itself before giving a final figure’ you can then command the upper range of the number later when you do know the finer details. By giving a wide range you are stopping yourself from being ‘eliminated’ by the filter by giving a too low or too high answer.

Your interviewer may then ask which details you would like to know about the job, to make sure you aren’t stumped, here are a number of different areas you could ask the interviewer about their company:

  • Travel – What are the travel requirements, daily commutes, business trips or site visits and the frequency of them?
  • Breaks – How many breaks are permitted per day? How long are they?
  • Holiday – How much time off are you allowed within this role per year?
  • Benefits – What benefits does this role offer? Such as healthcare, retirement plans? Discounts with certain other organisations?
  • Remote Work – Is there an opportunity to work from home within this role? If so, what is the frequency?

All of these elements will impact your daily, monthly and yearly experience of working for the company, and should be weighed up in your overall decision of if this job is right for you. The final, open-ended question you could ask the employer is ‘What is the culture of the job / company like? This is a great question as it leaves the floor open to the interviewer to almost sell their company to you, they are obviously not going to say ‘it’s rubbish’, so they will begin to tell you how great working here is, almost convincing you and selling you the idea of working for them, this technique puts you in a strong position when it comes to the negotiation as whoever is asking the questions is in charge of the negotiation.

How to set yourself apart

In these high value roles, competition is indeed high. In order to give yourself the best possible chance of success you should endeavour to set yourself apart from the crowd. Here are some techniques to give you the edge.

1. Pick a particular field or role that you are truly passionate about. You can’t fake true enthusiasm, the draw of high pay and status leads many people to apply to these roles, but not many are truly passionate, living and breathing this subject with an interest in every aspect. It is those that would be working in these roles for free that the companies are truly interested in, for those are the people that they truly need to make their company a success. If you love this job and are truly passionate about this subject field and the job opportunity, your enthusiasm and energy will be contagious and employers will be drawn to have you working for them as a positive resource for their business.

2. Get them to realise that they need you. Alongside showcasing your passion for the role, you need to ensure that you have cultivated the experience and skills needed to be exceptional at this role. If you are a positive person to be around, passionate about the job in question twinned with the skills to create exceptional work, there is no reason why any company wouldn’t be competing for your work.

3. Establish Rapport. Simply put, get the employer to like you. Ask them questions as well! Especially open-ended questions. If they have a picture of their family on their desk, perhaps ask them about how long their son has been playing baseball, or notice a certificate on their wall, make connections and similarities to your own family or passions. People love to talk about themselves, and the more the interviewer feel comfortable in your presence and can talk about themselves the more it will feel like a friendly conversation to them than an interview. They will like you; you will seem different to the other people they interview that day. Doing this firmly establishes all the points we have spoken about above and will set you apart, the interviewer is more likely to remember you.

You can also make honest comments on the environment, such as ‘I love the energy of this place, everyone I’ve seen seems so nice!’ ‘I love the ping-pong table in the hall and the lunch bar, this looks like you really value your staff!’ The more you make the interviewer feel good, the law of reciprocity will mean the better feelings they will feel towards you. Humans instinctively take more interest in you when you talk to them and take the time to get to know them first. If you get to know them as a friend in an authentic and curious manner, ask questions about the company and other colleagues they may even give you tips about the other members of staff you will have interviews with in later stages, you will have made a friend on the inside who will help and root for you to get the job over anyone else.

4. Stay Persistent. Even if you don’t get the first job you apply for, be persistent and display your passion at all times. As the old saying goes ‘If you hang around the barbershop long enough, soon enough you’ll get a haircut’. Even if it takes a couple of years, that isn’t all that much for your dream job. By applying some of this knowledge you will put yourself in the best position to display your passion and love for the field, whilst maintaining high value in the eyes of your employer. With a great skillset comes great options, and the key to truly winning a negotiation is to be prepared to walk away and mean it.

As you go through the interview process your salary negotiation position increases, so match that by being general at the beginning of the process - then focus the negotiation in on the higher part of the salary band towards the end of the process.
Matthew Rusk

Faang Interview Coach

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