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Leiden University Career Zone

Negotiating terms of employment
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Negotiating terms of employment

When the end of the interview process is near and the job is offered to you then you will be going through on final step, which is the negotiation of terms of employment.

Together with your future employer you will discuss the primary terms of employment. These primary terms of employment are standard working conditions such as salary, holidays, holiday allowance, and working hours. In addition, there are secondary terms of employment, also named fringe benefits, which include extra month of salary at the end of the year (13th month salary), other bonus arrangements, travel allowance, pension scheme, car/laptop/telephone of the employer etc. 

At first, it is important to come up with your thoughts on your ideal outcome of the salary negotiation and don’t forget to subsequently write this down for yourself. Think about what you are hoping for. What is most important to you.

  • Expand your knowledge on a current competitive gross salary in a comparable position within the industry. You can do this by filling out a wage indicator on the internet or ask your network!
    Do you know someone who works (worked) in a similar position? Ask for advice about terms and conditions of employment. Asking directly for someone's salary is not very appropriate. Instead you converse about salaries and terms of employment in a broader perspective. Then you create an opportunity to give the other person more leeway to answer the question. Another option is to look for similar vacancies with a salary indication.  Finally, and perhaps the easiest way, is to ask your potential future employer for an indication of your salary for the position. This is a reasonable question to ask! Often the employer comes up with a salary scale. It depends on the amount of experience where you will be 'ranked'.
  • Of course it is important to have an idea of the gross salary, but also consider in advance your wishes when it comes to fringe benefits. Think about what is important to you. Make a list and prioritize!
  • The employer may have a salary scale with a minimum and maximum salary for this position that is used in their organization. Remember, you can do the same and have your information on salary scales for a position! What do you want to earn as a minimum? And what do you think, based on the collected information, is the highest salary you can achieve? 
    Since you have your priorities set when it comes to fringe benefits, you know which of your wishes you possibly can drop during the negotiations. Negotiation is a game of give and take. That is why during the negotiation you have to strive for more than what you have in mind. Yet, be careful not to price yourself out of the market by over asking hundreds of euros more than the current competitive salary on the job market.
  • Similar to the format that is generally used in job interview(s), a negotiation meeting takes a similar approach and starts off with a light conversation to break the ice. Go along with this and try to relax.  
  • At some point the interviewer will be in the lead on the content. It may be that you have been asked to think about a salary indication or even to bring a pay slip of your past/current work. If you are asked to do so, please give your gross salary indication (starting offer) and come with information to support your offer. What research have you done? Where did you get information about the current salary scales? However, it is important that you do not mention any names. For example, it is very unprofessional to give the name of a friend who works in a similar position at a competing organization.
  • In case the employer comes forward with a counteroffer, you should take it easy and don't react immediately, but give it some thought first. In addition, ask for argumentation of the counteroffer that has been put on the table. First try to negotiate about the salary, state that you know what is in line with the job market and subsequently ask if there is room for negotiation. If the fringe benefits are not mentioned straightaway then ask for this!
  • Is the employer indicating that there really is no room to negotiate about the salary? Don't keep on trying at that point and negotiate about the fringe benefits. In this way you can close (part of) the gap in the gross salary.
  • Finally, it is important to know that it helps to ask about the salary increase perspective.
    What steps can you take in the future? And in what time frame can this be done? Can arrangements perhaps be immediately made? For example, if you achieve certain goals, can you receive a raise and move up in the salary scale.

If a raise is not possible in the near future, please indicate that you would like to have an interview after your probationary period (if you have one) or after 3-6 months to discuss your salary again. If the employer sees that you are functioning well (or rather excellently) in the position within 3 months, you can request for a higher salary at that time. Indicating in advance that you would like to have this kind of conversation within 3-6 months will make it a lot easier to bring up this subject in the future.
Be aware that negotiating a higher starting salary could result into a less positive outlook on salary increase, leading to a flatter growth curve. Accepting a lower starting salary due to the fact that there is no room for negotiation, but agreeing on the perspective of an increase in salary may bring a steeper growth curve.