As Indian professionals, we are a funny bunch. We don’t mind locking horns with the auto-rikshaw driver or the vegetable vendor for demanding one extra rupee.
But when it comes to bigger (life-changing) amounts, like salaries and compensation packages, we rely on the benevolence of head-hunters & HR professionals to throw at us what they think we deserve.
Giving salary negotiation tips in India is tricky because it’s not a scientific, well-documented technical skill to master. But developing the skills for negotiating a higher salary are more important than ever today.
Why? Because the graph of onion prices (and in general the overall cost of living in India) looks more impressive than the stock market graph.
Forget about the advanced salary negotiation techniques, it’s time to go back to the basics because we haven’t got it right yet.
Salary negotiation in India tends to be among the most awkward and challenging phase in the job-hunting process. The discussions need to be done tactfully without sounding rude or aggressive, at the same time you need to mutually work it out with your employer so that the new job incentivizes you to take the plunge.
Here are a few tips to go about it.
Before going for an interview, you need to be prepared with some research on how much other companies are offering for a similar role or job title. Even if the fancy job titles other companies use confuse you, a comparison can be made based on the number of years of work experience, educational background and the job description.
When you land for an interview, you should have an idea of how much to ask for. If you’ve done your homework, you’d be in a position to be assertive about the salary that you’re expecting. Salaries vary as per the geographic location, so be sure to research companies in your region while doing your survey.
If you don’t know where to start, try websites like Glassdoor that provide a whole lot of information about not just salaries, but also work culture, the policies, the heroes & the villains. Almost all of this is anonymously provided. There’s no way for you to find out whether it was posted by disgruntled employees or an over-enthusiastic mole. So use your judgement to filter out the useful stuff.
If you are reading this, chances are that you aren’t the illustrious, foreign-educated scion of the company founder, brought in to single-handedly save the big ship from going down. Even if you are, we will assume that both you and your daddy are not ready to take home a salary of 1 rupee per year for the noble job. Your priorities are more balanced and a higher salary package probably figures closer to the top of the priority list.
But that doesn’t mean all your higher priority items (like the compensation package) need to be taken up first. Take the time to understand the role, the responsibilities and talk about the company. During the initial interactions & interviews, you would be able to highlight the various skill-sets that you possess, emphasise your strengths and talk about the projects/tasks you have successfully accomplished in the past.
Instead of jumping into the salary discussions, focus on instances when your technical skills, marketing ability, team leading or decision making ability has benefitted the company.
The more you discuss, you’d be in a position to convince them that having you on their side would be profitable to the company. If you prematurely rush to the salary part before getting down to the nitty-gritty of the role, it would reflect your disinterest and greed.
This one gets bandied around a lot – that you’ll be on the losing side if you take the initiative in suggesting the salary figures and you should let the employer or interviewer propose it.
Well, there’s definitely a lot going in favour of that negotiation technique i.e. if the other side proposes a number, you’ll be able to negotiate and bring it higher. If you propose first, chances are that you’ve quoted a much lower figure than what was in store for you. Or so high that you knock yourself out of the race, even if you have better skills and experience than the other job applicants.
So, as a general approach, the idea of keeping your cards close to your chest sounds logical.
But in India, the other side will most likely push you to reveal your cards even before the mating game has started.
What do you do then? This is where the next tip comes up.
When forced to reveal more than you planned for, don’t offer a number. Offer a salary range instead. That reflects your flexibility.
But by doing so you’ve put the cards on the interviewer’s table. No two ways about it. You’ve created a nice little cage for yourself, entered it voluntarily, locked it from inside.
Depending upon the company, you may be offered anything in the set range. Good companies may usually make an offer varying from the median to the higher end of the range, however if the company is small, chances are that you may be offered the bottom end of your range. So set your range accordingly based on the research you did in point 1.
Fortunately, salary negotiations in India are no longer about a single make-or-break number. Your overall salary package can be a bouquet of options.
So, don’t oversee the other benefits that the job has to offer, be it a good health insurance, a handsome bonus, a luxury car, a rented apartment, paid vacation. Also check the criteria for the salary hike and the percentage raise you can expect each year.
If the salary you’re being offered is not attractive enough, do make a note of these perks and the savings that you can expect on account of the same.
Apart from asking about your salary expectation, the HR team may also want to know more about your earlier salary.
When you get this question, you don’t have the right to be silent, and the number you quote will surely be used against you.
So, you’re thinking – “I do not wish to reveal my current salary during the interview. If I do, chances are that I wouldn’t be offered a competitive salary. I am changing jobs because my present company is not offering me a decent raise as per market standards.”
How do you handle such a question during the interview?
Not mentioning how much your current CTC is would have been ideal. But some employers may insist on knowing the current salary to use it as a benchmark for drawing out your new salary.
As mentioned in the earlier post about headhunters, you should never ever give out false information about your salary. However, while being honest, you can still avoid the situation of having your earlier salary pull you down in the negotiation phase.
You may explain to the HR person why you accepted a lower paying job earlier. Maybe, when you had taken up this job, you were new to this area. Your job gave you this unique opportunity of on-the–job-training, so you settled in for a much lower salary at that time. Now you’ve gained considerable experience, industry knowledge and you’re in a position to lead a small/big team.
Any additional qualification, skill set, industry connections can be used to your advantage to convince your interviewer of your added value to the company.
After a long drawn phase of negotiating your salary, role, location, designation, the employer might offer you the job along with a good salary package. Don’t go overboard showing your interviewer how excited you are.
Keep your emotions in check. Your celebratory (lungi) dance can wait till you get home.
Otherwise it would be perceived that the offer made is way beyond your expectations or perhaps you weren’t confident enough of bagging the job.
Remember that you are in this for the long haul. Let your professionalism reflect in your responses.
The earlier point might have a slightly different ending. You get the job, but the salary is lower than expected. The overall deal isn’t good enough to start the celebrations yet.
It doesn’t have to be the end of the road. The good news here is that the company likes you. And they are as eager to make this work as you are.
If you’ve been expecting a higher offer, speak about it. Come prepared with ways to make yourself more marketable so that you can prove that you certainly deserve more.
A reasonable employer would be able to handle such negotiations so that it works in your favour. They would not want to lose out on an eligible candidate by turning you down. Don’t underestimate the power of such negotiations.
If you meekly accept something way below your expectations hoping that you’ll have a chance sometime later to have your employer re-consider your salary, this would not happen. You’ll find it difficult to put in your best on the job if you hold a grudge right from the start.
Start looking out for a new job well in advance. Don’t keep your job-hunting on hold. Even if you have the slightest hint that you may lose your job, enter the job market right away.
If you’re in the right frame of mind, you’ll be able to face the interview in the right spirit and with a cool mind.
If you’re desperately in need of a new job, your interviewer would be able to sense this urgency and you may not be in a position to negotiate for a good package.
If you like the job, the company has a good reputation but the salary is in the median range; you’ve tried your best to bring it higher but they’re stuck with some figure.
How do you take it forward? Try to sweeten the deal by adding some benefits (as mentioned in point 5) or negotiate for some sponsorship for a short-duration program sometime in the future (maybe after completing a year).
If the work experience you’ll gain is the biggest USP, you may need to show flexibility on the salary part. Your decision would also depend on whether you have any other job offer coming your way.
Finally, don’t make the salary the focal point of your decision making process. After the first few months of seeing the new salary figures in your payslip, you’ll outgrow it very quickly.
We hope this article gives you some ideas to think about before you reach the salary negotiation table, so the end result is clap-worthy.
Any interesting salary negotiation stories (from reel or real life) that are worth sharing?
Pic Source: Deewar | Trimurti Films Pvt. Ltd [“Main aaj bhi pheke hue paise nahin uthata”]