Headstart: Careers – Realise your worth in the job market.

It’s the ultimate killer question: ‘What are your salary expectations?’ A headhunter or potential employer springs it on you at the end of an interview after you’ve dazzled them with your professional brilliance, knowledge and charismatic charm.

Pricing yourself out of the market or selling yourself short, are simultaneous sources of panic.

Before stepping into the interview room establish a plan. How confident are you in your negotiation skills?

A confident, forceful negotiator may often get further with less skill and substance than a mild mannered master of their profession. But negotiation is primarily about having a solid argument, so it is important that you ensure you can explain exactly what you can offer an employer to justify salary expectations.

Summarise your value in three or four key skills. Keep your cool and avoid over reaction – even if you are faced with an insultingly low offer – they may be testing your resolve and those ‘excellent communication skills’ you’ve been advertising for the last hour.

Part B of your plan is asking yourself: what combination of benefits do I want in a salary package?

Negotiating a better package isn’t just about cold hard cash. Whether your priority is a recession-proof pension plan or a big brash company car you should decide the minimum that you will accept and have a fallback position below which you won’t go.

Work/life balance maybe a bargaining tool as well. A shorter working week or the chance of teleworking from home for two days a week may be options with an enlightened employer.

Research is vital. Do you know what the market is prepared to pay for your skills? What do equivalent professionals earn elsewhere?

Flicking through the job pages of professional journals and national newspapers along with internet sector searches will enable you to gauge the ‘going rate’ for the job. If you’ve got the gall, ring them up and feign interest in the post, if necessary.

Specify a salary and benefits band rather than leaving them a blank cheque or demanding an exact sum. This leaves everyone room for manoeuvre and last minute bargaining.

How desperate are you to leave your current post? Employers sense desperation in candidates, so keep it quiet. They may also sense off-putting negative vibes towards your current employer and delve deeper into your reasons for quitting.

Biding your time may get you a better deal. But if you play hard to get don’t be surprised if they call your bluff and give the job to a keener candidate.

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