Negotiating a financial package is every candidate’s final hurdle. It is also every candidate’s nightmare and can make even the most secure person apprehensive. Further, many candidates are so happy to receive an offer that they fail to take advantage of their leverage at this critical time. Avoid the temptation to settle salary questions quickly and allow Route1 to help get what you deserve.
1. Position of strength
In many cases, potential employers expect you to negotiate your salary – it’s part of the interview and offer process. They will give you an offer that, while fair, could be below what they would be willing to pay, as they anticipate that you will ask (and receive) more money. Failure to engage in salary negotiation may needlessly deprive you of benefits. Your negotiating strength is never greater than at the moment the firm invites you to join their team. Unless you are certain negotiation is inappropriate, this is the time to secure your best possible salary and benefits package.
2. Avoid premature negotiations
While you will eventually discuss salary with your potential employer, it is never a good idea to bring up salary before you have an offer in hand. Your focus in an interview you should be to find out as much as possible about the job and convince the interviewer that you are the most qualified candidate for the role. Discussing salary at an early stage can be a turn-off for employers who wish to learn about you and what you can do for them before the topic is raised.
But what should you do if an employer tries to get you to discuss salary during the interview, or before they make an offer? How do you manage the situation? The best policy is to say that you hesitate to give a specific figure until you have a better understanding of the job description and the employers’ expectations for the position.
3. Research pay levels
Never underestimate the power of information. Knowing the salary range for similar positions will greatly aid you in negotiation. Your interviewer will see that you are diligent and have done your homework – admirable qualities in any lawyer. Moreover, once you know the true value of your services, you will not risk underselling (or overestimating) your worth in a way that might be counterproductive. So, talk to our Engagement Team at Route1, who have several years’ experience of salary levels across a range of locations and specialties. You can also use our partnership with Emolument to see if there is a benchmark you can use for the role.
It is worth noting that, as you get more senior, there is usually additional scope for negotiation when you move out of the legacy PQE banding model that many law firms still cling on to (even if they say they don’t!). This is generally above 5 years’ PQE.
4. Time, please
If you have played your cards correctly up until this point, your potential employer will have made you an offer and disclosed the planned salary. Formal offers will often be date-stamped with an acceptance date to avoid candidates shopping around. Now, this is the point where traditional recruiters will be hounding you to accept the offer so they can land their fee. At Route1, we are available for consultation but we will not do any hounding. We want you and the employer to end up with an optimal solution.
If you are pushed, especially over the phone by the employer, never accept when the position is first offered. Always play for time. You need to be able to reflect on the offer in the clear light of day and avoid making a serious employment decision impulsively. A generally accepted time frame to ask for is a couple of days.
5. Place value on the job itself
If the initial salary offer is low and you feel you have little “wiggle room,” try to calculate the position’s real value to you in terms of positioning. That is, in terms of improving your skills, broadening your work experience, building your experience, or providing access to a particular professional network. Once you look at the bigger picture, a lower salary may be worth it because of the other benefits that you will receive.
For example, what is the continuing training like? Will the firm second you to a client where you can gain valuable sector experience? Don’t be afraid to discuss this up front – in doing so, you are aligning yourself with the business strategy of the firm. And, in a world where making partner is becoming more and more statistically unlikely, planning a route to a client of the employer could be in your – and their – interests.
Are there further considerations? And how do you make an effective counteroffer? Stay tuned for the second part of Route1’s guide to salary negotiation next week.
The Route1 Team