“What are your salary expectations?” – Sounds like an easy question right? Not really – this question could make or break your chances of a landing a job with the company you are interviewing with depending on how and when you answer this question. This post covers pitfalls and pointers around this critical but delicate subject.

As a candidate your goal is to land an offer with the highest salary you can receive with this company given your skill-sets and their ability to pay you. Keeping that in mind, it is in your best interest to answer this question as late in the hiring process as possible. If you answer this question during the HR pre-screening round or before the hiring manager realizes the value you can bring to them, you run the risk of being screened out because of seemingly high and unreal salary expectations. Alternately, if you have quoted a lower figure in the beginning, you literally limit the maximum salary the company can offer you since going back on your words and asking for a higher package than you asked for earlier puts a question mark on your integrity.

Here are a 5 tips to help you in your salary negotiations:

1. Find out existing salaries in that company

The moment you apply to a company, use sites like Zuby.in or your contacts in that company to get a rough idea of how much others with your skills and experience are getting paid in that company. You never know when the HR person will call. Do not put salary expectations on your resume. It is the last place you should write about your expectations and portrays a negative image of you.

When the HR person calls you the first time for a prescreener, they will try to ask you for your current and expected salary figures. You can tell them your current salary – that will give them an indication of whether you are too expensive or not. When they ask for your expected salary, try to avoid giving a direct answer. Some of the responses you can give them are “I would want to discuss this during my interview after I get a clearer picture of my job profile and responsibilities”, “I would prefer to discuss this in person”, “I don’t think I have a figure in my mind right now, once I understand the job role better, I can give you a clear answer”. Some HRs are very persistent, if they still insist inspite of you giving the answers, then give them a range or a % hike value – e.g. If your expected salary is 8 lakhs, you can tell them “I can’t give you an exact figure now, but I am looking for something in the range of 7-9 lakhs per annum”. You can also say – “I am looking for a raise of 20-40% over my existing salary”.


2. Leave the salary discussion for the end of the interview

During the interview, try to leave the salary discussion for the later part of the interview – after you have given the interviewer a chance to judge your skills. You can use the same “I can tell you my expectations after I get a clearer picture of my job profile and responsibilities. So can you tell me a little more about the growth opportunities in this role…”. The main advantage this approach has is that you can quote a figure based on how your interview went. If you think your interview went well then you can quote the figure on the higher end of your expectation. If you’re interview went bad, then you may want to quote a lower expectation. Whenever you quote a figure, ensure you quote 15-20% more than you expect to get.finally. That way you also leave room for downward negotiation from the HR. Remember, at times its the HRs mandate and also their ego to negotiate a little on your expected salary.


3. Understand what part of the salary you will actually get

Remember that salary contains many components not all of which will be paid out to you. Components like medical insurance premium, gratuity, amount spent on training etc are tactics used by companies to bloat your CTC (cost to company). Be careful about variable pay also – some companies state the maximum possible variable bonus in your CTC, whereas the average payout is usually only 30% of the maximum bonus. Ensure you consider the average payout as part of your salary. Stock options add further complexity to the salary computation. This article on the Z Blog contains more information about Stock Options. You need to filter out these factors and then calculate your pre-tax annual income and use this figure as your decision making factor. Some genuine components of your pay are

  1. Basic Pay
  2. House Rent Allowance (HRA)
  3. Leave Travel Allowance (LTA)
  4. Transport Allowance
  5. Medical Allowance
  6. Special / Other Allowance
  7. Telephone / Broadband Allowance
  8. Petrol Allowance


4. Negotiate on Salary after receiving the offer

Sometimes, you may get an offer lower than the expectation you told the company. In many cases, you directly get an offer after the technical round without being asked the expected salary. If this offer is lower than what you were expecting, then you need to negotiate carefully. Contact the HR by phone or email and tell them that you like the position and are keen on working for the company but you are concerned since the compensation offered is not aligned with your expectations. At this point, if they really think you are good, they may call you for a round of salary negotiations or they may tell you that they have already offered you the maximum they can afford. If you have done your homework and feel that they do pay others more than they are offering you, then you can decline the offer politely mentioning that you will be happy to reconsider if they are willing to review the compensation offered. Remember that this does pose a risk of the HR not giving you a renewed offer and you losing the chance to get the job. You need to take your actions and decision based on your risk-taking ability and your perception of how important the company thinks you are to them.


5. Job profile, growth and company culture are also important

Lastly remember that salary is not everything. It is an important factor, but should never be “The Only Factor”. If the job profile and position, the reputation of the company and the opportunities for growth and development are good, consider making a compromise on the salary, since in the long term, your growth will result in the increase of your compensation as well. Loads of people making the mistake of going for a job with fewer growth opportunities because it offers a slightly higher salary, only to realize that 5 years down the line, they have actually lost out in the salary race.

Wish you all the best in your job search!

9 thoughts on “How to Negotiate Salary for your Job

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  8. Hello, I am a core java developer with 2.4 years of experience, with knowledge on Struts2 framework. I have been selected for Accenture with the package of 6.1L.
    Could anyone help me in knowing whether it is the maximum package that i get??

    • Hi Anusha,
      6.1 lakhs for 2.4 years of experience in Accenture is a good package. You can get little more in startups but you have to be really good at core java. All the best!


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