Chris Aukland is the managing director of specialist recruitment agency Ambition and is responsible for the growth and management of the Hong Kong business. He has 15 years’ consulting experience in the UK and Asia.
How to bounce back from a salary dip and negotiate fair pay
A few years ago, I took on a new role that paid considerably less than my previous job. I had left the company unexpectedly under great stress because my relationship with a new superior had meant my job changed suddenly – and for the worse. Unable to risk unemployment for more than two months, I took the first job that I found satisfactory in my field. Now I am searching for a new job, and want to negotiate a fair salary. What is the best way to explain a dip in pay, and attempt to negotiate based on my previous salary? Or have I permanently slipped down the scale?
The success of your next negotiation is dependent on a few determining factors: the length of time in your current role versus your previous one, your explanation of the reasons for taking a role that paid less than your previous salary, and the difference in pay.
If you have been in your current role for a short period (for example, less than a year) then your salary dip is more easily explainable. If, however, you have been in your current role for a number of years, it would be difficult to negotiate a new salary based on your older one. Employers in Hong Kong typically base potential offers on your current salary. If it has been years since you earned a higher salary, it becomes less relevant in the eyes of future employers.
If your current role is considerably less senior, has a much lower workload, or involves working considerably less hours than your previous role, then you may be better positioned.
As long as you have sound reasons for taking on such a role at the time, and proof that you are qualified to return to a more senior capacity or take on a higher workload, then you will have more negotiating power.
You may not have permanently slipped down the salary scale but, if you lack valid reasons to justify such a move, you may need to make a more gradual return to your previous salary.
Bear in mind that typical salary rises for Hong Kong professionals changing employers ranges between 5 to 15 per cent, depending on the role, market conditions and organisation. For niche positions, or roles in high demand, this figure can be higher – but there are no guarantees.
When entering any negotiation, you will be in a much stronger position to negotiate if you are fully prepared. This means performing in-depth research on the market and finding out what someone with your level of experience and skill set should earn. Reports by recruitment agencies on salaries and market trends are a good place to start. There are also multiple online resources, including job boards, recruitment sites and social media channels, where you can review similar roles to see what they pay. Lastly, get advice from recruitment consultants and professionals in your industry.
Know what you want and go in with a salary range in mind. At the bottom of this range would be the absolute minimum you would accept and at the top would be your ideal – yet realistic – figure. Always start at the higher end of this range to allow for negotiation, but be careful not to price yourself out of the market. This is where research comes in. Anticipate the possible objections to your proposed salary and prepare counterarguments. Despite being prepared to talk about money in an interview, try not to raise the topic too early. It is critical that you wait for the potential employer to discuss the topic before you wade in, or you may appear to be too focused on money, rather than the role. Remember, you are in much better position to negotiate if the employer has offered you the role and has suggested a salary. If salary is raised early on in the process, ask the interviewer to tell you more about the position and company first, explaining that you are more interested in the role and the organisation.
This article appeared in the Classified Post print edition as Bouncing back from a salary dip is rare, but possible.