The 5 Key Phrases When Negotiating for Higher Pay

Ryan Ong



We’ve talked about general ways to negotiate for salary before. But some people, you know, they get stuck from the very beginning. Not at all like me, when I uttered my first salary demand. “You mean the bit where you walked into the interview and whimpered “Mmmbnlx pliss?” Hey, I didn’t say I did better. But I’ve picked up a lot since then, and here are the key phrases I’ve learned:

1. I Notice My Job Requirements are Wider…

Take a close look at the job requirements. Now match it to the job title. Chances are, the hiring manager would have slipped a few “extras” in there. You can use this as leverage.

I spoke to Human Resource consultant Angeline Seah, who says:

Look out for hirers who try to combine job positions. This is quite common nowadays; for example, some hirers don’t want to have a marketing manager as well as a Public Relations manager, so they create one job title that covers both roles.

Since you’re going to be doing both jobs, it’s fair that you be paid a little more than the job title suggests.”

When you see a combo-job like that, call it out. Say you notice the job requirements are wider than those of a “regular” programmer, or copywriter, or whatever. Here’s an example:

I notice you said the copywriter will have to handle the layout as well. I can certainly do that, but isn’t this usually something we’d have to get a layout artist to do?”

(Use “we” as if you’re already on the team).

After that, re-state the extra duties when mentioning your expected pay:

I was thinking of a pay range of $X, and I’ll certainly also be able to do (Insert extra job) for you.”


2. What Do You Pay Your Best XYZ?


Man sleeping on table
What do we pay our best copywriter? Whoah, writers need to be paid?


When you have a weak resume (e.g. no experience), you should wait for the other side to mention a salary range. But let’s say you’ve been at the job for a long time, and have a solid portfolio. In this instance, Angeline suggests:

…you display the confidence to match your resume. Don’t be quiet and mousey, as if you have no experience or you’re fresh out of school.”

Here’s an example of how to do it. Say you’re getting a job as an engineer, and you’re at the salary discussion stage:

Hiring Manager: We like what we’ve seen so far. What sort of salary range are you expecting?

You: *Maintain a few seconds of silence. Scrunch up your eyebrows, like you ate too much Thai food and the Po Chai pills aren’t working.*

You: Well, what do you pay your best engineer right now?

Hiring Manager: $35,000 per annum.

You: I’m confident I can do a job that’s just as good…


3. Here are the Projects I’ve Worked on, that are Similar to Your Requirements…


I have a lot of experience with construction and architecture.


Most hirers, Angeline says, have well-defined ideas on what they need. Most aren’t interested in complex Myers-Briggs results, or how you rescued sick Tapirs as a CCA.

So don’t waste time on it. Leave that abstract stuff in the background. Head straight to what you can do for the hirer.

Go through the job description line by line,” Angeline says, “And if a friend referred you, ask specifically what projects the company needs done. Then highlight any of your past projects that are identical to their required tasks.”

This means pulling out a list of past projects, pointing at them, and saying: “These projects are similar to the one you need. I executed them and generated a revenue of $X. Here’s how I would handle yours.”

The moment the hirer realizes you can do exactly what they need,” Angeline says, “You have tremendous leverage in asking for more pay.”


4. I’m Sure We Can Work It Out Later, First I’d Like to Show You…


Sneering guy looking at pleading guy
We’ve talked about this. Stocking the pantry with near-expiry cabbage is *not* a wage supplement.


You use this line when the hirer tries to “anchor” the pay range. Anchoring is when they mention a salary figure early, to set the playing field.

When a hirer wants to anchor the salary, they use a line like ‘By the way, we’re only ready to pay around $X’. They will say it early in the interview, because most people will roll over and accept it,” Angeline says. She admits to using the tactic herself; it has a high success rate.

Don’t let it get to you. Instead, stall the price negotiation by smiling and saying:

“Don’t worry, I’m sure we can work it out later. But first I’d like to show you some of the things I can do for you.”

Then you pull out a list (see point 3).

At the end of it, state the salary you want, and say “I know it’s a bit more than you expected, but I really look forward to working with you.”


5. Let’s Say You Didn’t Have Budget Constraints. What Are Some of the Things You’d Want?


“Also it has a jetpack, and ninjas are riding it. What, am I misinterpreting ‘no budget constraints’ here?”


This one’s for freelancers. All you web designers, graphic artists, event planners, etc. take heed.

Sometimes, the hirer (or client) will mention a lower price than you expected. The most common reason is limited budget. But if your expected pay is within 20% of what they’re asking, it’s still worth trying for. Use the following line:

“One quick question. Let’s say there was no budget. What are the things you’d want then?”

Write down what the hirer says. When they’re done, highlight one or two things that you can throw in. Then say:

“Okay, I usually charge $X for these. But at my given price, I’m going to do these for you, free of charge.”

From experience, I put the odds of success at 60/40. Angeline adds that: “This can work because most clients will try to lowball a freelancer. Many are expecting the freelancer to try and re-negotiate for higher, so the money probably is there.”
Image Credits:
bpsusf, Balaji Dutt, jam343, mbrochh, Scott Kinmartin

How did you negotiate your salary? Comment and let us know!

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Ryan Ong

I was a freelance writer for over a decade, and covered topics from music to super-contagious foot diseases. I took this job because I believe financial news should be accessible and fun to read. Also, because the assignments don't involve shouting teenagers and debilitating plagues.