Peninah Mumbi had just secured a job interview at a Nairobi-based telecommunications company in March 2014.
The post, IT officer, would have been her second job after graduating with a diploma in Information Technology in 2009. And although the firm was offering Sh60,000 salary, Ms Mumbi, 34, was asking for a minimum of Sh80,000.
“I was convinced this was the salary I needed to accommodate my lifestyle in Nairobi,” she says. During the negotiations, she was asked why she needed a salary higher by Sh20,000. “I simply told the interviewer that it was what would be rightfully due to me. It was what I needed,” she confides.
Despite her former employer recommending her for the new post, she was not hired. “I was not asked to wait for a feedback. Instead, the potential employer termed my salary demand as greedy,” she says.
Granted, many job seekers often find themselves in similar circumstances. In any case, many interviewees do not know how to pitch their case for new and better pay, and those who do often find themselves walking in Ms Mumbi’s shoes.
According to Perminus Wainaina, the managing director of recruiting firm, Corporate Staffing, it is easy to come out as money-oriented rather than skills-oriented during salary negotiations. “If you ask for too much (salary), and remain adamant about it, your employer will be left wondering if you are coming in to deliver or to milk the company,” he says.
HOW TO NEGOTIATE
According to Mr Wainaina, framing your pitch starts long before you meet your potential employer.
“You must begin by understanding the industry, the size and position of the firm you’re engaging with. For instance, if you are an accountant, you cannot pitch for the same salary at an SME looking to hire an accountant as you would a multinational looking to hire an accountant,” he says.
Further, Forbes notes that you should not start to ask for higher pay once you get the actual offer. “When you get the actual offer, you’re in no emotional shape to negotiate. All that your mind has is the new offer, which you want to lock up.”
Although potential employees fear that their prospective employer will rescind the decision to hire them if they ask for a higher pay, Forbes adds that this doesn’t happen 99 per cent of the time.
“Ask for some time to settle without showing signs of withdrawal, doubt, disinterest or disrespect. Then use this time to research on how the company pays. This should help you come up with a more realistic figure as well as help you respond to questions on why your salary should be higher than someone else’s.” In the same vein, you will come across as better prepared.
Mr Wainaina agrees, adding that after grasping the scope of the firm, the key to unlocking a bigger pay will be in how you expound on your skills.
“You must prove that what you are going to bring the firm is value addition and nothing else. If you are an accountant and you’re well acquainted with Kenya Revenue Authority, you may consider elaborating on how you can bring your experience on board to align the firm’s books with KRA’s policy more smoothly and cost-effectively,” says Mr Wainaina. For instance, if you are a receptionist, you can show how you are able to market the company.
From experience, Mr Wainaina observes that an employer will hardly reject you just because you requested an additional Sh10,000 on your stated salary.
Nevertheless, negotiating for a better pay is a delicate balancing act. “If the employer is offering Sh100,000 and you demand Sh120,000 without explanation on what you’re bringing to the table, your potential employer will most likely flee thinking you’re greedy!” cautions Mr Wainaina.
Quintessential Careers, an online job-seekers’ portal, echoes Mr Wainaina’s sentiments: “The most common error people make is focusing on need or greed rather than value. You’ll be seen as greedy or needy if you focus solely on what you feel you need or deserve rather than your value and the value you’re bringing.”
According to James Njenga, a financial coach based in Nairobi, you will do well to approach a pay negotiation using a competitive strategy.
“Generally, people who use a competitive strategy by identifying their goals early on and having the spine to try and push for them get significantly higher salaries than those who sit back and compromise on their pay plan.”
He adds that you shouldn’t be afraid of articulating your pay concerns during the negotiations. State them clearly and at once. Quintessential Careers notes that you should be careful not to reveal to your employer what you would accept.
“Some employers will ask for a salary history or salary requirement. Others will ask during a preliminary interview or on the job advert what salary you’ll be expecting. But realise that the earlier you divulge this information, the less room you’ll have to ask for a better pay when the actual offer is put on the table.”
This is the mistake that Lawrence Musyoka made. “My employer had advertised for a vacancy in the accounts department. He had stated that I needed to state my current pay and what I expected to earn. I stated my net pay of Sh45,000 and an expectation of Sh70,000 net pay,” he says, adding that his employer took him to task on why his pay ought to be nearly doubled.
“I had little space to negotiate and since I needed the job, I accepted the Sh48,000 he offered.”
Alarmingly, the hardest hit in the search for better pay are the fresh university and college graduates. Previously, the Federation of Kenya Employers has lamented about a skills gap among college leavers seeking jobs.
Candidates seeking high pay at the entry level are likely to get raw deals, says Mr Wainaina. “College leavers have nothing to prove. They are just stepping into the market and will inevitably be viewed by the employer with a lot of scepticism,” he says. “Their only stronghold is in how they demonstrate their ability to adapt, learn and build a portfolio.”
Strikingly, there are some workers, who get raw deals after leaving previously high-paying jobs.
An employee will only receive a poor pay at another company if she or he does not have a career plan, notes Mr Wainaina.
“Many of our current professionals have no career plan. In many cases, this proves to be the weak link when moving from one company to another and subsequently when negotiating for a pay,” he observes.
Negotiating for a better pay is a delicate balancing act. However, whereas experienced workers have skills to prove, fresh graduates face an uphill task.
Job recruitment expert Perminus Wainaina says entry level candidates seeking a high pay are likely to get a raw deal.
“College leavers have nothing to prove. They are just stepping into the market and will inevitably be viewed by the employer with a lot of scepticism,” he says. “Their only stronghold is in how they demonstrate their ability to adapt, learn and build a portfolio.”