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How high a salary can you ask for? – how to get through a salary negotiation


  • Salary

A significant proportion of YTK Worklife members have sometimes been in need of pay-related advice, our extensive member survey revealed. People are particularly concerned about salary expectations: what salary to ask for and how to justify a pay rise. Read YTK Worklife’s tips for salary negotiations!

We compiled the tips together with Mikko Kotro, CEO of Cimson Koulutuspalvelut, a company specialising in career planning and employment solutions. 

The job advertisement asks for a salary request. How do you know what to ask for?

First, you should try to find out the median salary in the sector and for the job in question. You should use the salary scales of the collective agreements in the sector, if there are any. You can also find a lot of information about salaries in different sectors by searching online. Of course, you can always try to ask people you know in the field – or just ask on social media.

Once you have an idea of the general level of pay in a sector, you should compare your own skills and qualifications with it. Are you just starting out, in which case you should set your salary expectations a little lower?

Or do you have some experience or specific skills that would justify a slightly higher salary? Roughly speaking, you could say that 10% one way or the other might be an appropriate range in relation to the median salary.


Is it better to ask for a little too much or too little?

This depends a lot on how badly you want or need the job. If there is a labour shortage in the sector and you have a lot of options for jobs, you can certainly set your salary a bit high. In this case, you also leave yourself some room for manoeuvre. But if you really want and need the job, it may be better to play it safe. However, you should not set your salary expectations too low. If you do, the employer may suspect that you do not have a good idea of the job description and its demands.

One good way to do this is to indicate in the salary request that there is room for negotiation and that the request will be clarified once the job description becomes clearer in any interview.

When can I ask my current employer for a pay rise?  

Roughly speaking, every couple of years, for example, you may want to review your salary with your employer. A good time to discuss a pay rise is when there is a clear change in your job description or responsibilities, or an increase in responsibility.

It is often said that a performance review is not a salary negotiation. However, it is possible to raise the issue in a performance review and, if necessary, a separate time can be set aside for a salary review. Of course, if there are frequent appraisal interviews, it is not worth raising the salary every time.

How do I justify a request for a pay rise? How big can a pay rise be? 

The key to a pay rise is whether the employee has become more valuable to the employer. In other words, it is about added value, for example through increased productivity, increased responsibilities or a specific skill. The fact that your personal expenditure has increased is not a reason to ask for a pay rise.

It is therefore worth preparing for pay negotiations in advance and thinking about how you can demonstrate that the value of your work to your employer has increased. In some jobs, this can easily be demonstrated, for example, by increased invoicing. In many jobs, demonstrating the value of your work is not so straightforward, so it is important to think in advance about what you want to highlight about your work and its results in the pay negotiations.

The size of a pay rise will of course depend on how much your job description or responsibilities have changed, but as a rough generalisation, a pay rise of 5-15% at a time is appropriate. Anything less than this is quite nominal, while anything more is quite substantial.

What if you change your job – should you go back to a beginner’s wage?

Of course, this is case- and sector-specific, but in most cases certainly not. If you already have a career behind you, you already have a lot of experience and work skills that will probably be useful in your new field. For example, managerial skills are usually useful whatever the sector.

It is worth telling the employer how you think your previous work experience will be of practical use and value in the new field.

What if you have been unemployed – do you have to settle for a lower salary? 

In principle, of course not. Of course, the more you want and need the job in question, the more moderate your salary should be.

You should be prepared to say what you have done during your period of unemployment and how you have trained or improved your skills. This can also be done, for example, through volunteering or through an organisation. It is a good idea to explain how your skills – even if they are from a few years ago or from a different sector – will be useful to the employer in question.

Another good option is to agree a slightly lower salary to start with and agree straight away that the salary will be reviewed again, for example after a probationary period. In that time you can already show your skills and value to the employer. Of course, you should also tell them about the possibility of a wage subsidy, if there is one.


Read more: Salary requests, years-of-service supplements and pekkas-days – salaries raise many questions