Negotiating Salary like the Harvard Pros - According to the 4-Point-Scorecard

February 03, 2022

The best salary tips from career expert Martina Ernst

According to the latest Marketagent study in February commissioned by, which surveyed around 500 employees in Austria on the subject of work in times of Corona, 52% think that now is not the right time to look for a new challenge. Almost half of all respondents (48 percent) still say that a higher salary is the reason for a possible job change. And many do not even have another choice but to look for a new job – due to Corona: one in three respondents (33 percent) said the Corona crisis had a "major or rather strong impact on a change of job. This leads us to consider how to negotiate salary during the job application process.

Martina Ernst in consultation with a lady
HR professional and salary expert Martina Ernst knows exactly how best to conduct salary negotiations and passes on this knowledge.

When is the Best Time to Talk About My Salary Request?

Recruiter, headhunter or online application portals ask for the salary expectations right at the beginning of the application process.  This is an unfavorable time, because who knows the exact conditions of the job - let alone whether one would fit culturally with the new company. 

Which Salary Should I Request?

Ideally, you mention that you expect a salary in line with the market value of the vacant position. If the online application portal requires you to indicate a number, then do not insert the lower end of the salary range. Why not - because this would signal to your future employer that you lack confidence and are not up to the task. Otherwise, you would at least expect to be paid the median of the job’s market value, wouldn’t you?

Martina Ernst portrait

Martina Ernst

  • Personnel professional and salary expert

Here is my advice: set an anchor at a value 10% above the market median – but only if you are really willing to go the extra mile – and be flexible during negotiations.

Which Salary to Expect During the Final Round of Negotiations?

The first thing you need to do is to be aware of the salary bandwidth that is based on the market value of the position.

  • Pain point/ walk-away limit:  Am I willing to work for the minimum salary which is most often identical with the collective agreement?  Just beware: This salary does not include any allowances nor overtime pay. Monthly overtime forfeits or all-in contracts have to be paid on top.
  • The median of the market value or to simplify things the salary that is most often paid for a comparable position: How do I assess my skills in terms of the job advertised? Why should I earn less than the market is willing to pay?
  • Desired salary: 10-15/20%above the median – those who are willing to provide an important added value for the company compared to other candidates should also earn above the median.

For more than 30 years, Roger Fisher’s and William Ury’s bestseller ‘Getting to Yes: Negotiation Agreement without giving in’ provides Harvard’s finest recommendations how to lead successful negotiations. But do I have to take a whole course in negotiation techniques in order to get ready for my next salary negotiation?

A man, standing, shakes hands with a woman, sitting
To successfully complete salary negotiations, it's important to go into negotiations with a plan. Photo © pexels - fauxels

Melanie Feldman, co-author of Bold: Get Noticed, Get Hired, and Anna Schuliger, have reinterpreted one of  Harvard’s negotiation strategies - BATNA - in their online course for young job searchers Get Hired. 

What does BATNA mean? BATNA stands for the "best alternative to a negotiated contract"-and means: never go to a negotiation without knowing your pain points/walk away limits in case your demand will not be met and without having a plan B in case the negotiation fails. Feldman and Schuliger further elaborate on BATNA by combining it with their 4-point salary-scorecard.

Before you start negotiating salary with your future employer, you should ask yourself the following four questions and summarize your points:

  1. Are you currently employed? Yes = 1, No = 0
  2. Do you have another job offer? Yes = 1, No = 0
  3. Is this job offer your first choice? Yes = 1, No = 0
  4. Are you able to take a break/sabbatical (in case the negotiation fails, and you do not have a current employment)? Yes = 0, No = 1

Add the number of points reached:

  • If the sum is 0, accept the job at the salary offered by your future employer, according to Feldman’s and Schuliger’s advice.
  • At sum 1, your negotiation power is limited and depends on how long you can remain in your current situation and how close the offer is to the market value of the job. And I would add my piece of advice: take the chance and already negotiate the next salary level now to become effective after an onboarding period of e.g. 6-12 months.
  • With a total of 2, there is room for negotiation, and you should aim to earn the median of the job’s market value
  • With a total score of 3-4, you have a strong negotiation power. You are most probably employed, have other offers on the table and might be able to take time off. You have a competitive advantage and a strong USP. If, on top, your track record demonstrates specific competences which are highly relevant to the new company, you can certainly achieve your desired salary.

If you want to learn more about Martina Ernst, click here. Read more in our "Salary Insights - Let's Talk About Money" series and here.

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