This month’s advice for job seekers includes looking at how you can negotiate on the pay in a job offer. If you have a question you’d like us to consider for a future article drop us a line. We can’t guarantee to answer every query, but our experts are always interested in hearing about the things that matter most to job applicants.

“I’ve been offered a job that I’m keen on, but the salary is below my expectation. Can I negotiate on the pay?”

The short answer of course is yes. But before doing so, think carefully about the following important points:

• Before you applied for this role, were you aware of the salary on offer? If the salary offered replicates or exceeds an advertised salary you will be on weak ground. If it is below that, then you are on stronger ground.
• What did you do to verify your own ‘worth’? Are you looking at the salary by comparison with a previous similar role? Have you benchmarked the job against others advertised with similar companies? How closely do you match their candidate requirements?
• You should consider carefully whether the salary offered is fair for the job. Things like comparative size of company, the nature of the role (even if the job title is the same, the demands may be different), the hours of work, the convenience of the location (will it cost you less to get to work?), and any benefits which add to the value of the package – this could include training opportunities as well as perks.
• If you will need further training to grow in to the job, you could seek a review after a sensible period – eg. six months – and whilst making it clear the salary is below your expectations accept it for the short term training/probation period.

In other words, make sure of your grounds for seeking to negotiate on pay, prepare for the conversation properly and be in possession of all the relevant facts.

If you feel the salary offered is unacceptably low then you have nothing to lose by responding to say that whilst you are keen to do the job offered, you cannot accept that level of pay, and state the level of pay that you could accept. Just keep in mind that often salary is only one element of the package, and make sure you are looking at the full financial and personal advantages of taking the job, not just at the salary alone.

“I’ve been asked to do a pre-screening interview by video conference. How can I best prepare for this?”

Pre-screening interviews, whether by telephone or video-conference, can be nerve wracking. Normally they are pre-booked just like any other interview, but make sure they are in possession of alternative ways to contact you should technology fail at either end.

There are a number of things to consider, but firstly check anything you have been told about the content of the interview, who will be conducting it and what you will need to have on hand.

If there are few cues and you have questions, there is no reason not to ask them in advance of the interview. In fact this can work in your favour, acting as a reminder and demonstrating your interest and enthusiasm. However, if the brief is thorough don’t ring them for the sake of it!

Video-interviews mean you need not just to sound good, but also to look sharp. Check what will be behind you when you take the call, make sure you look smart, check your technological set-up is up to the job, have the job details and CV you sent them to hand and practice good eye contact and a friendly smile. If you can, have a trial run with a friend, family member or your adviser.

Pre-screening questions tend to be straightforward and usually relate to the core criteria for the job. If you can’t get past that then the job is probably no more suited to you than you are to the job.

The focus of the interview will be practical, aiming to answer the question ‘does this candidate meet our essential requirements’ so do all you can to find out what they consider essential and practice succinct responses to clarify this. Your responses are likely to be scored with a ‘pass mark’ taking you through to the next stage and bear in mind the interviewer may need to write things down during the session, losing eye contact with you.

Give some thought to any concerns they may have about your suitability – for example, gaps in your experience or knowledge required for the job not mentioned in your CV, practical concerns such as distance to travel, personal concerns such as your ability to cover unsocial hours, etc. Also prepare any questions of your own: you may – or may not – get the opportunity to ask them.

Finally be ready well in advance of the expected time for the call and get your computer or tablet set up and ready to receive the call with full power and no distractions around you other than any relevant papers you may need to reference during the call – notably the job details and your CV. Also make sure you won’t be interrupted.

Then you can relax and enjoy what will probably be a relatively short session that gets you through to the next stage.

“I’ve got holiday booked soon after the advertised start date. Should I be up front about my plans?”

Most experienced interviewers will ask you during your interview about this kind of thing. Usually an employer is willing to wait for the right candidate and holiday plans will not be of concern, but especially if this is likely to affect when you start then it is best to mention it at the earliest opportunity, especially if it is a holiday you cannot put off or cancel.

What you don’t want is to convey any impression that your holidays are more important than your work. If you genuinely booked the holiday some time ago, and have already parted with payment, make that clear. Once you are into job searching, it is best not to book anything that will prevent you from starting as early as required, so avoid this if you can.

A negative reaction to declaring an imminent holiday could suggest an employer does not respect your right to have time off and relax. In that case, you may want to consider what this tells you about the culture of the organisation, and their recognition of work-life balance issues for employees.