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Salary negotiation and contract negotiation when you get a new job

Your biggest chance of a higher salary is when you change jobs. Get help formulating an effective strategy for negotiating your salary and contract in connection with a job change.

When you switch to a new job while already employed, you have a good chance of securing a big pay rise. The reason is that when the employer is interested in your expertise, you're in a strong negotiating position. 

To ensure you actually get the pay rise, you need to decide how much you want to be paid, strategise and be willing to stand firm when you negotiate.

It's a good idea to settle on a desired salary level before your first job interview.

Why is it important to negotiate the right salary when changing jobs?

Your job change is a golden opportunity for a salary increase.

An analysis of private sector IDA members' salary development in 2020 and 2021 shows that 29 per cent of members who changed jobs received a salary increase of more than 10 per cent in 2021. The same was true for only 9.9 per cent of members who stayed in their jobs. 

It's only natural that you're in a good position to negotiate a higher salary when the employer has chosen you as the favourite among the field of candidates. Therefore, you should also aim to get a good salary now that you're sitting in a job interview and have the chance.

Once you're in the organisation's salary system, it can be difficult to get a significantly higher salary in later salary negotiations. 

However, a high salary doesn't mean job satisfaction. Flexibility, professional challenges and a good work-life balance may be more important to you, and if you get them, you may be able to accept a lower salary level.

Compare salary and employment conditions at different workplaces with IDA's Guide to Employment Conditions

How do I determine the salary level of a Danish company?

Knowing the salary level and structure of a company is an advantage when deciding on how much you should aim for.

If you know someone working at the company in question, you can ask them about the salary and employment terms of their workplace. You can also use IDA’s guide to employment terms to compare salary and employment terms.

Alternatively, IDA has several salary tools that you can use to calculate the average salary for your profile and where you can compare salary levels across industries and job types. If it's a larger organisation with more than five IDA members who have submitted their salaries to IDA's Salary Statistics, you can also see if the company has a high or low salary level in general. For the most accurate result, combine the different salary tools. 

How to calculate salary levels with IDA's salary tools

If you switch to a job in the public sector, you will be employed on an already determined basic salary, but you have the opportunity to get a higher salary in the form of supplements. Often, it will not be you, but the union representative at the workplace who negotiates your salary for you.

Read more about salary negotiations in the public sector

How do I negotiate salary in connection with a job change?

Before you start negotiating your salary, it's important that you've decided how much you want to be paid and have a strategy for how to get it.

It's a good idea to follow these six steps:

  1. Calculate your value
  2. Find your arguments
  3. Assess your negotiating position
  4. Determine your pain threshold
  5. Take it easy
  6. Think in alternatives  

Calculate your value before your job interview

Use IDA's salary tools to calculate the average salary for your profile, industry and job type.

How to calculate salary levels with IDA's salary tools

Once you have a clearer idea of what you can expect to be paid and what the company is willing to pay, you can prepare an ambitious proposal for the negotiation.

You'll also want to make sure you have a clear understanding of your pension and the value of your total salary package in advance. If you can't get the salary you want, you may be able to compensate by getting more days off, more training, or other fringe benefits.

Alternatives to salary you can bring into play during the salary negotiation

Find the arguments to use at the salary negotiation

Make a note of the competences the employer is looking for which you can also bring to the table.

When preparing your key arguments, you can ask yourself, among other things:

  • Do you have many years of experience that you can draw on?
  • Do you have special competences that are rare or hard to recruit?
  • Will you have management responsibilities?
  • Is your position important for the organisation to achieve its goals?

Assess your negotiating position

Before the salary negotiation, try to assess whether you're in a strong position where you can afford to push for a high salary, or whether you need to be a little more conservative so you don't scare the employer away.

You're in a strong negotiating position if:

  • the employer has offered you the job and you're now negotiating salary - in which case they'll go to great lengths to hire you.
  • you have a skill set that is highly sought after
  • the company has contacted you to headhunt you. 

Conversely, you may need to lower your expectations if you've been unemployed for a long period of time or if you're moving to a type of position or industry where you don't have much experience. 

When negotiating salary, don't mention what you're getting in your current job if you're looking for a big pay rise.

Determine your pain threshold: What is the lowest salary level you’d be willing to accept?

Decide on the lowest salary level you're willing to accept and stick to that limit.

Many people accept a job thinking they'll get a quick pay rise, but this can be difficult once you've become part of the organisation's salary structure. 

In the long run, it can hurt your motivation and job satisfaction if you feel that you're underpaid.

Take it easy when negotiating salary

Wait to negotiate salary until as late as possible.

If the employer asks you what salary you want at the interview, you need to come up with your proposal. But if you can wait to negotiate salary until you've been offered the job, you'll be in a stronger position.

Even if the employer is keen for you to sign the contract, don't be in a hurry. Only sign when you are satisfied. 

Also, remember never to quit your current job until everything is finalised and you have signed with your new employer.

Consider alternatives to salary

If the employer can't meet your salary requirements, you can try to think of alternatives. This could be extra days off, employer-paid training, performance pay or bonuses.

It may also be a good idea to negotiate that you don't start on a probationary period. This way, you avoid being terminated without notice.

Read more about benefits as an alternative to a higher salary

Read more about employment contracts and what you can negotiate

What should I do if the employer asks about my expected salary level at the job interview?

You should always wait to say how much you want to be paid until as late as possible.

The further you are in the recruitment process, the stronger you stand. 

However, it's not uncommon to be asked about your salary expectations at the first interview. If this happens, you can say that you'd like to ask what they think is a fair salary first. Many people are surprised to find that the employer's offer is higher than they expected, and if that's the case, it's a shame to talk down your own salary.

Check your contract and negotiate your terms of employment when changing jobs

For many people, the salary negotiation is the most important part of contract negotiations, but remember to consider the significance of your employment terms.

For example, are you entitled to 1 or 2 days of leave if your child is ill, reasonable parental leave terms, and paid training? And how many days of holiday do you have?

Read more about the benefits you should be aware of in the guide to employment contracts

Contact IDA's legal advisers for support

If you have questions about your salary or employment contract, you are always welcome to contact IDA's legal experts for advice.

Log in and contact IDA's legal advisers