Before I launch into this, I would like to say that I do not advocate people working purely for money. You have to choose a job that you can actually do, a job you will enjoy, and a company that you can fit into culturally. That’s always the first step, and when you have all this, you will find that you will excel in your role, and the money will come naturally. Having said that, I do want people to take up new jobs to make sure they are not shortchanged and paid fairly.
Here’s some context to what salary negotiations are like in Malaysia:
It does not matter what role you will take up, your salary offer is almost always based on an increment on your previous salary. And this increment is typically anything between 10% to 30% on your previous salary.
What do I mean by this?
Say if a company wants to hire an IT Manager for RM10,000, but if they make you an offer, and your previous salary was RM5,000, the maximum offer you will get is RM6,500 (30% higher). Not always the case, but generally this happens. Even though you are doing a job that pays RM10,000.
Rightly or wrongly, it is what’s practised here in Malaysia, and it’s important to understand this because when you start to negotiate salary, you need to know what the other party is thinking (think of Sun Tzu’s Art of War!).
So here’s what you do:
Never bring up salary discussions, you want to focus on two things: make sure they like you and that they understand that you are interviewing because you want the role, not because you want money.
Once they bring up salary, let them know that you are more focused on seeing if they find you to be the right person for the role (this has to be true, of course). Humble, and easy to deal with. You are side-stepping the question for now, and it’s always a good idea to avoid salary discussions until you are sure that they want to make you an offer.
I’ve read that you should wait for companies to propose a number first, so you use that number as the starting point and negotiate upwards. That’s standard negotiation technique, and it may work in certain countries, but I REALLY discourage you from doing this when it comes to salary in Malaysia. Why? Because if you start pushing back and asking for more money then, it leaves a negative impression, it’s not consistent with what you said earlier and employers may question if you are that interested in the position.
Here’s a better way. They are going to make you an offer, and want to know your expected salary. Ask for a 30% increment (if you believe you should have more, you should have a strong justification for this, but generally anything above 30% puts you at risk of even landing the job). Then tell them that BECAUSE you do like the job very much, you are very open to consider a lower offer, but the closer they are to 30%, the happier you will be, makes your decision easier, and gives you more reassurance that it would be the right decision to take up the role.
That’s it! By doing this, you would encourage employers to offer the highest salary they believe to be your value, and also doesn’t close the door on you straight away if they think your initial expected salary is too high.