How To Negotiate For A Higher Salary Based On HR Experts In M’sia

Dharshaini Grace

Dharshaini Grace

Last updated 05 July, 2022

There’s no question that we all want better salaries. But the reality is, while our job roles may be similar, our paychecks aren’t!

According to a recent Malaysia Income Satisfaction Survey 2022 conducted by iMoney, 46.3% of Malaysians surveyed have no plans to leave their current employers in the near future, despite 57.7% of these individuals feeling ‘underpaid’ or uncertain if they are paid at market rate.

Read also: 6 Signs That You Are Being Underpaid

Before the big salary talk happens…

We need to understand what are the achievements and criteria that HR professionals pay attention to during a salary negotiation. 

“Firstly, it’s whether the candidate’s qualifications tick the boxes. There is rarely a perfect candidate, but being a good 80/90% fit would place them in a good position to negotiate and it’s even better if their qualifications exceed what is required. Secondly, is potential. High-potential candidates with leadership qualities or experience in extra-curricular projects would be in demand in the market and are subsequently able to negotiate for more,” says Muqriz Mustaffa Kamal, a legal professional turned HR professional at Hays. 

Nathaniel Tan Su Chong, an HR personnel and seasoned trainer with experience in both retail and hospitality sectors at multinational companies states, “If you don’t feel confident about your recent work and professional accomplishments, now probably isn’t a good time to ask your employer for more money. Ensure that you’re executing on all cylinders of your current job, and taking on additional responsibility outside your everyday job description.”

But negotiating for better pay can be tricky, whether it’s for a new job or getting a bump at your current workplace. 

Deepa George, a managing consultant who’s worked with leading companies from various industries which include telecommunications, banking, logistics, and pharmaceuticals says, “Candidates shouldn’t bad mouth their current employer about how little they get paid or recognize it as it indicates this may happen in the future too. Also, candidates should not get emotional about their personal life situation and make it seem they are entitled to higher pay. For example, I just got married or bought a house, hence the need for more salary.” 

On the same note, Thila Suppiah, having held Human Resource strategic and operational roles in various multinationals and also the founder of People Synergy Asia, mentions, “Negotiation is an interaction and process between entities who aspire to agree on matters of mutual interest while optimizing their individual outcomes.”

Adding, “That does not mean you go to your colleagues, ask them for their salary and then create conflict for a raise – this is unethical but this is also happening in organizations a lot.” 

While Aziq Kamarudzaman, an HR consultant at an international recruitment firm, specializing in talent acquisition tells, “It’s all about finding the middle ground, an area that satisfies both parties – as the person being recruited as well as for internal management in getting the best fitting talent.”

“Let’s face it, we all want a higher pay when shifting to a new company. But through the recruitment lens and as someone standing in between both parties, I often view and advise both the hiring managers and candidates on what works best as there are the intangible values that either side will view in hindsight,” he adds. 

So, how DO you negotiate for higher pay? We asked the experts! 

We approached HR experts in Malaysia from various industries to give us the inside scoop! 

1. Know your achievements and performance

Deepa George, Managing Consultant of MY HRC Services.
Years of experience: 23 years in corporate experience, leading the HR function for >12 years.

 “Showcase your achievements, not just what was done as actions but the impact it created either as positive monetary results, successful crisis management, or avoidance of potential pitfalls.

Try to demonstrate 2 of these 4 areas: 

  • how you positively drove profit, managed cost, enhanced productivity, or improved people initiatives.

For those of you looking to negotiate an increment at your current job, ensure you are objective about it. Speak from a positive angle about “I trust you can acknowledge how I have managed to do this over the last 2+ years ……”

Find a way to gently remind the decision-makers of the value and impact you bring WITHOUT making it seem like a threat to leave the organization.” 

2. Set your expectations

Aziq Kamarudzaman, HR Consultant at Robert Walters.
Years of experience in HR: 4 years

“To negotiate better during a new job application is to set your expectations upfront. When being approached by the recruiter, be bold to inquire about their range of budget and discuss if your asking price is reasonable to what they can afford.

With this, do your market research on pay scales and salary benchmarking. There is an abundance of locally available salary mappings that you can request from consulting companies such as Robert Walters’ Annual Salary Survey. This will be a good referencing point to know where you stand given your level of experience and skillsets so that you will not fall short or demand too high, that it becomes almost impossible to be offered. 

Companies have a formula to calculate their offering, often called the ‘Compensation Ratio’ where the candidate’s current total package is determined upon their internal equity and feasibility to adjust the package to ensure they are offering the best amount to attract the person in, and also ensuring their equity and hiring budget is balanced out.” 

3.  Do market research

Muqriz Mustaffa Kamal, Hays Malaysia Recruitment Firm.
Years of experience in HR: 1+ year

“It’s important to do your own market research on the salary range of the position. Talk to your peers/mentors, look it up online, or download the Hays Asia Salary Guide for the year 2022 for free! 

If you’re negotiating for your current job, point to reasons why you are valuable to the organization uniquely, and that a raise would motivate you to continue contributing. However, be mindful of striking the balance between pushing and pulling in a negotiation, the purpose of which is to find a middle ground that works for both parties.” 

4. Be confident and convincing

Thila Suppiah, Founder of People Synergy Asia.
Years of experience in HR: 26 years

“Be confident but most importantly be convincing with your negotiation on why this is the salary you are asking for. Build your case on why you want to negotiate your salary, be familiar with the market trend, practice your case – ensure you have everything in writing, and remember if it doesn’t work – prepare to take a step back. 

You should stay positive always and negotiate politely. If the negotiation process is not successful, walk away – it’s their loss. Keep trying and do not give up!”

5. Don’t make impulsive decisions

Nathaniel Tan Su Chong, Head of Human Resources at myBurgerLab.
Years of experience in HR: 25 years

“Accepting the first offer given is lowballing yourself, plain and simple, and not only in the immediate future. Remember, you’re not only sacrificing money up front but in the long-term as well, as raises are often calculated as a percentage of your previous salary. You could be losing out on hundreds of thousands of dollars throughout your careers simply for the mistake of accepting a low salary offer in your 20s.

Most companies don’t expect candidates to accept the first offer, so what they present is usually lower than what is probably in the budget. In most cases, offers are made with wiggle room built-in. Some companies, particularly very large ones, do have tight budgets for certain positions, leaving little to no flexibility. But, you should still ask — it doesn’t hurt to ask.”

Salary negotiation must be tread lightly. If you’re seeking to get higher pay, we hope these salary negotiation tips from HR experts will guide you in your negotiation. All the best!