How to negotiate a salary raise in Covid time


Applicants are outweighing job vacancies, with increases as high as 1363% for certain roles in the four months from March to July, according to research from Search Consultancy.

The ratio of applicants applying for all available jobs has, on average, more than doubled during the pandemic when looking at year-on-year comparisons, with a major spike as the UK entered its fourth month of lockdown.

Search Consultancy is a provider of recruitment and executive search services to UK businesses. On analyzing the market shift over the course of the year with huge increases in certain roles, pointing to a shift from a candidate-led job market to a client-led one.

Compared to the same period in 2019, the response-to-application ratio from March 2020 – July 2020, showed an increase of 144% year-on-year.

The picture is starker when comparing like-for-like application data from pre-lockdown with those towards the end. Search looked at the number of people applying for the same roles in March and July of 2020 and the results show staggering increases, in some cases by over 1300 %

The top four roles seeing the biggest shift


Job title


The increase between March and July 2020 (%)




Warehouse Loader


Inbound Customer Service Advisor


Customer Service Representative




With demand shifting, Search has pivoted towards providing extra support for candidates with the provision of help and resources and in many instances helping them transition to completely new sectors.

From the start of the pandemic up until the end of June, Search’s specialist hospitality team placed more 400 temps into healthcare roles and provided care homes and hospitals with kitchen staff, ward assistants, and porters to meet the demand.

This was in addition to the 1,300+ health and social care temps that Search had also placed into key worker positions through its specialist healthcare division.

Dominic Starkey, Search Group Marketing Director, said:

“We are experiencing more than double the amount of applications to any job we post compared with last year. And for some roles, such as General Manager positions, the number of applications for advertised roles has jumped by over 1300%.

“This points to a UK job market that is drastically shifting from one where candidates enjoyed the balance of power, to one that now very much favors employers. It is a trend that looks set to continue.

“Though Britain is slowly getting back to work, as restrictions ease, factors such as a second wave of the virus and an abrupt end to the Brexit transition period will likely see this ratio continue or even increase further.

“Employers are in a position now where they’re spoilt for choice when it comes to filling positions, but for candidates, it’s an uncomfortably crowded marketplace. As a multi-specialist recruiter we are well placed to help people understand their options and where they have transferable skills to explore other sectors where there are opportunities, seen by the pivoting within our hospitality team.”

Negotiating a salary raise in Covid 19 times. “Impossible", "Huh, You must be daft,” are some of the typical responses to this statement. As the world struggles with a tremendous setback, most people are hanging onto their jobs perilously. The threat of the job-cutting ax has invaded our conscious and unconscious persona. Government employees in India who thought they had secure jobs got to know that liquor consumption has to be encouraged in society for their wages to be paid. Statista did a survey that showed that average Indian household income dipped by a whopping 45.7% in April 2020 from February 2020.

 Confidence backed with a solid body of examples showcasing your strengths and the value you bring to the table is important in these uncertain times, when no one is sure of what is next. Here’s how you can effectively negotiate a salary raise in Covid 19 times.


When entire industries get almost wiped out-think hotels and restaurants, or the downturn is so steep that the upturn is going to take a few years, you need to go back afresh to your career map. You can do this easily by checking out the consumer behavior reports that the good folks at McKinsey and Accenture have written. I really like this pictorial description of the industries which are going up or down in different markets by McKinsey. The report also talks about lower brand loyalty and omnichannel. Clearly, digitization is here to stay. The consumer sectors which have seen an uptake in India are alcohol, non-food child products, pet care services, fitness and wellness, groceries, household supplies, personal care, and home entertainment. The auto sector has also shown some green shoots.

 You could also look at industry outlook reports prepared by various analysts at leading financial firms, review world bank reports on industry or sector outlook, and also keep track of policy announcements made by the government. This coupled with company-specific research to understand how they have withstood the ravages of the pandemic, their future plans, leadership, and vision should give you a fair idea of what to run after. Only when you know what your target is can you customize your pitch and then negotiate. If the outlook is bleak, you need to decide when to cut your losses.


For a negotiation to be successful, you need to establish yourself as the front runner by far. Creating an impactful resume, a good social media presence on platforms like LinkedIn is a must-have.

If you are changing sectors, then establish your key transferable strengths. Showcase your achievements for these skills which will be useful for the target role. Acquire those certifications which are a must-have.

Polish your interview skills. It is very important to reach the final interview stage. SMART answers showcasing examples is a must. For some more tips to ensure that you are not overlooked, read here. You need to establish how you can improve the company’s top line or reduce their bottom line.

 TIP: Be non-committal when asked the salary question at the beginning of the interview process. It’s a war for jobs these days with the extremely high nos of talent laid off. You need to ensure that you don’t raise any red flags right at the beginning.

 INTERNAL SELL: If you are already working in a company that is experiencing an upswing, now is the time to sell your hard work internally. Don’t leave this to just the performance management cycle. Leverage your regular one-on-one’s to showcase your contribution and build your case for a promotion and/or the job raise. Selling yourself internally is often underrated. It is always better to ask for a raise at a place you are succeeding rather than wait for a higher paying job in the future. I recommend making a one-page contribution snapshot explaining the situation, actions, and results. Remember, you help your boss to help you when you make your contribution snapshot and sell yourself. It is certainly not to be looked down on.


Negotiation is all about giving and take. Sure, there is an element of surprise that either party could have up their sleeve or like poker, one of them may be an ace at bluffing. You also need to work around 2 factors – 1) Virtual Negotiation and 2) Not being a complete 100% fit for the role being applied for. Having said that, it is not as if you as a candidate don’t have room to play.

  • Know your worth: Research salaries by checking out resources on what you could be worth. Glassdoor, Ambition Box, and Quora are popular for researching salaries. You should definitely also talk to others in the industry.
  • What problems can you solve: List the top pain points you can solve, the tasks that you can take off from your manager, the new perspectives or skills that you get to the table. Back it up with examples. Use these data points during the negotiation.
  • Be prepared with alternatives: For both internal and external negotiations, seeking a significant pay bump is always a challenge. Offer alternatives such as a performance-linked bonus, a timeframe to revisit the salary and do the increments in installments.
  • Be cued into the other person: The good thing about a virtual negotiation is that the typical frills of power like a big office don’t exist. Establish an emotional rapport with the negotiator and listen to feedback. Ask clarifying questions and don’t come across as someone who just gives an ultimatum. Buy time if need be. Authenticity almost always wins.

 Remember you don’t get what you don’t ask for. So, get rid of any doubts in your mind and start nailing your career strategy to get what you deserve.

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