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This question may sound silly from the title. Actually the title was intentional. Let me invent round numbers to explain.

I currently work for a company that pays 50 in a small country/city where you can live happy with 50. Actually my salary is higher than the mean.

I have received an invitation to interview with a big huge company in a bigger and more expensive city, and they asked me in a questionnaire, along with lots of interesting pre-screening questions, how much do I ask for "considering to make a move".

Now that bigger country has higher cost of life and salaries. I did my calculations and I think that could live happily with 90.

But then Glassdoor says that big company's average salary for my position is around 140. More than 3 times my current salary in my current city/country environment.

So, I have to tell them, before any interview (that would need me to travel or them to pay me plane) they asked how much do I ask. It's unusual in my culture (here you get evaluated first and if employer doesn't offer you can ask based on your current salary, negotiation will work from there).

So I am on a split path. I could honestly say that I won't consider anything below 100, argumenting that it's proportioned to the cost of life there, because it's a fact that I will refuse anything under 100. But then I am afraid it will be difficult (or I will simply need to earn my reputation on the job, which is also great) to align my salary to the mean coworker.

Or I could directly answer 150, applying the principle to start salary negiotiations from upper bound. But then I am afraid to be discarded directly by the folks.

How should one act in such situation? I think it is a bad practice to cite Glassdoor, even if the company is big, known and well-reviewed. Or maybe is it just the opposite in such cases?

Please remember that numbers are invented but in proportion. They don't represent thousand-euro or thounsand-dollars or millions-ruble, but reflect the current exchange rates

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Have you told them your current salary? – AndreiROM Feb 8 at 18:26
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Also, please consider doing more research than simply looking things up on Glass door. That number may be skewed by a number of factors. For example, that salary may be based on the review of someone who had a long history with the company, or much more experience/education than you, and thus was able to negotiate a higher salary based on those criteria. Also, be mindful of your own shortcomings. Don't simply ask for a lot of money because it's "the average" if you don't know what the performance expectations for that pay level imply. – AndreiROM Feb 8 at 18:38
    
@AndreiROM no. I have not been even asked about – usr-local-ΕΨΗΕΛΩΝ Feb 8 at 19:49
    
"... you can ask based on your current salary" - Since you're moving to a new area, expecting your new salary to be based on your old salary is probably a mistake. You've researched and found that the cost of living and average salaries in the new area are higher than where you are now, so let this information inform your starting point for negotiation. Forget about your current salary. – Brandin Feb 9 at 9:50
up vote 19 down vote accepted

They asked you for your salary goals and you should just give them what they are. It's that simple. Don't give them a number below your hard minimum (100) and don't give numbers that are wildly out of proportion for the specific job in its specific location. For the latter you have to do some research which you apparently did. Assuming that your research was correct, you then know the typical range for the position you'd be interviewing for and you base your personal range on that information.

Your basic answer would be:

Based on my understanding of the average salaries, the salary range I'm looking for is between 100 and 150.

And you can fiddle with the numbers based on preference and specific input you got from the company. If you worry that they'll lowball you at 100, say 120 instead. If you want to start high go for 140-160.

If you worry that your research is not representative, you can try to fish for their salary range:

While I looked into the typical salary range for a position like this I didn't find any conclusive numbers [and I'm unfamiliar with the local cost-of-living and tax policies]. Based on what I found I'm looking for a salary around 140. [I wouldn't be able to accept anything below 100.]

These are sample scripts and you'll have to adapt them to your specific situation.

Aside from that, some general advice:

  • never mention a number that you wouldn't be happy accepting
  • never mention a number if you didn't do the research: ask if you can get back to them later if they ask when you're unprepared; this won't look good but it's better than "locking in" at a low number
  • never mention your current salary1: this is no one's business but your own; you should only negotiate salary based on the position you're interviewing for
  • whenever salary could be deal breaker on your end, ask for their range before you invest too much time. Some employers don't like this because it risks upsetting an imbalanced power dynamic
  • ideally you'd have salary discussions during a face-to-face interview which offers you a better idea of their input and allows you to ask about their range instead

1 - I've been told that it's normal in some countries or cultures to always disclose current salary and refusing to give this information wouldn't ever work. I assume that anyone reading this will know if he's in that situation. Note that while it's common for US employers to ask, disclosing your current salary is not culturally required there and you simply shouldn't do so. Instead, give them your expected salary range.

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And even if they will do I could try and answer sincerely, highlighting that my current salary is higher than the local average and I expect to keep working "above the average". After all, changing job is a matter to grow your own career, citing Stackoverflow, not shrinking – usr-local-ΕΨΗΕΛΩΝ Feb 8 at 19:45
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@JoeStrazzere Yes, that's an important distinction to make. These are perhaps more more what you'd call "guidelines" than actual rules. – Lilienthal Feb 8 at 19:50
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Based on what I found I'm looking for a salary around 140. [I wouldn't be able to accept anything below 100.] Skip the bracketed part, it's an open invitation for them to immediately drop their offer to 100 if they were thinking of something higher. If they offer something unacceptable you can tell them so at that point. – Matthew Read Feb 9 at 4:03
    
@MatthewRead That part is indeed optional. There are companies/interviews where you can say this and not get lowballed, but in most cases you'd only mention your absolute minimum if the salary range they give is below that. Some interviewers will realise that their range is below market value and see if they can adjust it. Most will write you off as a candidate but that's a good thing: why interview for a job with a salary you'll never accept? (Small note: please don't abuse the backquote code syntax to quote text: use cursiver markup and regular quote symbols instead.) – Lilienthal Feb 9 at 9:03
  1. These internet polls on salary are not that accurate.
  2. There is more to a job than a salary. Will you be happy living in that city? Will you miss your friends? Will you commute a long way to work etc.
  3. What will the job entail? Are you happy with the new line of work? Does it meet you future goals? Does it have training potential.

So in summary - please do not just consider the salary. A job is a package of things. Some tangible and some intangible.

You have to decide.

Sometimes a job with a lower salary but with these other things can make your life a happier experience.

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Stop thinking of absolute numbers. If you change positions it is always best to research what a normal salary for that position is and go with something in that range. If you are changing citys or even countries this applies only more so. Imagine going from some third world nation to some industrial nation. In the old country you may live happily for five dollars a day. If you move to Europe you won't get a single meal for that money. Even if you think that you can live with half the salary they are offering you, don't market you for that price. It is not adivsable to sell yourself below value. See this or this.

Plus: moving somewhere else may entail some extra cost you are not expecting. Another country may require you to pay much more taxes or you are required to have expensive insurances. In Germany, for example, you may pay up to 42% (roughly) taxes on your salary. Working for less than you could get is a bad idea here.

Side note: Try to avoid mentioning your old salary at all cost. If the difference is really that big, you can only loose if you do (no one can force you to tell them how much you were making).

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Some other thoughts, written in 2nd person like somebody else asked

If you really want that job...

...perhaps because it's that fantastic Fortune 500 or cutting edge startup that works with Star Trek-like technology... you have to lower your expectation. After all, it's market's offer&demand law

Don't undersell yourself...

If you correctly computed that 100 is the minimum wage to get a decent life, don't go below it at any cost. Maybe for 90 or 80 you will still be able to pay your rent and bills, but what is it for? Why giving up what you already have? Be firm in declining any offer below lower bound.

This assuming that the number of 100 is statistically correct.

And don't even try to oversell...

Try to be modest, and if that Glassdoor salary is considered average, try to count that as upper bound. Try to understand the level of meritocracy in that company. Of course the meritocracy scenario is a best-case. Evaluate carefully what kind of environment are you going to join.

But anyway, in general, if you end up asking for too much on first chance, you have a high percentage risk that there will be no negotiation later, as stated in the question.

Remember the costs

Relocating costs. A lot of money. Your family may help. Sometimes you will need to borrow money from a bank. Take this into account. In face-to-face, try to explain, and try to be very modest, that you will be needing extra resources and that need justifies your demand. Don't act like an IT rockstar, it won't work. Work hard and become a rockstar day by day.

But be a little like a rockstar

Since they called you on first hand, and since you said that your current salary is above the average, remember that and try to use it in face-to-face negotiation. That may be an argument. Since you cannot compare the absolute value of the current vs their salary, use proportions. Try to negotiate as being paid "X% above the average" is an equality condition to your current status. Everyone want to improve their status.

Imagine:

  • Recruiter (doesn't know your salary yet): "Don't you believe that your current expectation of 140 may be a little excessive?"
  • Candidate: "Well, let me explain. My current salary of 50 is 20% higher than the average salary of 40 [better citing official statistics or articles]. I have taken a look at some statistics about your city. I think that the mean salary for that position is 100, but I also expect that your tax regime is significantly higher than mine".

Of course one has to find much better words than those. And again, especially when facing professional recruiters, don't act like a rockstar (don't overestimate yourself, be modest).

Eventually such kind of approach may not necessarily end up in being discarded by the company, especially if you ask your demands without leaving all doors closed. Close only the door below 100 and don't let them find, otherwise they will stick any offer to 100. See last argument in that case.

But beware

That company may be hiring in a place thousands of km away for two reasons: 1) they are desperately looking rockstar ITs, so you won't be getting that money unless you really rock more than other candidates (but if you do, here's your rich payckeck), or 2) they are under spending review and need some cheaper workforce. Get more and more information about that company, and if you ever find that the 2nd is true, try to be happy and wait for the next chance, if any will be.

It's not all about money

Kudos to @EdHeal for this. Never ever end up underselling yourself, but remember that the economics is just part of a job retribution. If the environment is good and pleasing, if that company is already (or is promising to) changing our world, you might be wishing to be part of that change. That has a value. A value that cannot be scaled with numbers. But that may negatively affect your compensation.


And don't be over-optimistic. Dreaming is beautiful, but we must wake up eventually! Accept that they will offer less than expected, evaluate, think, and be ready to say no. "The train stops only once in your life" a proverb says

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