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This salary negotiation tip suggests:

When you hear the other person’s first offer, don’t say OK. Say Hmmm.

I am wondering if this is a good tactic, or if the HR person would think otherwise. Is this an effective tactic?

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closed as primarily opinion-based by jmac, Michael Grubey, jcmeloni, RWY, bethlakshmi Sep 9 '13 at 18:21

Many good questions generate some degree of opinion based on expert experience, but answers to this question will tend to be almost entirely based on opinions, rather than facts, references, or specific expertise.If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

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Frankly, if I were the employer and noticed you are playing a mind game on me, I would do whatever I can to cancel the offer. –  amphibient Jan 4 '13 at 19:15
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It is not a mind game it is just a pause. Most people offered a job might jump out of their seats and say yes, or say something at all at least. If the interviewer speaks first, what would he say? you took too long to make a life decision, so I want to cancel the offer? –  crh225 Jan 4 '13 at 19:20
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30 seconds is a long time. It is a mind game and the article you linked even paints it as such. HR people & those experienced in salary/hiring negotiations will identify it immediately. You should have a salary number in mind before you walk in the door; if the offer is in alignment with it, why play mind games? –  alroc Jan 4 '13 at 20:04
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My question is why not play mind games, if they are going to with me? –  crh225 Jan 4 '13 at 20:24
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Negotiations are ALWAYS mind games. That's what they are. That said, alroc makes a good point. –  DA. Jan 4 '13 at 21:17

7 Answers 7

up vote 13 down vote accepted

While there have been times I've left an interview confident that an offer would be coming, in my experience, receiving an offer during an inteview is rare. (Although it's not completely unheard of - it has never happened to me, but I have friends who've had it happen.) Some may think it's "playing games" to say "Hmmm" and pause for thirty seconds. However, it could also be argued the interviewer/recruiter is playing games to put an interviewee on the spot with a job offer during the interview and then expect - or even pressure for - an immediate reply.

My advice would be to simply ask for more time to think about the offer, and I mean a few days (or at least overnight), not a few seconds or minutes. So, if the job is of interest to you, I suggest a response something like "I'm flattered you think highly enough of me to make this offer and I am interested in the job. However, I need a few days to think things over. Can I get back to you next Monday?" If they push, you can say you weren't expecting an offer to be made, or need to discuss things with your family, or that you have another possibility you are investigating, etc.

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Definitely agree that it would be extremely rare to get an offer put to you actually in the interview. That has certainly never happened to me, nor to anyone else at companies where I have been involved in interviewing candidates. "I need to discuss it with my family" is a response that will imho never be taken poorly. –  Carson63000 Jan 5 '13 at 12:14
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However I wouldn't go for a few days, I'd respect the employer enough to tell them I will get back to them by the next day at 10am. That way you still seem interested enough to them. If you tell them next Monday (unless it's Friday at 3 lol) they're likely to continue looking, and could even rescind the offer. –  Randy E Jan 17 '13 at 18:35

Salary Negotiations Often Involve Brinksmanship

You're misunderstanding the underlying advice of the link. The author is advocating a specific negotiation tactic, but the fundamental strategy is based on the idea that the employer will always try an initial low-ball figure, and that the job-seeker will always come in asking top dollar.

Neither is always true; you have to evaluate each offer and counter-offer on its individual merits. Even when adversarial assumptions hold true, negotiation is based on finding a win/win compromise for both sides...or at least avoiding a lose/lose scenario.

Parroting Misses the Point

Using pat phrases or stock answers gets you nowhere. Neither are they substitutes for sound negotiation strategy and on-the-spot risk analysis.

Saying "hmmmm" is not like saying "abracadabra!" and magically doubling your salary. If you think you're worth more than the initial offer, and are willing to walk away if you can't craft a deal that makes everyone happy, then communicate that in whatever way you find authentic and effective.

Carefully considering an offer from all angles---or creating some breathing room to negotiate---is fine if you understand the risks. How you do it, and whether you have both the leverage and the skill to capitalize on that breathing space...well, that's up to you.

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I like this POV. It takes the game out of the tactic. –  David Espina Jan 5 '13 at 11:48

These games suggested continue to be suggested because they are effective. So, too, are used car sales tactics. Problem is, they are still games and do not do anything to sustain a real long term relationship or a sense of a win-win situation.

If you want to negotiate well, understand the salary range the role has within the company and outside the company, document those attributes you are bringing to the table that are of value to the company, make the calculation as objective as possible, and know what your alternatives are if this falls through. Finally, know your target below which you are happy to walk out the door.

Negotiation is about information and pursuing something that is deemed fair all the way around. Leave the games for the used car sales.

Realize that when you use games like this, you show yourself as someone willing to play them. Then you force the offer giver to decide if this is the type of person they want working in their organization - particularly if they your game as a deliberate manipulation. Personally, I'd walk away from the table if I sensed this kind of behavior.

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One could pretend to contemplate their life decision for 30 seconds. –  crh225 Jan 4 '13 at 19:49
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The article suggested a pause to evoke pressure from the HR dude to pay more. It does benefit you, but it is manipulation, a game. If the offer makes you pause and the pressure is evoked as a side effect, wonderful. But the article you posted is telling you to play a game. It's okay if you don't agree with me. But I hire people and negotiate all kinds of contracts. If I felt someone was playing like this, I'd walk away from the table and never look back. –  David Espina Jan 4 '13 at 20:18

Most people who have success with this were probably more comfortable with this tactic. YOu may be quite for 30 seconds, but if your body language looks like you are uncomfortable, you've given yourself away. Your opponent is going to enjoy watching you squirm.

Is the idea that the interviewer will blurt out some sort of increased counter-offer? Instead of saying, "OK" there are a lot of other responses that I think are preferable:

  1. Make a counter offer.
  2. Ask if this offer is final.
  3. Ask for time to think about it.

Although it is usually the final piece, there is more to accepting a job offer than just the salary.

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+1 - "there is more than just salary". Benefits are a huge part of the offer. What coverage is provided? What are your copays/deductibles. How much do you have to pay? What 401K matching? Training opportunities? Bonus opportunities? Vacation Time? Flex-time? Signing Bonus? Unless you know this info, you can't possibly adequately evaluate an offer. This takes time. Every offer I've ever received has come in a big fat Federal Express envelope. –  Dunk Jan 17 '13 at 19:09

I think the relative success of tactics like this has a lot to do with how you use it and your personal style.

Personally - as the worst poker player ever - I find that contrived conversational hooks don't work well for me. I look and sound fake while doing them, and I feel fake and it comes off as a level of discomfort that doesn't make me look very good.

I know others who can play such tricks much better and with their body language and overall effect, the long pause makes them look genuinely thoughtful and dubious and invokes some level of advantage.

In the long run, I think such tricks, if they even buy you anything, will get you a small advantage in salary, for a year, at which point, you'll be subject to the same structure as everyone else in the company in terms of raises and incentives, and it will be based on your work and their experience. At that point, overinflating your salary to any remarkable extent is going to do your overall career more harm than accepting a lower salary and exceeding expectations would.

From the other side, almost any technique (no matter how tricky or thoughtful) that causes the offer-giver to have to change the nature of the offer will also force most organizations to repeat the approval process, which opens you up to the "is it worth it?" question. I've seen as many candidates fail as succeed on that one.

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I got offered the position and decided to try it. It did not work as planned, planned meaning he immediately offered my another offer. I told him I would get back with him in a few days, and before I got back with him, he called me and made me another offer.

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Like others have said, it depends on you if you can really carry 'act' or not. I had come across this technique years ago, and have been using it effectively (IMHO). But I also add some flourishes that I think also works, but you must note that these 'flourishes' also align very well with my overall body language, my way of talking/gesticulating, etc. It's not a deviation from my regular behaviour.

Here's what I do: I nod my head to acknowledge that I've heard the offer, but the motion of the nod is slow, with my head slightly tilted and looking slightly away, as though I'm thinking about it very deeply. Then I look at the HR guy suddenly, and open my mouth as though to say something, but immediately clam up, as though I've decided not to talk about it. Then I say, 'is this offer negotiable?'. If yes, I ask which parts of the offer are negotiable, and to what extent. Some HRs don't acknowledge that the offer is negotiable, even if it is. Some say that it is 'slightly negotiable' but won't mention which points they will negotiate on. If they tell you the points they are willing to negotiate on, ask for more details, get a good picture of the extent to which you can squeeze out what you want from the offer.

Then, tell them that you now have a good picture of their offer. (If they had refused to say which points they will negotiate on, tell them that you'd have been happier if you got some more details.)

After that, without exception, tell them that you want to consider their offer seriously, want to weigh all the pros and cons, so you want some time to think about it. Most companies will usually give you a deadline (I have usually gotten about 3 days), and ask you to decide by then. Acknowledge the deadline, if any.

And then take some time to think about it.

I follow this tactic no matter how I get the offier - via email, phone, in person.

In a number of cases, I've been able to stretch the offer to the extent I want. Some HRs have also mentioned (after I signed the papers) that I negotiated very well, and have received a very good deal.

All the best.

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