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I am interviewing for a position in Germany with an international European company. I have had 2 interviews, one with the country head and HR, the second with operational managers, including the one I would be working with.

During the first interview, the country head asked me for my salary expectation, and I referred him to the conversation he had had with the head-hunter who introduced me. Since he was insisting for a specific figure, I gave him a number Xk€, and he responded with the lowest number the head-hunter had given him, let's call it Yk€. I accepted Yk€ as it was still within my preferred range. This seemed to be acceptable to him and I thought the salary discussion was closed. However, HR called a week after my second interview to inform me that they had interviewed another candidate who is asking for significantly lower than Yk€. She also mentioned that they find my profile interesting, and they need to make a decision as to who will attend the 3rd and final round of interviews. She said she would call back in a week to find out if I would lower my salary expectation.

I see that this is an attempt to negotiate my salary further down, but I am confused that this was brought up before an offer was made and in contradiction to what the country head had previously said. I would like to work for this company and hope to start the working relationship with everyone on a positive note, but also want to keep the salary level as discussed in the original interview. Should I contact the country head about this change prior to the call with HR, or wait until I hear back about the next round of interviews? If I contact the country head, what would be a productive way to go about that conversation?

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    The salary is never final until you have it in the contract to be signed. You can still negotiate. If the company is more concerned about saving money than getting the best fit, it is also possible they will pick the guy asking for the least money, even if you are far more skilled. – Juha Untinen Oct 6 '18 at 14:02
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    Leave it. Don't contact anybody. Just wait for their decision and then accept or reject the offer. You can ask for more money, but only once. They you need to accept their decision as final. There's not much you can do here, unfortunately. And secondly, as a job applicant, I want to the have the right to change my salary expectations if in the course of the interview I learn that, e.g. people are expected to work 12 h a day and not 8 there. So I assume the existence of the same right for companies. – BigMadAndy Oct 6 '18 at 14:13
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    My paranoia kicked in when I read this question. Does this other candidate even exist? And why is HR revealing confidential details about another candidate? Remember that in an interview process you are interviewing the company as much as they are interviewing you. Also as per the other comments - salary is that the last thing to be negotiated - either they want you or they don't. – Peter M Oct 6 '18 at 14:29
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    @385703 It's important for a company to minimize the salary and that is best done by negotiating it up front. They have something that you want - the job - and they hope that they can use that to knock your $$$ desires down. But once the offer is on the table then the situation is flipped as you now have something that they want - yourself - and you get the opportunity to say "You want me? Well here is the price". So the longer you can delay the salary part fo the negotiation then the better for you. – Peter M Oct 6 '18 at 16:39
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    @PeterM. No, it's not better for me. Interviews normally take several rounds and plenty of time. No sane person wants to invest days (preparation, rounds of interviews) if they don't know whether the salary is ok. – BigMadAndy Oct 6 '18 at 16:57
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This sounds a little fishy but you need to deal with it.

A company would not just select one candidate for a final round of interview.

The next step is not to wait to see if you are selected.

The next step is for you to respond to a call back in a week to find out if you would lower your salary expectation. They are threatening if you don't lower your salary you won't get the final interview. You need to decide if you are going to hold firm or not. If you hold firm you may still get the interview.

I would hold firm. Not liking the way this company does business.

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    I would tell them to get lost from the first moment they lowered the offer. – Rui F Ribeiro Oct 10 '18 at 3:31
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    Renegotiate for more PTO – user32685 Oct 12 '18 at 18:20
  • @ConfusedDeer not such a big deal in Germany though – Neuromancer Apr 16 at 20:13
  • @Neuromancer Yeah, but U.S. employers give little vacation time. An additional one or two weeks on top of the normal vacation is helpful. – user32685 Apr 16 at 20:41
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    @ConfusedDeer the OP is working in Germany the atypical American model of employment doesn't really help in this case. – Neuromancer Apr 16 at 21:10
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How desperate are you for a job?

It's important to figure out what you're worth and ask for that. If you know for a fact what your worth is on the open market, then you can easily resist demands like this. Simply tell them that you know you can make €X for this kind of position on the open market. If they say they can't pay that, then politely tell them thank you for consideration, but that you can't accept a lower rate for your hard-earned expertise.

Of course, being able to do this depends on how confident you are about your skills and your ability to get a job somewhere else. If you're not at all confident of both, then you may need to simply accept the lower rate.

In that case, focus on growing your skills and experience so you can reach the point where you can know what you're worth to an employer and ask for it.

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I was in your shoes a couple of times in the past. I usually hold into my initial request, and advise you into doing the same.

In the past I went full head on, and told them I was not negotiating salaries; some times I won, other times I lost, and did not get the position.

In one of the positions I got, I heard later through the grapevine it was customary in negotiations to offer later salary increases to lowball the offer, promises which they never followed up, so I was lucky into not playing their game.

Managing your (mine) personal and professional time is important. I do not want to waste time dealing with a position where the salary or people involved would not keep me happy. Nowadays, unless the position really interest me a lot, if I notice they are being stingy, I do not go ahead on anymore. I usually make up an excuse after the fact just to keep doors open, and get out of the process gracefully.

Opportunities come and go. I would not waste my time with a firm whose main interest is lowballing the offer. If you play their game and accept their offer, it might not take much time that you will regret it for more than one reason.

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    Agree fully. This may just be the first hint of the terribleness that may proceed. – user32685 Oct 12 '18 at 18:22
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Contact your recruiter now. They are professional negotiators. HR have acted out of turn by contacting you. It may well be that they have another candidate who asked for less money and they're now giving you the option to lower your expectations to be considered. But it could also be some dirty HR tactic to lowball you.

This says a lot about the company and frankly I wouldn't want to work for them if they're only looking to hire the cheapest person they can find.

Should I contact the country head about this change prior to the call with HR, or wait until I hear back about the next round of interviews?

Sorry to say it but NO. Despite the country head offering you a particular salary they have now passed this hiring process down to HR.

If you go over HRs head at this point the likely results will be:

  • You'll not be invited to final interview

  • If you do get the job you will be on HRs bad side from day one

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    Last time this happened to me (and I was in an exact situation) the recruiter was knee deep in the scheme with HR and tried to low ball me to a salary almost 20% than the minimum I needed to survive. For him, it's just a 10-20% drop on the commission, but it helped with the relationship. – viorel Oct 10 '18 at 13:02
  • yeah recruiters can be terrible. I'd just walk away in that situation – Pixelomo Oct 10 '18 at 23:45
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A very unpleasant situation.

I suggest that when HR calls you back and actually dares asking you whether you would lower your salary, you tell them that you actually want the salary X that you originally suggested. If you lower your salary again, you clearly demonstrate that you are not worth hiring for any salary. You demonstrate that people can walk all over you, and who wants an employee like that?

Any place is better than a place that treats its employees with that amount of disrespect.

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Run away, unless you are desperate. In my current job I made the mistake of accepting a lower salary then the one originally offered. It turns out that penny-pinching is a symptom of bad companies that don't value their employees.

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You offered X.

They countered Y.

You accepted.

Did the country-head accept or did you just assume he did?

Now they reopened the negotiation anyways.

Chances are, they want you (otherwise they wouldn't talk to you anymore) and test the waters for a lower salary.
Quite possibly the "other candidate" doesn't even exist (obviously you can't know that for sure).

So,
1)
Determine your level of financial and mental comfort with an even lower salary and how much lower until you're uncomfortable.
2)
Reflect on how strongly do you really want or need the job at that company.

According to the answers you can contact HR and:

A)
Let them know that X was what you initially wanted but you were willing to go down for them, to Y.
However because you'd really like to work with them, you could go down a bit further to Z (or "go as low as Z" - if you want to signal that's your last offer)


OR

B)
Let them know that X was what you initially wanted but you were willing to go down for them, to Y.
You could also tell them that you thought / were under the impression that the country-head already accepted / confirmed your salary in your talk.
In any case emphasize that unfortunately you can't go any lower than that.

I personally would go with B).
There is obviously a chance that they won't hire you, so B) is a gamble but it also shows you can stand your ground if they value that over money (I know, right).

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Should I contact the country head about this change prior to the call with HR, or wait until I hear back about the next round of interviews?

I would contact the country head immediately. Remember that this is also the person that offered you the lowest possible wages, so the country head is not your friend in any of these negotiations. It's also possible he instructed HR to offer you even lower wages just to see if you would accept.

Fair negotiation means both sides respect each other. This includes all aspects of the negotiation- HR, company head, recruiter. A proper wage should be offered out of respect. No one offers the minimum wage possible out of respect for you.

Now, your best course of action may be to simply inform that you are leaving negotiations and looking elsewhere for employment.

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