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I need some assistance with how to approach the salary discussion in a new job application for a permanent role. Note, this is a direct application and there is no recruiter in the middle.

Background: I applied for this role, and one of the first questions they asked is for me to "provide an idea of salary expectations." To answer that question, I mentioned my last salary for a perm position and told them that my current salary as a contractor is not a valid comparison because it's a day rate. I did not specify an expectation per se.

The application process proceeded with 2 interviews, and I have been told there will be no more interviews.

I have just received an email that specifies the need to clarify my salary expectation. The employer has made reference to the fact they are not in a specific industry (which is the industry I've been working in), perhaps suggesting that it pays better, but they might not be able to.

I am now being asked about my expectations in terms of an overall package for a perm role.

This is frustrating. I can see what they are doing: asking me to quote a number, while at the same time mentally challenging me to not be too high.

Frankly, I am annoyed - even though I am assuming this kind of tactic is normal. I don't want to play their game and quote a lower number because if I do, that is what I will get. Frankly, one of the reasons I proceeded with the interview was because they didn't seem to flinch at my last salary. If they figured they couldn't match it they should have been honest then. Nobody wants to take a pay cut.

I want my response to be a polite version of "I'm not sure." I want to basically say "make me an offer". They have interviewed me and should be able to place a value on my skills, quote me that value and I will tell them if it's too low.

If I knew they weren't going to be able to at least match my last salary then I wouldn't have proceeded with the interview.

Any feedback would be great, thanks.

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    You're annoyed because they're repeating a question you didn't answer earlier? (providing earlier salaries is not the same as providing your expectation for the role you're applying to) – HorusKol Nov 21 '18 at 6:04
  • "If I knew they weren't going to be able to at least match my last salary then I wouldn't have proceeded with the interview." Sounds like you know what number to shoot for: your last salary. Then, it seems like you've answered your own question: ask for something a fair percentage above that and negotiate based on their response. Or are there other factors involved? – dwizum Nov 21 '18 at 13:23
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    You are just wasting everyone's ( yourself included ) time by not giving a number. Just give them a number, if it is too high for them they will let you know and you can move on to the next opportunity. – sf02 Nov 21 '18 at 14:11
  • Something to keep in mind, also, is that a company can provide you more than just monetary compensation. You need to look at what all the company can offer you in addition to what you can offer the company; it should never be a one-way street. If it's only about money, that's fine, but most people would factor in the culture, commute, benefits, etc. when deciding on a number. – TotsieMae Nov 27 '18 at 1:02
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I don't want to play their game

There's no need to be frustrated or annoyed. You don't need to play their game. There's nothing that forces you to take a pay cut. And there's nothing that forces you to make the first offer.

Instead you can:

  • Simply refuse. Say something like "I'm open to a market value offer". That leaves it open for them to decide rather than you.
  • Ask for something very high and expect to negotiate lower
  • Walk away and find a potential employer who won't ask you for your expectations

It's your choice. Of course it's their job that you want.

If it were me, I would have been prepared for this scenario. I'd never rely on a potential employer to gauge my value for me. I'd already know what I'm worth and what I'm willing to settle for. I'd ask for the top end of what I think I could get and negotiate down to something no lower than what I'm willing to settle for. And I wouldn't get frustrated or annoyed by the process.

If I knew they weren't going to be able to at least match my last salary then I wouldn't have proceeded with the interview.

You still don't know that they aren't going to be able to match your last salary.

You were specifically asked your salary expectations. At that time you could have said "I would not accept anything less than my last salary." or "I won't take less than $X." but you chose not to do that. Now they want a real answer.

It's time to decide what you will accept and what you will not.

  • It sounds to me like the OP is too wedded to the "whoever names a number first loses" game themselves. There's absolutely nothing wrong with first determining what salary range would make you take the job then simply requesting the top of your range. If you are focused on extracting the maximum salary, then you are playing that game. – pboss3010 Nov 21 '18 at 13:52
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From having experience in a past perm role as well as your most recent contractor work, you already have a good idea of what you're worth.

You really just have to be honest and tell them what you expect. Asking them to give the numbers first is just asking them to offer low, and you'd end up having to still negotiate.

Something along the lines of...

Given my previous experience in the role, I'd put my salary expectations to at least --salary figures--.

You're simply letting them know your perceived value from the get go and that you went in for the interview with the expectation that they'll be at least be able to match your previous salary.

If they still end up lowballing you then you can just decline.

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    I've had good success with "I've been receiving offers for X amount". Even if you've not actually received offers for X, you can still use this (assuming you have a fair idea of what the market rate is). That not only reminds them that they could risk losing you for the sake of low balling a bit under your expectations, it also shows them you're reasonably aware of the market rate for your level of experience and skills and are going to know if they try to offer too little. – delinear Nov 21 '18 at 14:39
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There's a few scenarios to consider and what that will mean for you.

1) You feel like you need this or any job and so any salary will do

  • I've been in this situation and I get it, but it's not healthy for you long term. you'll end up resenting the job and wish you earnt more.
  • It makes it more difficult to get another job because if you're asked what you're on now and you answer honestly, it's lower than you deserve. They may raise questions to themselves about why you're on a lower rate.
  • Maybe you feel like you need a "foot in the door" but this isn't a good way to get there. You'll enter with lower respect and have to work your way up when you shouldn't have to. You do not want to work somewhere that doesn't value your skills.

2) You know what you want and you won't accept less than that.

  • This is the best and healthiest option. You never work for less than that, and you'll get it.
  • They know that you know what you want and you're decisive.
  • If they don't/can't match, no loss for you.
  • Don't open with "what's your offer?" You already know what you want.

3) You're not sure what you're worth

  • Look up salary guides
  • Talk to a recruiter to get some expectations
  • Balance it against travel time, work environment, what it does for your resume etc

My advice is to just say a figure. If you prefer contracting, tell them you prefer it at x rate but might consider full time with x/y/z conditions.

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Here's the problem: when doing salary negotiations, there are really 3 core numbers you should consider:

1) The bare minimum that you will even consider
2) The market rate for someone with your skill set/expertise
3) What you will actually be happy with

These numbers are sometimes but not always similar to one another. Assuming this number is actually meaningful to them (in the only way that is interesting, i.e. your salary in your contract), the way in which it is meaningful is that it is to act as the 3rd number (i.e. this is what they will offer you and this is what they expect you to take).

A lot of people think number 2 is actually relevant; it really isn't, except to know as a guideline whether the other 2 numbers are way out of whack. As long as the other 2 numbers are reasonably close to the second number, you should be more or less good. But imo number 2 doesn't actually mean a heck of a lot in these cases.

The company is not actually interested in the first number; if they offer it to you then you will negotiate with them, and they want things to go smoothly. You can mention it to them if you want, but make sure to make it abundantly clear that this is an absolute lower limit, period. Next, you have a question:

How much money would you be willing to sacrifice from the 3rd number to get this particular job at this particular company?

That's the real question. If you would not be willing to sacrifice any money to get this particular job (i.e. it's "just a job", there are many of these out there), then just quote them number 3. If they say no, then whatever, no harm done you can find another "just a job". If this company is special in some way, you may value that more than some amount of extra money, and you can lower your asking price by a bit here or there, but that's really up to you.

  • I'd be VERY reluctant to tell anybody my absolute bottom. Once you've mentioned a figure, it will be hard to negotiate up from it. I think the market rate is a useful figure, since it has objective credibility, and you won't look greedy by asking for it. If you ask for considerably more than market rate, you run the risk of being seen as a prima donna. – David Thornley Nov 27 '18 at 16:36
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You should provide a number, preferably a salary range.

Start by deciding the number you want. If you want to get some insight into the the number they will provide, find people with same job title, industry and company and reach out via LinkedIn. Ask what they feel the going salary is for their job. This will give you an idea of the market rate, and what you may be offered.

When creating the range, use the low end of the range as the high salary you want. This will allow them to start the negotiations at the number you are satisfied with.

  • I threw out the higher end of my expectations to the guy and he just responded with "No thanks, too rich for us. Thanks for your interest in our company, goodbye". Not great from them really... – jim Nov 27 '18 at 0:30

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