I'm negotiating a raise at my job (entry-level job; I've been at the company for 1+ years). For a lot of reasons (primarily my skill set, accomplishments, & performance), I believe that I'm getting severely underpaid.

I did a lot of research: At first, looking online (glassdoor, linkedin, payscale, etc) and then by talking to people. I spoke to 2 current colleagues at my company, 2 former coworkers, a family-friend recruiter in the industry, and a big manager from a different company (again, a friend). Those people were able to give me solid ranges for what they felt is my competitive market value in my city, especially for those who know what type of work I do on a day-to-day basis.

However, based on non-negotiation conversations that I've had with my manager and with HR, I know that they will likely not believe the numbers I'm hearing (they're majorly higher than what I'm getting now).

I'm at the point where I'm ready to leave the job because of this, but I want to give this December raise conversation my best shot since I do enjoy my job and would like to stay (if I'm compensated better).

I am fairly certain that HR will hear my salary request and tell me my numbers are totally off-base compared to the company's research. What is a productive way to reply to that?

Is there a productive way to reply?

My goal is to find a response which won't end the the negotiation even after they bring up that argument.


This is not a duplicate of this question, which asks about "should I give a range". My question is "how to reply when HR rejects the range".

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    Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – Snow Dec 6 at 7:56
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    Please clarify if walking away from their offer is an option for you. That makes a great deal of difference in your tactics. – Mast Dec 6 at 10:07
  • & performance Does this mean you have been underperforming? – mjwills Dec 6 at 12:11
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    @mjwills No, overperforming – c36 Dec 7 at 3:49
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    Part of the problem here is the human element. Companies don't pay you what they think you're worth, they think you're worth what they pay you. Any time a significant raise is negotiated, the impression is that you are taking advantage, even if you are 100% accurate in your assessment, won't go away and will require you to constantly demonstrate your "worthiness" for the extra compensation. Most people in that situation will usually find themselves best suited by moving on. – Jeremy Holovacs Dec 10 at 12:30

13 Answers 13

up vote 355 down vote accepted

My response to them saying those numbers are wrong would be to say that that's the reason I'm bringing this to their attention - their idea of the salary range and my idea of the salary range for this position are apparently at odds.

At the end of the day, you're looking for considerably more than you're getting, and you believe others are able to offer that. You're happy with where you're at, but you'd be foolish to ignore a significantly higher paying position elsewhere.

An example from my own past - There was a point where I was at odds with management over my own salary, having been promoted into a position with a small pay bump over a helpdesk job, where the position itself was 2-3x as much salary elsewhere.

My direct manager kept laying comments down that if I wanted to make any more I would need to get a bachelors degree finished, get more certs, etc, that I wasn't qualified for anything more than I was getting....

A few months later I actually ended up getting an offer somewhere else for 50% more, and I was conflicted. Happy where I was, but couldn't say no to a difference like that.

I texted my manager letting them know I had an offer for X ridiculous salary and I was going to have to take it.

They texted back a minute later saying they'd match it.

At this point... Honestly I had to go to the other place. It felt dishonest to have someone tell me I was at the top end of my pay range, only to flatly reverse when it was time for me to leave... Whereas somewhere else was willing to start me 50% higher as a base and work up from there.

If the answer is that you're at the top of your pay range, it's time to move your career elsewhere. That's them telling you that there's nowhere else for you to move up at that company doing what you're doing (absent a significant promotion or role change), and if you're good at what you do and you're not about to retire, you should be looking for ways to increase your salary either to the range that's normal for your industry, if not increase above average if you've been doing it for a while / have unique skills to that profession that others might not have.

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    +1 for the unexpected reverse of rejecting the counter-offer. I thought you were about to say "they matched the offer so I took the money and stayed!". Sorry for underestimating you. – BittermanAndy Dec 4 at 9:46
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    Last paragraph is one to keep in mind, sometimes nothing can be done and the only way to get a pay raise is to move to a different company/role. – Leon Dec 4 at 11:26
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    Also, had you stayed he'd be going "We just gave you 50% raise" for who knows how many years ... – Иво Недев Dec 4 at 13:36
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    @ИвоНедев That, or "you're fired, we found someone closer to your old salary" after six months. – ceejayoz Dec 4 at 15:20
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    Something I feel is worth pointing out WRT your current employer offering to match your new wage - if you take it then you'll always be remembered as "that guy who wanted to leave" - your lack of loyalty can and probably will be used to justify passing on you for promotion, or making you redundant, were you to accept. – Scoots Dec 4 at 15:45

I am fairly certain that HR will hear my salary request and tell me my numbers are totally off-base compared to the company's research. What is a productive way to reply to that?

Is there a productive way to reply?

Regrettably, probably not.

  • If the company genuinely has research to support their position, your informal conversations with unknown others won't carry more weight than that.
  • If the company is only pretending to have such research, they will ignore your numbers, or claim that they are invalid or irrelevant ("oh, you think company X pays $Y? No, that's just what they put on the job advert to attract interest - they wouldn't really offer that much"). The going rate makes no difference to them - they just don't want to pay you more than they think they have to.

Even if you prove you are right (by getting an offer elsewhere but not taking it), then what? If your company says "we're still not paying that much", being right hasn't helped. Even worse, they might say "OK, we'll match that offer", then keep you only long enough to replace you with someone less demanding.

Realistically, you need to decide how much you believe you are worth - ask for that much - and be prepared to walk away if you don't get it. Whether you or they are right or wrong about what may or may not be on offer elsewhere, doesn't actually have any relevance to your situation (until you leave). It's not about facts, it's about what you're going to do.

  • This. The question is not about being right but about them having substantial reasons to make a decision. It may also not be about the market, it may be just about the budget. Another thing may be corporate bureaucracy - reasearch or not, they have some salary bands and you may genuinely be at the top. If you find that out, it is not time to negotiate a payrise but a promotion. – Eleshar Dec 8 at 19:29

You can make this conversation really easy, if you treat it like any other commercial transaction. You sell your manpower, which is a (hopefully) scarce good that the employers have to compete for. You have a price-estimate, mainly defined by your opportunities. They have one, based on their alternatives. If you find a range where those two match, fine! If not, you don't have a business case, work elsewhere. It's as simple as that - no need for hard feelings.

Now, there is a chance your employer is bluffing or misjudging the market or you are overestimating your options.

For the former, just firmly state that you believe that is your current market value and that while you really enjoy working there you can't do it at opportunity-costs of X. If they disagree, take what little they offer and find a new job ASAP.

For the latter, if you really want to know your options: just get some opportunities on the table. There is nothing as effective for your negotiation position as already having a second offer in your pocket, even if you don't show it.

Do not get into any kind of argument over the price. They will be better at playing bullshit bingo, and it does not matter if the company just bought a new Porsche for their CEO or if your girlfriend needs new cloth.

Just remain confident about your assessment and ask if they want to match that or not.

Also, once you found another job, I would not fall for it if they suddenly want to match the offer. In my eyes this is dishonest and experience shows that such work relationships don´t do well down the road.1 Once you decided to leave, leave.

  • 1 I read a study once about that; I will try to find it and cite it later.
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    Agreed with this. The only way to actually show that they're wrong about what you're worth is not to present them your own research, but to show them that someone else will actually pay you that much right now. But if it gets to that point you're almost certainly better off taking the external offer. – Matthew Read Dec 5 at 21:17

As with any other salary negotiation, all you can do if they disagree with your expectation is to ask them what their offer is and decide if it is sufficient to keep you there.

  • Yup, it's not really a negotiation at this point. If you know you're worth X+30% more then you're basically saying match it or I'm gonna leave. – SLC Dec 5 at 10:11

HR will hear my salary request ... and tell me my numbers are totally off-base compared to the company's research. What is a productive way to reply to that?

This really highlights the nature of negotiations. If you get in to talk-talk, unfortunately you lose!

Reasons do not win negotiations.

Is there a productive way to reply?

If you have gone down this road, yes.

Very simply, as briefly as possible, just state examples. So,

"Here on SO jobs for instance, you can see XYZ are offering ABC for a similar role. And here's one - PQR are offering DEF."

That's all you can do.

But understand that of course, the person you're negotiating with will just instantly give you 100 reasons why those "don't count" (wrong city, different size team, blah blah - whatever).

An interesting thing is, I noticed when folks negotiate on house prices they do so in a rational manner. (If you were buying my house and you said 100 and I said 110, and I tried to give you some "reasons" you should pay 110 - you'd just stare through me like I was daft.) A good thing is to think "What language would I use if this was a house price negotiation?"

Anyway the literal answer to your actual question is

  • have two or three (don't go overboard with detail) short examples on hand and use those.

Good luck!

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    "when you're hiring it's really smart to hire "newbies" as you get to rip them off and save a few dollars, until they get wise and leave" - Am I understanding you correctly, that you're recommending this practice? – René Dec 4 at 13:46
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    hi @René - in 75% of cases in software when people hire Young New programmers, that is exactly what is happening. – Fattie Dec 4 at 16:02
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    Of course, it'd be even smarter to give raises to the newbies who did well... but, let's not get carried away. :-) – employee-X Dec 4 at 18:14
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    @Fattie It costs less in salary to keep hiring more newbies. It isn't necessarily cheaper in any other way. Recruitment and onboarding cost money. A group of newbies are likely to cost more for the same amount of work than the same group with some experienced people. A group of newbies are likely to be unable to provide the same results as a group with more experience, hence costing money elsewhere in the business. – David Thornley Dec 5 at 16:13
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    I'd like to chime in agreeing with @DavidThornley that making a practice of quickly churning through absolute newbies will save money up front, but the code base will turn into an unmanageable nightmare fast. The code will almost certainly be written both slowly and badly. Hiring newbies and then trying to retain them can eventually lead to devs with the exact skill set you want, getting the work done more quickly and requiring less support later on, and hiring experienced devs is more likely to introduce novel improvements and skill-sets. Churning through newbies is far from "really smart." – TheTinyMan Dec 5 at 16:44

I'm at the point where I'm ready to leave the job because of this, but I want to give this December raise conversation my best shot since I do enjoy my job and would like to stay (if I'm compensated better).

So what you are essentially saying is that regardless of market research, there is a salary baseline that you require to keep working there.

If what you are saying is correct and your market value is much higher than your current job, then you shouldn't have a problem getting an offer that reflects your value. That's when I'd start a conversation with your manager and/or HR. Important: do not mention that you have an offer (to avoid any counter-offers and ultimatums). Simply tell them that you need X as a baseline for you to continue working there.

If they don't agree, move on. You said it yourself. You are ready to quit because of the lack of proper compensation. There is no reason to devalue yourself by accepting less compensation than market value. Your company wouldn't do it for their clients and you shouldn't do it for your company either.

  • What he said is that he set a general salary baseline based on market research, not regardless of it. – David Thornley Dec 4 at 17:39
  • A possible statement not to yield against additional pressure on whether you have an offer is I'd rather not say and say no more, consequently – XavierStuvw Dec 4 at 21:40
  • This answer makes a good point - It is important to ask for the raise to a given salary level beforehand; if you receive an offer at the salary level you want, you may as well leave (given it's not necessarily wise to accept a counter); You do definitely want to give them the opportunity to give you the raise first before getting an offer; if they turn it down and say you're at the top of your range, it's definitely time to shop around :) – schizoid04 Dec 5 at 21:11

The only correct response is:

I see, here is my resignation letter, I have accepted a position with a different company.

The best way to combat pay deficiency is usually to look elsewhere and make sure you have a signed offer before salary negotiations.

Businesses have good reason to not give big raises per https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/290129 so if you did not join the company at the level you wanted then there is unfortunately little that you can do.


If you are looking to build up better evidence that you actually do deserve more so that you can feel confident in proceeding with your raise request then you should interview with other places and see what they offer just as practice.

You don't have to mention this during negotiations but it will position to you to hold a firmer grip when negotiating.


I have worked for a company in which employees would fight tooth and nail for as much as a 5% bump and even that was rare. Asking to get paid your perceived market value was unheard of. I would argue that fighting tooth and nail is commonplace at most businesses unless you possess a truly valuable skill. If you're easily replaceable then the incentive of hiring a less problematic employee is all the more enticing.

Since I knew the culture of the company I never pressed a raise beyond the standard 2% or whatever they gave yearly. FWIW I was hired at a equal or higher salary than some of my experienced colleagues.

Upon handing in my resignation I was offered a substantial ~25% pay bump (salary would equal more than new job) if I chose to stay. Aside from the countless posts which detail why staying is a bad decision I had already checked out mentally from continuing work for that company so I proceeded with my resignation.

Advice from an old-timer who's been down this road

Remember that without an offer in-hand from elsewhere the company you work for holds all the cards. Whatever outcome don't take it personally. They hired you, and can fire you for no reason. Yes, no, I understand, fair enough, keep it simple and respectful.

Here's something I did back in the mid-90's. It was my first company out of college, I took the job making 7.50 an hour as a computer operator. Much different world back then. I took it upon myself to make buddies with the programmers and learned on my own and started doing jobs for the boss. Got promoted in 1 year, but got a small bump in pay.

Into my 3rd year I was getting wiser, found myself to be very good at it and was widely praised. I didn't want to leave but I deserved to be paid much more.

I was contacted by a recruiter who was eager to make some big bucks off of me knowing I didn't make crap and could give me a raise I would be happy with while still making them tons of money on margins because of still being underpaid.

So knowing that I had no leverage and wanted to be careful as not to get let go or make me look bad I went in to my bosses office around 10:00 am and said:

"Boss(Name), I've been speaking with a recruiter and I'm going to have lunch with them today and it really sounds like they might make me an offer, and if it's higher then what I'm making here I'm probably going to take it. I don't know if that will be the case but thought I'd come in here and tell you so you're not blindsided if it comes to be."

Now I knew that they knew I was underpaid, and I knew that they didn't want to lose me. I had become pretty valuable at that point. Fabricated as it was I knew I needed some leverage.

He says "How much would it take to make them go away."

I gave them a dollar figure that was 25% more then I was currently making.

He says "Give me 1 hour, please don't go or do anything until you hear back from me. I have to talk to some people.".

One hour later he calls me in his office

"If we give you 75% of that immediately and 25% in 3 months(end of year) will that make them go away?"

My answer: "Yes, thank you".

Missions Accomplished. I made it so if they didn't respond in my favor I wasn't bound to go anywhere, yet immediate enough to get them to move or possibly lose me. I'm glad it worked out.. that's how I got paid the going rate.

Stayed with that company for 13 years, and after I moved on from place to place after that I kept building and never worried about being underpaid to this day.

Good luck

I want to layout a few things that may provide an alternative point of view:

  • This is your first year at an entry-level job.
  • You've met with other people in the field who presumably have a lot more experience telling you that you're underpaid.

As this is an entry level position, I would not be surprised if you are making notably less than someone who is in the field for a year already and thus has made the rookie mistakes.

I can't speak for all fields, but in technical fields like engineering there is a learning curve to figure out how to take what you learned in school and make it useful in the office. As a result, my first raise was significantly higher than subsequent raises because there was so much I'd learned in the first year that had grown my value.

I recommend you enter negotiations with a positive attitude and discuss where you want to be. Ideally, this occurs near your annual review so you can tie those together.

In the event that you get shot down, I would ask what sort of responsibilities and skills you can learn that would put you on the level that pays what you're seeking and ask that they assist you securing those skills in the coming year.

If the pay is insultingly low (i.e. just a cost of living adjustment), it is probably best to focus on your resume and moving on. You may find that a lot of firms have interest in picking up talent that's already past the rookie year.

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    +1 for "I would ask what sort of responsibilities and skills you can learn that would..." – J. Chris Compton Dec 4 at 17:36
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    The experienced people he met probably told him that he was under the usual market for rookies as a Rookie himself. – Echox Dec 5 at 15:30

In my opinion, starting a negotiation with "at place X I can earn Y" is the entirely wrong thing to do. If HR is the least bit capable, they know what's being paid where. Even if you prove it to them they will find lots of reasons why your proof doesn't apply, or worse, tell you "then go there".

The only one you need to prove your value to (credibly) is yourself. Start a negotiation with what you believe your value is for the company, not with comparisons to other places and sums. It's their business case that must be valid as well as yours. Just state what you want, make up your limits, and negotiate with your value for the company, how much that has risen through the time you have been with them and for what reasons.

You need to keep in mind that your employer may not actually be ignorant of the market value or is willfully ignorant of it. It's sad, but once you are pegged as "cheap and inexperienced", it is hard to change that perception. It's time to move on.

A side effect of this is that employers are reluctant to train people because "they will just leave for more money".

Personally, I found it easier to just leave for an employer who would value me more than to try an negotiate a raise.

I did a lot of research: At first, looking online (glassdoor, linkedin, payscale, etc) and then by talking to people. I spoke to 2 current colleagues at my company, 2 former coworkers, a family-friend recruiter in the industry, and a big manager from a different company (again, a friend). Those people were able to give me solid ranges for what they felt is my competitive market value in my city, especially for those who know what type of work I do on a day-to-day basis.

Those are in my opinion weak reasons to get the pay raise you want. Mainly because of the following facts:

  1. HR already disqualified your research so it is a moot point on what I think or if I agree those methods are valid or not. And vice versa, this applies to you and what you're trying to resolve.
  2. You're not saying you deserve a raise but only because others told you you're getting underpaid. So it's a perception problem.

Now, the most solid way to get a payraise is by having a offer letter in your hand from a company "down the street" that does in fact offer the pay level you want. Once you have that, you have solid proof that others are willing to pay the same job at the level you want. I believe this is your only course of action right now. If HR won't listen to your research, then they probably won't listen to anything else you say.

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    I'm not sure you can argue those are weak opinion reasons. Those are pretty standard methods to determine typical salary ranges for an industry. Furthermore, your answer is indirectly providing the answer to move to another company suggesting that is the only way to determine reasonable pay. – Pyrotechnical Dec 4 at 16:04
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    @Pyrotechnical Sadly yes, it is. HR already disqualified his research so it is a moot point on what I think or if I agree those methods are valid or not. His only course of action at this point is to go to another company to see if his pay request is reasonable or not. If someone is willing to pay that amount, then it means his research is correct and he can say goodbye to his current place. – Dan Dec 4 at 17:19
  • @dan I think you could improve your answer by adding what you said in your comment to your answer. "HR already disqualified his research so it is a moot point on what I think or if I agree those methods are valid or not." is a good point, but that didn't come across clearly to me in your answer. +1 on your comment. – J. Chris Compton Dec 4 at 17:42
  • @J.ChrisCompton Okay added. – Dan Dec 4 at 18:01
  • I still have some problems with your last paragraph. If you have an offer from another company for the pay level you want, you can accept it. Using it as leverage where you work is almost certainly a bad idea. If the current employer isn't going to budge, the best way to get a raise is to leave for a more reasonable employer. – David Thornley Dec 5 at 16:17

There is not much you can say at this point. They have decided we don't want to pay more. Just get out of there and go to that other place you are so sure would pay you more.

( Assuming you are actually confident enough there exists such a place so you would quit over it. )

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    The usual practice is not to quit on the spot and trust that there are jobs available. The usual practice is to go looking and accept a satisfactory offer (and, if OP's research is valid, it should work), then quit the original company. – David Thornley Dec 5 at 16:19
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    No, that is bad advice, David. Because the bosses can talk behind your back and reach an agreement of not giving you more than say, X. If you don't have any current boss, there is no one to strike such a deal with. – mathreadler Dec 5 at 17:26
  • "Because the bosses can talk behind your back and reach an agreement of not giving you more than say, X." Are you implying that managers in different companies will directly collude to make sure you don't get paid more? – V2Blast Dec 6 at 21:16
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    @mathreadler are "the bosses" part of the vast Illuminaty conspiracy? When you get promoted to a boss, do you also get inducted into the Free Masons or something? If not, then no - "bosses" cannot reach such an agreement for the simple reason that you can't have every boss everywhere agree to that. Even if we're just talking about a town there might be as 100 "bosses" there (or more - are they all going to go "So, it's accepted - we won't pay John more than X". Maybe up to a dozen very close individuals could do that but that's a far cry from your implication about some "boss hivemind". – vlaz Dec 7 at 13:00
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    As a programmer, in this day and age, it's totally normal to simply leave a job, knowing you'll easily find another one. – Fattie Dec 10 at 12:58

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