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A little background to give you some context.

I have been searching for a job in UK for a while. Things haven't been favorable for the last 6 months due to my visa situation which was about to expire. But recently the visa is getting renewed and I have aggressively started searching for a job in UK.

Recently a recruiter contacted be and reffered me to company for an open position which seems to pay a little below the market in my opinion but still went for the interview since it was reasonably near to my home and the take home assignment was not too diffcult.

The company send out a reasonable sample problem, which I did well. The onsite was scheduled very soon. The senior dev who interviewed me seemed to like the code that was written. The manager (hiring Manager i think) also seemed to like me and things were looking good. No offer was made and we were about to wind up.

That's were the pleasantness ends and the awkwardness began.

Hiring Manager : I will get back to you within 2 days.
Me : Ok cool
Hm : Could I know your salary expectation ?
Me : I am not looking for anything unreasonable, just something around the market value
Hm : I need to write down a figure, before I approach the HR
Me : See if I quote a high figure, I might get rejected out right. I 
HM : You must have googled the market, how much would you be happy with? I don't want to have  discussion later during the yearly review that you are unhappy with the salary.
Me : I really can't give you a number right now.
Hm : ... bla.. bla.. (cites 10k lower than what recruiter told me)
Me : ... dodge dodge..
Hm : I will send this without a salary range and evaluate other candidates. I will get back to you with a number and I won't budge from that. (he starts getting serious, but still polite I guess.)
Me : You are really not leaving me any options. (bad move I guess)
Senior dev: I am leaving, you guys have a good discussion.
Hm :  (closes the door)
HM : So what will it be ?
Me : ok 50

We exchange pleasantries and I leave the building.

So my questions are

  1. Is this really normal this early in the process ? Or did I just get strong armed / he pulled a quick one on me ? I know I really can't negotiate unless I can walk away, but wanted to make the most of what they could offer me.

  2. Should I have not quoted a salary then and there?

  3. The strong arming that I sensed, could be an indication of a bad future there?

  4. The recruitment seem company have posted 2 adverts for the same job with 5K difference, ie 55K. Am i just being too suspicious that the recruiter really doesn't have my best interest.

4

OP, unfortunately it seems you just negotiated poorly on this occasion.

The other person:

Could I know your salary expectation ?

You answer:

As much as I know about the job at the moment, what about 777? The recruiter mentioned a range of 666 to 888.

They then say:

Blah blah diddy blah blah blah

You answer:

As much as I know about the job at the moment, what about 777? The recruiter mentioned a range of 666 to 888.

Always have a figure ready.

Say it and say nothing else.

  • OP, you simply negotiated poorly. I know. Always have a figure ready. Well 50 was my figure this time. Last time when I said 65k for the same location, they rejected me out right after the initial screening phone call with the hiring manager. I actually had quite a lot of wiggle room there. So I was quite apprehensive about quoting it a little high this time. – James Jan 29 at 2:10
  • @stormfield It's rare to get rejected simply because of an unreasonable salary request. It has to be sky high for that to be the sole reason. If they want you they will try to negotiate. In the earlier cases something else must not have clicked. – Jonast92 Jan 29 at 12:30
  • It wasn't sky high, just a 5k over the average. So I think something wouldn't have clicked as you said. – James Jan 29 at 14:54
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Before applying anywhere, know
the salary you want currently.

Add app.5-30% (or more, depending on your need to work) to that for negotiation.

This is your NUMBER.

Someone wakes you up at night or cold calls you while on the loo or watching a movie, you're ready to throw that number at them.

Make sure your expectation sits well within what you can ask for in your market for your experience and qualifications.

This will give you confidence in negotiations.

Don't let them negotiate you down on the spot unless you're certain.

Especially if different circumstances, options, tasks or responsibilities are added or removed.

Always ask for time(usually up to a few days) to consider their proposal.

Your questions:

    1. Yes
    1. No, you did as you should once asked (someone has to start after all) but you were ill prepared / not with your head in the negotiation game
  • 3.potentially, yes
  • 4.recruiters have their fee and the happy client (external) or their company(internal) in mind, so they'll push you to sign even if you're uncomfortable and are willing to negotiate you down considerably with all sorts of tactics and psych tricks (that is their profession and mission, especially for internal recruiters)
  • Thanks for responding. I must say, each of the answers here puts a lot of the negotiation that went down into perspective. thank you for the view on the recruiters side. – James Jan 29 at 14:52
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Is this really normal this early in the process ? Or did I just get strong armed / he pulled a quick one on me ? I know I really can't negotiate unless I can walk away, but wanted to make the most of what they could offer me.

Yes completely normal.

Should I have not quoted a salary then and there?

You were asked a question, you should give an answer...

The strong arming that I sensed, could be an indication of a bad future there?

It is an indication that the HM wants you to be prepared. If you attend a meeting, being os..."wishy washy" is not good.

The recruitment seem company have posted 2 adverts for the same job with 5K difference, ie 55K. Am i just being too suspicious that the recruiter really doesn't have my best interest.

sorry this didn't make much sense to me.

When going for an interview you have to take several things into account, when it comes to the salary:

What is your current position? Do you have a job that pays your bills at the moment? Can you safely "throw away" the interview if the salary isn't right? Are you in such a place in your career that this company on your CV would not be beneficial?

If you are trying to climb and your expenses are low, or even if in this case you need it to keep your visa and to pay your bills, then start either middle or low as you need something to hold on to.

If you feel safe, secure, have the time to take an offer YOU want then aim high. You see the average market is 55k but there are offers in the area at 80k. When asked the question go with:

Taking into account the market average and recent hires in this area, I would be happy with 70k but...how much do you feel I will be able to contribute and what would you be willing to offer?

this shows negotiation skills, homework done and willing to compromise.

  • sorry this didn't make much sense to me. The job description that the recruitment company emailed me is there on a job board on two different posts for the same role. Essentially everything is the same, except one quotes 40-50K range and the other quotes 40-55K. The first one was posted around 15 days ago and the higher one was posted 5 days ago. – James Jan 29 at 12:14
  • @James I think you've answered your own question there. They might have noticed the asking rate for other people was above 50k so they decided to broaden their rates... – fireshark519 Jan 29 at 13:11
  • @James just as an example, my current job (beginning of career) I asked for 25k, I was offered 26k, I received a counter-offer from previous job of 28k, after negotiating hours, they mantained 26k but better conditions for me, after I accepted they increased the offer to 27k. If they want, they want you. In my case, they knew they were getting a PM/BA with coding experience that would be doing Dev, test, PM and BA work so the extra money on their side was nothing. On my side, I am piggy backing off a multi billion dollar company on my way to a better salary in the future. We all have to play. – fireshark519 Jan 29 at 13:36
1

I agree with Fattie you negotiated poorly and you must keep your lowest acceptable offer in your head. But that's where my agreement ends.

Before you read this answer, or any of the others, do yourself a favour and read Kalzumeus' guide to Salary Negotiation. It will be the most valuable 15 minutes of your life, or your money back. No, I'm serious. That thing is gold.

Now there's two bits where it went wrong.

  1. You allowed him to rattle you.
  2. You fell for his BS.

Why do I think you let him rattle you?

That's were the pleasantness ends and the awkwardness began.

Being asked about salary expectations is not awkward, it's part of the game. And it is a game, a very important one, one that engineers like me or you don't really like, because we fundamentally don't like headbutting with people. But sometimes we must.

The second mistake is that you were not in the right mindset. Salary negotiation (well, all negotiation) is inherently adversarial. You'll be playing a game for a bit, going up against each other, and then you'll go back to being friends again. No big deal.

He says

Could I know your salary expectation

You generally want to kick that can down the road as much as possible. When interviewing you want a Yes, if not a No, but.

What do I mean? You want them to think Yes, I will hire that guy if I can afford him. You don't want No, I don't really like that guy, but he's cheap enough. So, stall that discussion for the last stage to give yourself a chance to dazzle them and convince them what a great boost to their business you're going to be.

In that situation it looks like that was the final stage, so it's all good here. But it's an important point to keep in mind.

He says

You must have googled the market, how much would you be happy with? I don't want to have discussion later during the yearly review that you are unhappy with the salary.

Hello there. Another important point is to never give a number first because you might sell yourself short. Now this guy did quote you 10k less than the recruiter told you, so he's starting out low. This is a tricky one; here's how I would answer it. Start with a smile.

Mr. Senior Dev, I'm an engineer. I like to focus on doing good work and letting the chips fall where they may. No one really likes having these discussions and I wouldn't want to have it again in a year either*. Generally it needs to be high enough so that it's not an issue. Of course I've done my research, which is why we're talking, but you're in a much better position to know what I'm worth to you than I am. I understand HR needs a number, so I invite you to write down the one you think. I trust you to be fair.

He may come back with something like I don't know what's fair to you, blah blah blah. Keep stonewalling with what a great guy he is and how he seems experienced in these matters and how you expect him to be fair, and that you trust his judgement. Another useful phrase is

I don't feel comfortable dictating to you what you should be paying your employees.

Now that's a certain strategy that won't work with all employers. Those inclined to underpay will probably not go for it. I recommend following it regardless, and dropping when you can't go any further. The most important point to remember is: Salary negotiation is adversarial (though not hostile), and you must be mentally prepared for it.

One last thing. I said I agree with Fattie that you must keep your minimum acceptable salary in mind, didn't I? So what's with that?

  1. This is your promise to yourself. You won't accept anything below that number.
  2. This is the minimum, not the optimal. If some misfortune befalls you and you must absolutely give a number cause otherwise the world will end, do not disclose your minimum! It will only get lower. And then it's not a minimum.
  3. Following that, keep your minimum as an internal secret. Use another internal secret, the likely figure and negotiate around that.
  4. The minimum is secret to you, the likely figure depends on the employer.

You made it this far? I'm flattered! And I have a gift for you: Kalzumeus Podcast Episode 12: Salary Negotiation with Josh Doody. Everything I've written here is based on those two links. You can listen to the podcast episode on your way to the interview to prepare yourself mentally. It worked for me.


*that's a lie, of course you'll negotiate again in a year.

  • Thank for the answer. I will surely check out the Kalzumeus links & podcasts. Yes I know I was rattled, but wanted to know how to handle these situations, hence the post. Its a learning experience indeed – James Jan 29 at 12:17
  • @stormfield Every interview is. I was in really good (interviewing) shape when I interviewed with my current company, but I'd completely blow it now – rath Jan 29 at 12:27
  • 2
    @stormfield the only way to handle these situations is to know how much you'd settle for and ask for a number that's above that range so that the worst case they offer you is what you'd settle for. Check salary surveys and determine whether you think you're an average worker and if you think you're not then justify how you're different from the average, thus justifying a bigger salary. – Jonast92 Jan 29 at 12:33

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