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After reading several posts here, I realized that negotiating your salary once you get an offer is a good practice.

During an inteview I did last week for an entry-level job, the manager asked me about my salary expectations. Once he got the figure, he said they could not match it because they have to keep it in range with other team mates, however, they would be able to reach my expectation with benefits and I was happy to hear that.

My question is: is the negotiation over? If/when I get the offer, should I just go with it since we already had a rather lengthy discussion about compensation?

Edit: The benefits discussed were transportation and lunch subsidies. This is common practice in Brazil, employees are given a card that gets loaded every month, it can only be used on buses, supermarkets, restaurants and the like. All in all, it's extra cash.

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    Great first question, welcome to The Workplace! – enderland Oct 2 '13 at 16:15
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    Did he elaborate on that benefits package, or just wave his hands? Benefits are part of your compensation, so the difference between (e.g.) 2 and 3 weeks of vacation, or fully-paid vs subsidized health care, matters. If you haven't discussed those, you're not done. – Monica Cellio Oct 2 '13 at 16:16
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My question is: is the negotiation over? If/when I get the offer, should I just go with it since we already had a rather lenghty discussion about compensation?

It doesn't sound like the two of you agreed on a final compensation package details.

Until you have signed an official job offer there is always opportunity to negotiate. If you both agreed on fairly specific details of how the benefits will bring you to the salary you were asking for and had mutual agreement on this, it will be more difficult to effectively negotiate - because it will come across as you changing your mind or asking for more after saying "yes."

The more you have expressed agreement the more difficult it will be to negotiate without offending the manager. For example:

  • Situation 1
    • "We can offer you a transportation and lunch subsidy which will help our total offer match what you were expecting"
    • "Sure, that will work great!"
  • Situation 2
    • "We can offer benefits to increase our offer to match your desired salary"
    • "Thanks, I look forward to receiving your offer"

Both those situations will cause different levels of acceptance in the negotiation. The exact details of how you and the manager interacted are only known by you. In the first case, negotiating might be more difficult. The second it'd be much easier.

Last, always keep in mind if you get the amount you wanted you will be happy with the offer (unless you intentionally set a low desired salary). It's not necessarily wrong to be content with an offer and not negotiate it.

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    "It's not necessarily wrong to be content with an offer and not negotiate it." perhaps not, but it's also probably throwing money away (from your personal finances). Unless the job is minimum wage or has set banding (ie UK public sector jobs) I've yet to have or hear about a salary negotiation where the sentence "Hmm, X amount? that's close but not quite what I was looking for, could you do X+$1000?" (or some other small-but-worth-having increment) didn't result in the recruiter saying "Okay, no problem" or at worst saying "I'm sorry that's the most we can offer". So why not politely ask? – Jon Story Sep 15 '15 at 14:43
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Executive Summary

It isn't over until the contract is signed. Until that point, everything is negotiable. There are generally 3 stages to any contract negotiation:

  1. Conceptual Negotiation
  2. Detailed Negotiation
  3. Uh-oh Negotiation

Conceptual Negotiation

Almost any negotiation starts conceptually:

  1. What are the deal-breakers for both sides?
  2. What things are more/less highly evaluated for each side?
  3. What will the general process be to close the deal?

Since the parties negotiating generally don't have the last say in the decision (they will need approval from someone), these are not firm promises, but closer to a Memorandum of Understanding. Basically, you are setting up the playing field for negotiation (e.g. "the boundaries are from this tree to that lamp post, and there will be no elbows thrown, and when you're out you need to give someone else a turn").

This is what you just did with the interviewer.

Detailed Negotiation

In the conceptual negotiation, the interviewer said that the company couldn't offer the salary you wanted, but you said that was okay as long as you get benefits to make up for the lack of salary. You agreed you would take the job if they provided an offer that met those expectations. If, for instance, the gap between the salary you wanted and the salary they offered was 10%, and they only offered 5% of that gap in benefits, then you are more than in your rights to press them to up that to 10% -- that was what you had discussed conceptually.

Or if they wanted to provide benefits you didn't value (such as transportation allowance when you live within walking distance of the office), or a gym membership when you believe treadmills are a sin against humanity, you could negotiate the details of those benefits so that they are equivalent to the 10% gap in salary.

Detailed negotiation may also include certain contract clauses. Maybe there is a non-compete clause, or a confidential information clause that would prevent you from ever working in the same industry. Maybe there is a 6 months notice period or something of the sort. All of these things are not monetary, and aren't discussed in the conceptual stage, but are definitely very important parts of the contract that need to be discussed.

Uh-oh Stage

Most negotiations only have the first two stages. But there is a very real and important third stage which comes up more often than it should.

Sometimes one party will think, "Now I have them where I want them" and use the opportunity to try to extort more out of the other party. For instance, if the company assumes they will sign with you, they may have stopped pursuing other candidates, by pushing more demands then the company may be in a worse situation to negotiate. On the other hand, if the candidate assumes they will get the job, they may have turned down other offers already, and may be in a weaker position if the company offers less than they conceptually agreed to.

Note: I strongly discourage this type of behavior on all sides, but it happens more frequently than it should

The company could hit a rough patch during the process and find they don't have the budget to offer the salary/benefits they promised you. Or maybe the employee has a family emergency that requires him to move out of the area. Or any number of scenarios that make the agreement as conceptually negotiated fall through. Or an earthquake hits. Or the bubble bursts and cash flow stops. Or...

This is another reason why it isn't over until both parties sign the contract.

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Looks like you haven't received the offer yet. To answer your question, yes - anything can be negotiated. If this is important to you, then discuss it. Also, if you bring it up, be prepared to negotiate on other perks in exchange of salary or salary in exchange of other perks. Even after you get a offer, you still can negotiate. Although in my opinion, most organizations in the US really have boundaries in place for a typical entry level job. I would assume this to be the case in other countries as well.

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