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I've had a job interview recently. They asked me (via a phonecall), before they write an offer up, which salary range I was thinking about. I said a target amount which is higher (albeit not super high) than what a person with my experience level would have, but I elaborated that I think I deserve it because of my extra effort to "stay on top of my game". While discussing salary, I failed to mention that this was more of like a target amount and I may have come across as too strict, as in "this amount or nothing".

The job looks promising and I wouldn't like to lose the offer due to them potentially cutting me off based on other candidates. Do you think it's OK for me to send an email saying that I was saying a number which would be my ideal number, but I'd be willing to negotiate? I'm erring towards not sending it, because I feel that if I send it I'm in a weaker negotiating position.

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I would suggest that you don't write an e-mail where you specifically mention the salary. However, a more general follow-up e-mail might be a good idea.

Dear ..., Thanks again for the interesting and informative phone call. I really got a great impression of your company. The tasks seem very interesting and challenging and the environment is great, too. I am excited to start this new challenge and looking forward to your offer. In case there are any open questions, don't hesitate to contact me. Best regards,...

This signals that you are very interested, so in case they don't want to pay the number you asked for, they might offer you a lower number because they know you are interested in general and therefore you might be ok with a lower number. Also the company has not much to lose by offering you a lower number.

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    I strongly do not recommend follow-up emails. It just shows weakness. If you must send a follow-up email, make it a few words only - "Hi Steve, any news on the fantastic opportunity? Cheers Jacqui". The rest reads like fluff – Fattie Oct 12 at 13:25
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    @Fattie Curious if you'd elaborate on why you think that follow-up emails are a bad thing that show weakness? If worded correctly can't they just show enthusiasm about a position you're excited to start? – Mkalafut Oct 12 at 16:27
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    hi @Mkalafut .. I'm not sure if I can literally answer "why". It just seems to be an obvious given of the human condition / human social interaction. It's a commonplace and a prop of comedy that if you are trying to have sexual intercourse with a potential partner, that, if you "text them too often" you're out of the running, you've made yourself seem "desperate", you've blown it. This is more true with potential - job - communications than the humorous sexual prelude example. – Fattie Oct 12 at 17:18
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    hi @Konerak - sorry, i don't 100% follow you there. (Probably a Rum Problem on my end :) ) The simple facts are (A) in general, never send follow-up emails {a rare exception is you can SOMETIMES send ONE EXTREMELY SHORT email which asks "any news!"}, and (B) the OP is asking about sending a bizarre follow-up email which obscurely counter-explains something said in the meeting - the OP must utterly forget this idea. (Nobody will even remember what was said in the meeting.) So A and B, that's it ! – Fattie Oct 12 at 19:50
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    @Fattie rum is good, so let me make it short. OP asked too much. He wants less. Sending this mail will make the guy think less of him, thus might get him less. Which is what he wants. – Konerak Oct 12 at 19:57
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if I send it I'm in a weaker negotiating position.

Yes you would be.

Before negotiating you should be prepared and then stand or fall by your words. You're best just waiting. Pay is just one of several factors they'll be looking at. It's a given that they can offer less without you telling them.

but I elaborated that I think I deserve it because of my extra effort to "stay on top of my game"

This would elicit a yawn from me. I've never heard of a candidate who said they didn't.

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Unless you explicitly said that the number you said was the minimum salary you would work for, they will treat it as a target. They will assume you are willing to negotiate. This is even more so if you gave them the number because they asked you.

If they want you, but think the salary you asked for is too high, they will come back with a counteroffer. The only exceptions to this are:

  1. If the number you said is so far above what they are willing to pay that they see no possibility of negotiating you down that far, or
  2. There are two people they like and are considering if they could get one cheaper than the other.

The second case is very rare.

In general the longer they take to get back to you the less likely it is that it is case 1. They will know very quickly if you have asked for a salary completely out of their range. On the other hand if the hiring manager wants to pay you that salary, but it is slightly more than they expected, they may need to get permission to make you that offer, which takes time. So a delay is actually a good sign for you.

All this assumes the job you applied for is a professional one such as software developer, where a good person paid highly is much better than a poor person cheap. In other kinds of jobs they don't tend to ask you about salary, just tell you waht it will be.

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    You forgot the third possible case: They have a queue of people they like, but they can only offer one position, and it's now the head of the queue's time to accept or reject the offer. They cannot send you an offer or rejection until the people before you in the queue have accepted or declined theirs. – Alexander Oct 13 at 11:39
  • @Alexander That's a reason for delay, not a reason for not making a counteroffer. – DJClayworth Oct 13 at 12:43
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    @DJClayworth : not necessarily. Why should they waste time negotiating with you when you're third in the queue? Their time is valuable, too. It's only when cost is the deciding factor, as in your case #2 where they need to negotiate with lots of people at once. – Joe Oct 13 at 14:52
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How recently?

The chances are good that you're not the only candidate. Once they've talked to everyone, and then discussed it internally, they'll get back to you. If you try to rush the interviewers, it doesn't look good.

Everyone knows that pay rates are negotiable. Even in companies with highly-structured rates, where you start on a pay scale for your grade is still negotiable. Don't weaken that negotiating position.

Of course it's possible that you've gone far too high. But in that case it's a sign you've overestimated how good you actually are, and changing your price now doesn't make you a better candidate, it just makes you look insecure.

Either way, stick with it and wait for the counter-offer.

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You already made a mistake: giving them the first number. Don't compound it now by backing down from the number you've given.

There's only one right answer to the question of what your salary requirements are, and it's "what are you offering?" You'd better believe that if a company is searching for someone to fill a position, they knew exactly what it's worth to them before they ever posted the job offer, but all too often, potential employers will attempt to leverage information asymmetry against candidates. Afterall, if they can get you to name a number below the value of the job, you've just saved them the work of having to negotiate for it!

Now that you've sent it, though, if you're not hearing back from them, it means exactly the same thing as not hearing back from any other job prospect: they're not getting back to you. Nothing more, nothing less. Just treat it as any other prospect that didn't pan out, and keep on actively looking elsewhere. And next time someone asks about your salary requirements, just laugh and say "come on, you know there's only one answer to that question: what are you offering?" Try and present it as an "I see what you did there" moment; don't be hostile about it but make it clear that they're not going to get away with that.

Then when they give you a value, you're the one with the ability to negotiate. If it's better than you expected, just say "that sounds great!" and save yourself the trouble. If it could be better, you can say "oh? I was kinda hoping for something more like X," and they'll most likely find it reasonable. (Remember, they're trying to pay less than what the position is worth.) And if it's way too low, you say something like "are you sure? The [post/ad/recruiter/whatever] said the position was for [this level of qualifications,] and in my experience the going rate for that is more like X. I just want to make sure I'm not applying for the wrong thing here." (This will generally result in an abrupt end to the application process, but that's not a bad thing. You don't want to work at a place where the company culture has no problem with screwing its employees over.)

It's an important thing to remember when job hunting: never volunteer information that can be used to negotiate against you. No, you aren't going to give them your salary requirements. No, you definitely aren't going to tell them your current salary or salary history! No, you don't currently have any serious offers from anyone else. (This isn't even a lie; the only offer you should take seriously is a formal job offer after you have accepted it.)

For the moment, with this place that's not getting back to you... just keep looking. And remember not to make the same mistake next time.

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  • As a hiring manager, If I have several equally qualified candidates, and you provide a starting range too high for the position, I would drop you as a potential candidate for the position for these reasons. 1) You would be disappointed in the salary I am willing to offered 2) My preceive perception that even if you accepted the lower offered, you would not be happy in the long term with the salary offered you. This is in comparison to the other potential candidates which I do not have to negotiate a lower salary. – Programmer66 Oct 12 at 18:15
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    @Programmer66 Then you would be in the minority. Most companies find no downside in making an offer for their preferred candidate, even if it's lower than requested, except for a small delay in negotiating with the second pick. Back when I gave a desired salary (I know better now), I've had offers for 20% less than what I gave. Of course, I laughed those off for much better offers, but they figured there was nothing to lose by trying. I was trying to anchor high for negotiation room, but I wasn't anchoring that high! – Bloodgain Oct 13 at 2:45
  • I have no issue with making an offer to a 'perferred candidate', but my comment stated 'several equally qualified' candidates'. – Programmer66 Oct 13 at 14:30
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Obtaining this (or any other) job is probably one of the most important things going on for you at the moment. However you should keep in mind that all the people involved with your application probably have lot of other things on their mind as well. So therefore an answer might easily take two weeks. So definitely keep your cool for that period. Even after this period start with an inquiry about the status/progress and don't start backing down on your own initiative.

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