31

I see all the time that you should never accept the first salary offer from a prospective employer and instead try to negotiate for something higher.

I’ve tried to do this many times, but I’ve simply never found an employer that is willing to negotiate.

When I’ve been offered a salary, I make a counter offer for something higher, always referring to the value I’ll bring to them and my experience, expertise, etc.

It always falls flat. They just flat out say no every single time. They won’t negotiate for even the slightest bit more.

I then try for something else besides salary, like flexible working time, more vacation, or other extras. I’ve rarely had success with that either.

Every offer I’ve ever got has just been “take it or leave it”.

I sometimes wonder if they do this because I’m a woman, but actually even women interviewers do it.

All the business blogs, books, etc make it seem like negotiations are something everyone does. I’ve been working for 20 years and I’ve never found an employer willing to negotiate even a single cent.

What’s going on here? What am I missing?

1

7 Answers 7

15

The main thing is leverage and we rarely have it as strangers. A couple of leverage options are:

  • if you've done market research and know the asking price should be higher,
  • you have other offers and they are higher,
  • you have very specific unique skill you know they want

you can leverage that. Dryly asking for more only works if they're dying to hire and they don't see anyone else coming. But since you don't 100% know their situation, it makes sense to always ask. So keep asking. Who cares the previous 100 said no? You're not applying to the same company and the same position in the same market environment.

Still, why not also add leverage by doing research, applying to multiple places to get multiple options, developing skills that could set you apart?

Also, assess what you already have. Two decades of experience is impressive already. Maybe there's a quantifiable achievement you can point out as additional proof of what you bring to the table, for example, "developed a new logistics plan that decreased costs by 5%" and they'll connect the dots that not only you'll do the job, you do it so well there are extra benefits. Of course you worked in a team and you probably didn't achieve it in isolation. Give props where you need to if that makes you feel more comfortable, but the fact is good things happened and you were part of it.

There are people commenting here about confidence. Sure, being presentable is a skill and worthy of pursuing, but would you give someone your money because... they asked for it confidently? Severely lacking communication skills can negatively impact your options, but confidence doesn't get +10% to your monthly salary. Moreover, as a woman, you can say the same sentence with the same intonation and you'll be perceived as arrogant and a man as ambitious. It is not your problem. They'll take all the arrogance for a 5% decrease in a million dollar logistics expense.

And, as a woman to woman, don't think other women would treat you more fair than men. Some will specifically mess with you because you're a woman and they don't dare to mess with men, so all there's left to mess with is other women. The company can lose great candidates for years before someone catches on weirdos like that. It is not your problem. Your job is to figure out your value and make it as clear as possible. Again, quantifiable results would be preferred, like growth of market, decrease of costs, increase of speed, customer satisfaction KPIs, and anything good that happened while you were part of it. Figure out your role in it and state it.

5
  • "but confidence doesn't get +10% to your monthly salary" I first hand saw examples to the contrary, and at more than 10%. Where we like it or not, being able to sell and negotiate pays off in every industry (I can't think of one where it couldn't)
    – Aida Paul
    Commented Aug 13, 2023 at 19:19
  • Poor communication skills can be a downfall, so the way we come across is definitely not something to ignore, it's worth thinking twice about - I can agree to that. Charm is a skill, and a skill that translates into money in sales etc, though I would argue I wouldn't pay extra for a charmer who cannot show they personally can translate that into sales, so we're back to negotiation tactics named above. And while I don't doubt your honesty, it's still hard to say if people you're thinking of really didn't have anything tangible to offer asides of confidence, or the true motives of the hirer.
    – vspmis
    Commented Aug 14, 2023 at 6:53
  • Who said they didn't offer anything tangible in general? They definitely were competent workers, but it was simply power of their charm, negotiations, sales, however we want to call it, that got them substantially more money than other people with similar experiences simply because they talked better. It's a common trope that people think competence trumps all, sadly it doesn't. And it's not just about extreme cases of being so bad you get a pentalty.
    – Aida Paul
    Commented Aug 14, 2023 at 8:27
  • I covered sales and negotiations in my first comment. I added a note on charm. In your last comment you haven't provided more information on your understanding how confidence causes larger salary, as well as you agree that confidence was not the only factor in your examples, yet you're confident in stating "got .. more money..simply because they talked better". What are you basing your statement "talked better [caused] more money" if other factors, such as "bring more profit [caused] more money" are also at play? At best you can claim correlation, but you haven't proven causation.
    – vspmis
    Commented Aug 14, 2023 at 9:35
  • Anyway, is there a way you see I could improve the answer or can we agree to disagree and split as friends?
    – vspmis
    Commented Aug 14, 2023 at 9:35
26

If the prospective employer is a corporation of any size, then the hiring manager had to jump through a bunch of hoops to get the position authorized, get budget allocated, etc.

If you ask for additional salary, the hiring manager has to jump through all those hoops again to convince the powers that be that you are somehow uniquely worth that extra 10% or so. That's a difficult task, and not usually worth the effort since they've already budgeted as much as they're willing to spend on that position.

If you ask for non-salary changes, you run the risk of being an outlier / not fitting into what's standard for everyone else. That can confuse their HR software. (side note - I've had luck asking to be immediately vested in vacation time once in a while, but that's it).

If the prospective employer is the owner of the company then things are different. The employer still has a preconceived idea of how much they're willing to spend on the position as currently defined. Your task would be to guide them to redefine the position so that it fits you perfectly (thus eliminating your competition for the job) and show how it's better for the company than the original position.

In other words, show how you and only you can do not just this job but this job with extra responsibility and you should be able to negotiate higher pay.

5
  • 5
    Most recruiters and many hiring managers are paid based on the candidate they hired, not the ones they don't. Jumping through those hoops is literally their job. A good hire is always going to be worth that hoop. However, you need to give the hiring manager a motivation to jump through that hoop. Tell them what other offers you have from other companies and ask them to match and/or exceed them, they'll find it is much less work to jump through those hoops than to lose a candidate and leave the position empty for who knows how many weeks where they have to interview another bunch of candidates.
    – Lie Ryan
    Commented Aug 10, 2023 at 23:25
  • 2
    @LieRyan Why should they jump through hoops for one person, when there is another person waiting in line they could hire as well and who would probably be easier to deal with?
    – Philipp
    Commented Aug 11, 2023 at 12:24
  • @Philipp with a nod that it depends greatly on the position and market circumstances, because hiring sucks. It's hard, time consuming, emotionally draining if your an introvert, etc. etc. If it took you 3 months, 10 interviews and 300 resumes to find this candidate you really don't want that negotiation to fall through. Commented Aug 11, 2023 at 12:37
  • 3
    +1 for the corporation info. Corporations have salary ranges mapped to job descriptions, experience, and performance, and they don't budge on those for anyone. At best you might be able to negotiate a negligible increase within the range that your grade allows at time of hire, but if you're that good, chances are they've already made their best offer.
    – calum_b
    Commented Aug 11, 2023 at 14:43
  • 1
    Last ten years, three out of four of my job changes I've easily gotten an additional 5-10k over the initially published salary just by telling everyone what everyone else has been offering. One time, I've had the hiring manager tell me to hold on accepting another offer as they are going to get approval from the powers that be for an increased salary cap, and yes, they did get back to me with an additional $5k/y, and that's after initially increasing $10k from the initial amount. Maybe I'm just lucky, but the advertised salary is rarely the cap of what employers are willing to pay IME.
    – Lie Ryan
    Commented Aug 12, 2023 at 8:44
17

Whether you can negotiate salary depends on whether other people who are just as good are willing to take the salary offered. In many professions, in many places, at many times, competition for positions makes employers uninterested in negotiation. Generic code monkeys, for example, are pretty much a commodity item...

Obviously, if you have something unique to offer that they would value, you're in a better position to request unique treatment.

I'm skeptical about how often this really works. There's a reporting bias; people who succeed boast about it, people who fail generally don't say anything.

7

There are many factors at play here:

  • Your skills/experience
  • The competitions skills/experience
  • Current Market for your role
  • The regional culture
  • The Vibe

Going through them one-by-one, the more experience/skills you have, the better you can negotiate. This is a no-brainer. However, tangentially related to this is how well you sell your skills and experience. There's quite a bit of research here that indicates there is a gender divide between this. Women will apply for jobs they feel they are 90% qualified for, Men will apply for jobs they are 50% qualified for. I know that I've put 'over 1 years experience' for systems that I've logged into once or twice (to be fair, I do legitimately have multiple years experience on similar systems) - it may be that you aren't selling yourself very well.

Next up is your competition - unfortunately, there's no way to know this - sometimes you aren't the best candidate for the job and so your ability to negotiate is limited. If person A is a better fit and asking for XXX, Person B is good enough and they offer YYY, if Person B demands XXX, then they will go with Person A.

The current market is also a key factor - the more in-demand your job is, the more leverage you have. A desperate business is more likely to open the purse strings, whereas one who knows that they just have to wait 5 minutes for the next person to waltz through the door is less inclined to do so.

In addition to the current market in terms of demand, you also need to have a good finger on the pulse of what the current Market rate is. If for your area, the 75th percentile salary is say $100,000/yr and you go in asking for $130,000 - you are probably out of luck. Whereas if the 50th percentile salary is $125,000 and you ask for $135,000 - you are much more likely to be in the game.

Something I've personally noticed when it comes to ladies negotiating unsuccessfully is that they start too high, trying to be too aggressive and 'Boss B..tch', imitating how they think men negotiate - without an appreciation for the nuance.

Regional culture - Some cultures haggling/bartering/negotiating is very much the done thing. Other cultures see it as a sign of rudeness or disrespect. A lot of the info online about negotiating Salary is based on the English-speaking countries, where it is generally considered an accepted part of the process.

The Vibe - the more they like you, the more likely they are to consider a negotiation. This sometimes can even outweigh the skills and experience element. If you have one candidate who is slightly less qualified but they they feel like they would fit the team dynamic better, this can be the critical factor that allows you to negotiate.

Finally - and I left this off the list - is Confidence.

And the line between Confidence and Arrogance is much thinner than you might appreciate. What I've personally experienced (this includes coaching some ladies) is that Women lack the confidence of Men, so they try to overcompensate, but this comes across as Arrogance. Especially if you don't have a lot of experience negotiating successfully.

However - all this said - don't be disheartened. It took me at least 3-4 major jobs and a good number of missteps along the way before I had the skills and experience to negotiate my Salary. Before I do so, I will look at the market, the going rate, look at the company and come in saying 'Well, the average in this market for this position is X, but given I have Y experience that will be a significant asset to your company, I think X+15% is reasonable'.

Breaking it down - the first step is to let the party you are negotiating with know that you know what the market rate is, you've done your research and can't be BS'd. Next is to state the one key reason why they should want you (at your higher rate) than an average candidate and finally +15% on what the average is - it's in the right ballpark, it's reasonable and it gives you room to move down to the average +10% which is realistically where you want to be.

2
  • 1
    Discussion of "confidence" vs "arrogance" is interesting and important. And subtle, as you indicate!
    – davidbak
    Commented Aug 11, 2023 at 1:47
  • I think this is a great list and I don't want to add my own answer of just one little addition, maybe you want to add it to yours? One other option is "unions". When unions negotiated what a widget makes makes across the industry, companies are very reluctant to change that. "We pay the union negotiated salary" cuts both ways, you won't get less, but you probably won't get more either, at least not on a personal negotiation level.
    – nvoigt
    Commented Aug 11, 2023 at 7:53
6

Caveat

This is a US-specific answer. I suspect that the details will be less applicable elsewhere, but judge for yourself.

Salary is (presumably) not the only thing you care about.

I have never* had a job offer where I negotiated and wasn't able to wring at least some concession. Depending on the company and their policies, some levers are easier to pull than others.

I usually make it very clear to HR and the hiring manager that I'm willing to entertain alternative concessions if the salary lever is hard to pull. Extra vacation, signing bonus, generous severance package for no-fault termination, etc. For the last offer I negotiated they couldn't get to the salary I was asking, but they gave me a sign-on bonus that covered the gap for the first couple of years, and I was/am reasonably confident I'd get promoted and be able to go back to the negotiating table in that span of time.

* There is one important exception: many government jobs have rigidly controlled pay and vacation schedules to prevent decision makers from giving cousin Johnny 130% of the market rate for the position or 6 weeks of vacation a year. I've never seen someone successfully negotiate concessions at a non-executive government position, even highly paid ones in e.g. engineering and IT.

2
  • 2
    I have seen successful negotiation with US Government jobs. You are correct that the grade is rigid, but steps can often be negotiated up one or two. While that means 3-6% max, a further factor is that it can accelerate promotion to higher grades, and eventually to executive ranks.
    – user71659
    Commented Aug 11, 2023 at 23:02
  • 1
    There is wiggle room for negotiation in government positions, but it works a little differently---you are looking for extra pay, more vacation time, or extra benefits, since these things are all specified by your grade and step. But it is generally possible to negotiate step increases, and it is sometimes possible to negotiate a grade increase. For example, after my freshman year in college, I was able to get a GS3 summer position upgraded to a GS4 because I had relevant experience and coursework.
    – user141105
    Commented Aug 12, 2023 at 3:19
2

Negotiation is at least a two party conversation and often times we are so focused on ourselves we do not negotiate well. Understanding what the other party wants is key.

If your industry, experience level, and position are of a certain type. All the employer may want is a warm body to fill the position. If they see you as a commodity then there won't be much room for negotiation if any at all. This seems to be the case in your situation.

Another factor is what a recruiter is able to offer. At many employers time off and work from home status is not something that is available for negotiation. Compensation is often in a range but it is not beyond question to offer the same starting salary to all.

Gathering experience and being in a high demand industry is where you can win these negotiations. It is just that your skills are not in high demand. This is not meant to be demeaning just an assessment of your situation. What can you bring to the marketplace that is in higher demand? Once you can bring high demand skills negotiations will go more favorably.

As an example a CPA with 10+ years experience and lots of "resume building" can negotiate easier than a book keeper with 2 years of experience.

2

Any negotiation has two sides and very side has advantages and disadvantages. Also depends on the size of the company, larger have HR smaller ones are handled by management.

But in any case, every position should have a salary margins. knowing these margins, asking for them during the interview process is normal. Perhaps by not asking for them, you project "anything goes" attitude

If you are in the position to negotiate, I mean able to walk away if you don't get what you want, it shows.

0

You must log in to answer this question.