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HR called me up during the day to ask for references. They said they would check on the references then when that all checks out, call me again with a verbal offer (and go from there, whether I agree or make counteroffer). During this call however, I was also asked what salary range I had in mind and while my first mistake was saying a number first, I wasn't quite prepared to give an informed answer (second mistake; I got the call during a busy work task so half my mind was elsewhere during the call...I guess that kind of sounds like an excuse) and was a little thrown off by the question. I ended up giving them a number that in hindsight, is a little lower than the target range I could realistically aim for.

My guess is that they'll base their offer off of the number I gave them; is there any way to remedy this situation professionally? Perhaps say something during the next phone call, either before or after they tell me their number to explain my situation? Or would it be too unprofessional and give them a bad impression, leaving me with only the option to stand firm on my number and hope they meet exactly there?

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    Frankly if you told me a figure and then came back and told me after I made you an offer with this figure and said you wanted more, the most likely result would be that I would withdraw the offer. – HLGEM Aug 15 '14 at 17:02
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    This question seems very similar - Opportunity to change salary I'm asking for? – enderland Aug 15 '14 at 17:05
  • @HLGEM that's what I'm afraid of too. Is it reasonable/professional however, to take the stance that the figure I told them is my target and to say that I'm very firm on that number? – sampwaters Aug 15 '14 at 17:05
  • Somebody at HR who finished the paperwork - that somebody could legitimately feel that you are jerking them around - I would. – Vietnhi Phuvan Aug 15 '14 at 17:06
  • If you haven't seen the entire package including cash compensation and benefits, you have a little room to say "this isn't enough" when you get an offer. – Blrfl Aug 15 '14 at 17:07
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During this call however, I was also asked what salary range I had in mind ... I ended up giving them a number that in hindsight, is a little lower than the target range I could realistically aim for.

My guess is that they'll base their offer off of the number I gave them; is there any way to remedy this situation professionally?

They will almost certainly use the number you gave them as input to their calculation.

That doesn't mean they will only offer that exact number, though. Depending on their salary range for the position, they could offer more or less. And presumably they didn't ask you what benefits and perks you had in mind.

First of all, don't make the same mistake twice. Think about what would be an acceptable offer before you talk with them next. You must think through both what you would like to get and what would be an acceptable amount. If you are busy next time (or are otherwise distracted), offer to call back when the time is better.

Then, think the offer over. Even ask for a day or two to think it over. Consider all aspects of the offer - salary, bonus, benefits, and all other perks, as well as the softer portions of the offer like opportunity, commute, working conditions, etc.

Then, decide. If you still think the salary along with all other aspects isn't enough, then indicate that. Something like "I'd really like to work at your company, but I just think the compensation package is too low." should work.

If they counter with "but it matches the number you gave us" you can always say "I'm looking at the package as a whole, and think it needs to be better."

Remember, that negotiations go both ways.

Also remember, that you don't want to keep negotiating if they reach what you need, and you don't think you will be offered more. Otherwise, they could just move on to the next candidate. It's a bit of a gamble, and you need to be willing to walk away from a too-low offer.

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  • thanks so much for laying all that out for me Joe. Yes for sure, lesson learned, won't be making this mistake twice. one follow up question: they've already told me an amount as far as relocation assistance goes, but I could definitely use more (biggest thing being that I need a purchase a car where the new company's at). I only know a couple of things about benefits, but looking at benefits and the package as a whole, it's not too out of line with my expectations. But the upfront cost in relocating is going to be the biggest thing; is there usually negotiating room in relocation comp? – sampwaters Aug 15 '14 at 19:17
  • and just one more q: is it reasonable (and not too much of a gamble) to take the stance that the figure I gave them is my "target" and be somewhat firm that I'm looking to get an offer that matches that figure? or does it throw employers off if I don't show a willingness to negotiate down from a number I gave them? – sampwaters Aug 15 '14 at 19:24
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I think your best bet would be to treat the number you gave as the "base" but depends on a number of other things like incentive compensation, equity compensation, how much of benefits are paid for, 401k match etc. Similar to one of the comments above. Essentially when they come back and it is not enough you can say something like "For that set of benefits and other comp, I would need my base to be XXX"

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    thanks so much for your answer. Could you elaborate on your concept of a "base" figure? Is it more than just "the lowest i'm willing to take"? I ask because they're also providing relocation comp which isn't going to cover the entirety of my moving expenses (the major one is that I'd need to buy a car), and i'm wondering if this could fit into your reasoning. – sampwaters Aug 15 '14 at 17:31
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    Typically, cash comp can be split between "Base" (your monthly salary) and Incentive Comp (You bonus or commission potential). It is also possible to include Equity in the form of stock option grants as part of the compensation as well. I was just suggesting that you need to consider all of them together as "total comp" and I assume the number you gave him you meant just your salary – Jack Sinclair Aug 15 '14 at 18:36

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