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I have an interview with a company on Monday and in the initial application I gave them the salary I was expecting (it was part of their form, although I'm sure I could have left it out). They mentioned that my salary was in the range they were looking for, and some candidates they had weeded out appeared to be too "senior" for the position and wanted too much, so it seems there might have been some benefit to listing my expected salary.

If they do offer me the job, and let's say they offer exactly as much as I specified, would it be bad form to counter for more (say, $5K more), or should I stick with what they offer if it meets my expected amount?

  • 3
    I've found this article INCREDIBLY useful regarding this topic - kalzumeus.com/2012/01/23/salary-negotiation – enderland Sep 13 '12 at 18:09
  • If you want 5k you really should have used a high and low salary range. At this point it seems the have interest in you because your expected salary is within the expected salary for the position. An additional 5k might push you out of that range. Just asking for money will be a extreme negative. – Ramhound Sep 14 '12 at 13:34
  • I think you are putting the cart before the horse, perhaps this question would be better posed after you have the offer in hand. But if you gave me an expected pay rate, and I made an offer to you of that pay rate then you countered without an OUTSTANDING reason then I would reconsider the offer in the first place. – IDrinkandIKnowThings Nov 26 '12 at 17:50
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You could submit a counter offer, but I'm almost certain that you'd need a very good reason for doing so. Just simply asking for more money without an applicable reason may not be in either party's best interests.

First, when approaching the subject, you could mention that the number you wrote down was just an estimate, and that based on research you've done and other offers you've received, an amount of X dollars more would sway your decision more towards accepting an offer of employment from this particular company.

You'll have a much better chance of succeeding in the counter offer if you do indeed have other offers for employment on the table. This is your best negotiating strategy.

In short, regardless of whether or not you really have other offers on the table, your potential employer needs to know that you're willing to say no and decline their offer if they don't negotiate, and if you concede to taking no pay increase, that could set the stage for some problems in the future when it comes to negotiating.

  • 3
    It seems like all job applications have a field for required salary. In the future, is it advisable to not put anything, or to just say "negotiable" so this type of situation wouldn't happen again? What about when asked over the phone in the initial phone screen? Since companies may use this process to weed out applicants that are asking for too much, how can you still proceed to the next level without giving a definitive answer? – Ryan Sep 13 '12 at 21:03
  • "Just simply asking for more money without an applicable reason may not be in either party's best interests." How is making more money not in the best interest of the OP? If you want more money and are confident of getting it somewhere else, then it has to be worth the risk. – SSH This Jul 30 '15 at 19:47
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Your best bet to be able to ask for more, without making a bad impression, is for there to be a financial reason for the increased demand.

  • They don't match on the 401K so you will need to make up that difference.
  • The insurance costs are higher than your old company.
  • Commuting to the new job will be more expensive.
  • The vacation plan is not as generous.

These are things you cannot know before they make you a written offer or provide you the details of the benefit plans. In the interview you may have to say that the salary range you gave was dependent on the expectation of a similar benefit plan as your old/current company.

If they aren't able to move on the salary and benefits delay telling them you will accept their offer by at least 24 hours so you can run the numbers, "to see if the total package can be made to work with your budget". This is similar to what they will be doing when you ask for a higher salary.

Realize that insisting on X$ more may move you out of the range of salary they can spend, so you may have to be willing to accept the lower salary. Of course you willingness to do that is dependent on your actual job situation.

  • 4
    +1 for bringing up possible short-comings of the other benefits, but you should have some idea about communting costs. – user8365 Sep 13 '12 at 12:54
  • What do you mean by "increased demand"? He was asked what salary he expected. That isn't a demand and it isn't an offer. That's simply a statement of expectations. There is no rule that says that you must be satisfied with getting what you expected. – David Schwartz Oct 25 '18 at 21:42
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Recruiter here. When I coach candidates on salary negotiation, I always tell them that they are free to speak to the client directly about compensation if they want, but to keep in mind that any number they throw out puts a relatively hard cap on what I can get you. If you list 70K as your desired salary, chances are they will offer a bit less (sometimes, but rarely more), and it will be difficult for me to ask for 73 at that point.

Assuming you are not working with a recruiter, you don't have an intermediary or an agent in your negotiations other than yourself. Some of the examples above about insurance contribution being higher than expected or 401k or target bonus being lower than expected are possibilities. Being offered less vacation time that you currently have or than you expected is also an easy one, as vacation days have a quantifiable value (to spitball some numbers, there are 52 weeks x 5 = 260 weekdays/year, subtract say 10 holidays = 250 working days a year, so every 5 day week you work = 2% of salary).

The example about commute distance could make you look a bit unprofessional, as in most situations you probably knew the location of the job before you interviewed and applied for it. The other examples about asking for more bonus, extra vacation time, or to change the 401k vesting schedule are not entirely realistic in most cases. Larger companies will probably laugh at the suggestion, small companies may be able to accommodate bonus or vacation but probably not changing a 401k schedule.

One valid reason that some candidates will give to increase the requested compensation is a higher responsibility level or work expectation than you expected. Companies will know that if you apply for a job with say no leadership role and they ask you to lead a team, you may want to be compensated for that responsibility.

  • I'm not sure I agree with your third paragraph. Asking for more benefits is a valid negotiation strategy. If they are unable to match the benefits (like your example of the 401k vesting schedule), they are certainly able (if they are willing) to compensate for the difference in benefits with an increase of the base salary so the employee could make their own retirement contributions out of pocket and so forth. – Jessica Brown Sep 14 '12 at 16:10
  • @JessicaBrown - If you are looking for more base salary, I'd suggest someone ask for more base salary. Base salary is something that is almost always entirely negotiable. By essentially asking 'Is your company willing to change your corporate 401k vesting policy for me?', or 'Can you give me more bonus and vacation time than the rest of your staff?', the candidate appears to be asking for special treatment and perhaps lacks business acumen to expect that request will be met. Asking for more salary is entirely acceptable and doesn't make the candidate look uninformed or a 'prima donna'. – fecak Sep 14 '12 at 17:29
2

If you don't want to ask for a higher salary, you can ask for other benefits as well.

  • Short the trial period
  • Increase bonus percentage
  • More vacation time (they always counter with some "company policy" thing)
  • Start 401K sooner or change any vesting schedule

Don't be surprised if they offer to raise your salary, that's probably easier on HR and accounting.

  • Don't be afraid to try on the vacation thing - I've actually gotten it at a large company before. Now, the situation was they knew me, and had laid me off with no hard feelings when they bought my previous employer, so I wasn't an unknown quantity to them, but they did give me an extra week a year. – Michael Kohne Sep 13 '12 at 16:35
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Imagine the reversed situation - a company advertised a position with a specified salary. You apply only to be told in the interview that the salary is, in fact, less than specified. Would that raise or lower your opinion of the company and the position?

Remember that you are ultimately dealing with people here, and many would consider this to be at least somewhat dishonest - a "bait-and-switch".

If you feel strongly enough about this that you are willing to walk away from the offer if your demands are not met, then you can always try. But like jmort253 said, once you start you can't back down, you have to force at least some concession from the employer. If you back down from your demands, then the precedent is set for the future. And you have to frame your argument with rational reasoning. Like getting behind on the pay-curve of your peers or competing offers. Just going in there with the argument that "I feel I should get more" is sure to be 100% counter-productive.

However, if this a matter of "maybe I could have gotten more", then I would not press it. Once you start down that path, you may not be able to turn back and you run the risk that the person hiring you is going to be so turned off that he or she will simply retract the offer, even at the original salary.

  • Not quite exactly the same, but I once had an employer pull a bait-and-switch. The place advertised a programming job, but when I interviewed they wanted me to take an operators job so they could move the operator they had into the programming position. (I walked away, which was a good thing, as the place went out of business a few years later.) – GreenMatt Sep 14 '12 at 13:55

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