In the last round of my interview, the hiring manager asked me what my desired salary range was. I indicated 85-95k, which seemed reasonable based on preliminary research, plus I didn't want to price myself out. Later on, I do more detailed research online and find that for my particular city, the median salary for an entry level position in my field is around 97k (based off payscale.com data)

Today I got an offer that's more towards the lower bound of my range, whereas I would be satisfied with 90. Is is a good idea to counter with the payscale data in an effort to get them to bump up the offer? For what it's worth, it's a quantitative job so they might appreciate having the figures.



4 Answers 4


Is is a good idea to counter with the payscale data in an effort to get them to bump up the offer?

No. It's not a good idea.

You already stated a desired pay range. They have met that pay range. Now you are indicating you want more than you stated previously, without providing any valid reason why you are worth more.

It would be a mistake to think that you have uncovered data that the company's HR doesn't already know. And it would be a mistake to think that you can pinpoint a comparable position on a website better than the company's HR could. They know the specifics of the job far more completely than you do. This makes your argument very weak. HR or the hiring manager can easily come back with other surveys that show how you are wrong and that their offer is more generous than most. You risk coming off as someone who doesn't really know what he wants, and you risk coming off as someone who will never be satisfied.

Instead, tell the hiring manager why you are worth more than what you originally asked for, and what additional value you will bring to the company. Think in business terms, not website survey terms.

Something like "I'm really excited to come work for you, if we can get together on the compensation. Now that I understand more about the position, I realize that I can deliver more value to the company than I originally thought. Let me tell you how I'll do it." And follow it up with specifics on how you can make a higher salary worth it to them.

The more you demonstrate that you understand the company and the job, and the more you show how much value you can add, the more you will impress the hiring manager. It may not work out, but it will give you a far better chance of getting a higher compensation than just saying "because the survey on website X says 90".


Never Give a Number.

This is both the most sensible and obvious advice (more specifically it's "never be the first to give a number", but nuance), and the hardest advice to follow. It's blindingly obvious because at best, you guess correctly, and they offer you the salary they would have offered you anyway. It's hard to follow, because it's thrown into every hiring team's "questions nobody feels comfortable calling you out on."

You've already given them a target salary and now they're using it as a guideline for what to offer you. Trying to change it now is entirely ethical, but you're in a much weaker position unless you have a competing offer (after all, they know at some point you were okay with 85k, they can probably persuade you to go back there).

You now have to consider your "Best Alternative To a Negotiated Agreement"

Normally, this comes down to a different job. If you have other equivalent or better offers, or you're confident they'll turn up with a bit more effort, then you can be confident about refusing the offer. If you need to make rent at the end of the month or be homeless, and this is the first job offer you've had since 2010, then I personally would consider accepting whatever deal allowed me to make rent.

The true BATNA is that you take the offer and then immediately send your CV out and round again. If the entry-level average really is 97k, and 6 months from now it's gone up, and you're still stuck at 85k (because initial salary strongly influences long-term salary), the likelihood is that you'll end up quitting to the company that's offering the average, simply because 12k a year is a life-changing amount of money. This sucks for the employer, and it's a pain in the neck for you. So my impulse, assuming that I thought I could get the average salary, would be to avoid that process by declining that specific offer.

How you decline the offer is important. After all, it's arguable that you've basically told them the kind of salary you'd like, they've proceeded to invest time into the hiring process based on that, and you're now trying to leverage that sunk cost into a better deal.

If that's what you'd actually done, that's unethical, and can lead to bad feeling and associated repercussions (theoretically you could be blacklisted by the company, etc.) Of course, what you've actually done is made a common mistake in negotiating (Giving a number), and are now looking to fix it.

Something along the lines of

"Obviously, I'm really excited about working for {companyname}, and that offer is definitely looks great in principle, my only concern is that there are other opportunities I'm considering that have a higher entry-level salary, and as we plan to be working together long-term, I don't want to be pressured to move on for financial reasons. Can I just confirm whether we could agree to a review at the end of my probation period, once I've proven to be a valuable member of the team, to a salary in line with {number}?"

might be the way to go (although someone more skilled than me could improve it by probably $100k). But there is the obvious risk that they'll go "nope, don't want to hire someone who'd consider other jobs, thanks for your time".

I wouldn't mention any particular site, because that's just giving them a chance to discredit the source rather than the merits, simply treat the hypothetical average as "a potential opportunity" (which it is) that if asked, you "can't discuss"(because it would be a bad idea for you to do so).

And note that {number} can be higher than your original 95k, because you're not offering the same thing; specifically, you're reducing their risk, because if you turn out to be crap (don't turn out to be crap), they only paid you at the lower level. And if you turn out to be good, a jump in salary is easier to swallow.

Note that the critical thing here is to treat them like intelligent adults who've offered you a very good salary, but one that isn't quite high enough to guarantee your long-term loyalty. And you want to be loyal, so you'd like them to get there.

And obviously, the worst case is that you decline this offer, don't get the job, don't get any other job offers, and struggle for money. So if that's likely to be a major issue (given where you are, who you are, what's going on in your life, what the local job market's like, whether you have friends with a couch), the traditional advice of "don't play chicken with a runaway train" applies.

  • 2
    "Never give a number" is dubious advice at best.
    – Lilienthal
    Commented Aug 13, 2015 at 11:00
  • 1
    @Lilienthal Which is why I linked to a source, and clarified the more specific "never be the first to give a number" pretty early on. Even your source says "Be willing to throw out numbers yourself. Be suspicious if you name a range and the candidate still won’t talk about his or her own range." I mean, this question literally demonstrates "I said 85k-95k and now they're offering me that when the average is 97k, why would they do that, oh, because I literally told them to do so."
    – deworde
    Commented Aug 13, 2015 at 11:11

There are two parts to this. The first is negotiating. I hire lots of tech guys and I feel that the process is the same as buying an item off of craigslist.

So you browser around. Something peeks your interest. Let's say we are buying a bike. You send an email "Mister, how much you really want for that bike?" He says "$200". For a kid's bike yea right. So you just move on. But then you see a great kid's bike and the guy says he wants $75-100 for it.

Well then it comes down to how much better that bike is than the one I see for $60. If it is about the same I tell the guy I will give you $60 and that is it. But if it is a lot better or even somewhat better that is were the dilemma is. Maybe the bike is worth $200. It doesn't matter. In my head I don't think I could go a dime over $75 since he already gave me his lowest number. I would be the fool right?

Well maybe. Maybe he says $75-100 to just get interest in it. Maybe he isn't really a seller but would take $100. This isn't usually the case but it happens. The chances are the bike is mine for $75 if I think the value is much higher than that and maybe 60ish if I think it is just a $75 bike.

So you negotiated poorly. If anything better to say "85-95k depending on other benefits". Which this could mean health care, time off, expected working ours, work from home, company phone, company car (yes I have used it for a tech job), and so on. So then you have an out if you get a lower offer yet you still stay within range. I think I have talked to one HR/hiring manager that has laid out my exact benefits before me giving an estimate out of maybe 30 job offers. So your ass is covered.

Now the second part is what is at stake. I look at jobs in 2 year increments. If you don't have a job right now worrying about a few thousand dollars probably isn't a good strategy unless you think you can walk into most companies and get an offer for that amount. If you are worth 10k more you will get raises faster, promoted, or you will soon be able to go to a new company to compensate you.

I would ask them for their exact benefits/extras. Look over this for a day and tell them that you are set at 90k based on whatever and even mention that 95k would be more on par with your skills but you are willing to prove yourself. They already think they can have you for 85k though. So either they think you are a 100k bike or they just don't feel like browsing any longer. Really the best thing that you have going for you is employers generally like to make people at your pay level semi-happy when they start with them. They don't want a disgruntled employee starting out close to six figures.

  • 4
    Maybe you could add some headings to introduce and organize your ideas. I have trouble understanding what you expressed and what your point is.
    – Puzzled
    Commented Aug 12, 2015 at 6:55
  • This is far too much text to wade through. I stopped reading.
    – user8036
    Commented Aug 12, 2015 at 7:48
  • 1
    I read the entire thing... only takes a few minutes. Though I agree, headers would only benefit this.
    – insidesin
    Commented Aug 12, 2015 at 8:43
  • i read the whole thing while walking home. this is a pretty good answer.
    – bharal
    Commented Aug 12, 2015 at 18:27
  • How long was your commute? You should get a bike!
    – Bluebird
    Commented Aug 13, 2015 at 4:45

From a tech recruiter's perspective, counter offer situations are never good though often expected. The most common case is with a current employer and then other offers - if in the case of your question, you are basing your counter offer on some kind of market salary data then I would probably call you crazy if you were a close friend!

There is quite a lot of work, time and thought that goes into making an offer to employ someone so I would recommend thinking twice before you counter at all.

If you have stated that you are happy with a rem range and then change that on being offered a position - any company will probably see that as a negative...

If you suspect that a company is devious and looking to vastly underpay you compared to the market then you should probably be looking for a better aligned company based on values.

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