46

I recently interviewed an applicant. At the end of the interview I asked him what he was looking for in terms of salary.

The number he gave was substantially higher than what I had in mind (about 50% higher). I did some research to make sure that my salary expectations for the job and in my specific area were reasonable, and I'm very confident that they are.

Presuming that the candidate would otherwise be a good fit, is it worth to negotiate?

With such a large difference in salary expectations I feel like there isn't any way that we are both going to end up happy, but I'm relatively new to hiring and uncertain about a definitive answer. Could there be more to the story here that I am missing?


Having read all this advice and having had more time to reflect upon the interview, here are some more details that might be relevant:

We advertised a position for a full stack engineer and he emailed us directly with his resume as a front-end HTML/CSS developer. He understood the fact that he was not the candidate we were asking for in our job posting, but we have a variety of needs (including an expert in those skills), so we interviewed him anyway. As a result, there was no stated salary expectations (although his asking salary is at the high end of the posted engineer salary range).

It sounds like at his current job he has a wide variety of different responsibilities. However, he billed himself to us as a front end HTML/CSS person, which is the skill set I was interested in. His other skills aren't of real value to us, and other skills that would make him more valuable to us are things that he doesn't have. As a result, his value to us is largely driven by his experience as an HTML/CSS developer. It could be that he might be worth more to other companies that might give him broader responsibilities.

  • 41
    It's completely normal. Just say "I can offer you X" Nothing more to it. Everyone always starts "far higher, far lower" on each end. Don't make a big fuss, at all, about the 50% aspect. Don't even mention the 50% aspect. Just state "we can offer you X". It's a non-issue, 50% is nothing in a negotiation. (If the person ends up going somewhere else, good luck to them, right?) Bottom line: it's commonplace to have such differences in a salary negotiation. – Fattie Jun 13 '17 at 12:46
  • 54
    You may want to make sure you both mean the same thing by "salary". It sounds like you take it to mean "wages" and he may mean "total compensation package, including benefits." Get on the same page first - then decide whether or not it's worth pursuing. – sleddog Jun 13 '17 at 12:46
  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – Jane S Jun 16 '17 at 11:45
85

Presuming that the candidate would otherwise be a good fit, is it worth to negotiate?

If you don't negotiate, you definitely won't hire him (because he's asking too much) and therefore you're left without an employee.

If you DO negotiate (even if "negotiating" is just "look, I can offer you X, take it or leave it") then you MIGHT get an employee in the end. You might also not, but that really just leaves you where you would've been anyway - meaning you haven't lost anything in making the attempt.

It seems to me the only real question to ask is "can I negotiate for something in between my value and his (and how high can I go), or do I need to stand firm?" That's a question best asked of your own boss, if you don't already know the answer. Then, go back to the candidate and make him your best offer.

Que sera, sera.

  • 35
    OP could end up with an employee who jumps ship too soon. That's worse than not hiring at all. – stannius Jun 13 '17 at 17:37
  • 52
    If the candidate agrees to negotiate, accepts the offer of a lower price and then proceeds to jump ship because "he's not getting paid enough," that's the candidate operating in bad faith. Apart from watching for red flags during the interview itself, I'm not sure what the interviewer can do to avoid those sorts of shenanigans. – Steve-O Jun 13 '17 at 18:10
  • 29
    In fact, if the candidate is inclined to jump ship immediately because he gets a better offer elsewhere, he'd probably be inclined to do that anyway even if the OP gave him the salary he requested. If someplace else offers him 10% more, he's gone. – Steve-O Jun 13 '17 at 18:14
  • 6
    Maybe the candidate might act in bad faith, maybe they might decide that it's worth working for less money because of the location/team/work/whatever, maybe they might delude themselves it's worth working for less but then later realize the delusion. I am not saying "don't negotiate," just that you need to explore the reason for the difference in expectations just as much as you need to agree on a salary. – stannius Jun 13 '17 at 20:01
  • 3
    @JaguarWong Yes, it can be worse: in many jobs, there's a steep enough learning curve that you can't really contribute fully for a while, so an employee who quits before they get past that period doesn't actually provide much value. Sometimes hiring is an investment, not just a daily purchase of labor. – Cascabel Jun 13 '17 at 23:19
43

Negotiating on salary is actually an important part of hiring process - not only for obvious reasons but also because you can find something about the person you are considering to hire.

The best option would be to be frank and ask: "The salary you've requested is bigger than I've anticipated for this role. While it's perfectly normal, I'd like to know more about your reasoning behind this".

There's whole palette of possible answers that will potentially help you see candidate under different angle. Even if you are 100% sure that it's not negotiable, at least you'll know more.

  • 15
    I like the idea that a candidates handling of this situation is also another window into their qualities as an employee. – Conor Mancone Jun 13 '17 at 18:08
  • 11
    This might be unfair. The common advice is to start high and work down, because you anticipate the other guy to start down and work up. But now you're suddenly asking him why he started high. Who's going to tell you the obvious truth to your face -- that they started high because expected you to start low, because that's how negotiations work? You're effectively coercing him into lying. If you're really so confident that your existing employees would tell you the honest truth to your face, then go for it. Otherwise, if he lies, it's more a reflection on you than him. – Mehrdad Jun 14 '17 at 3:09
  • 3
    @immibis: I mean, if you want to deliberately make the interview unfair and be a jerk by forcing someone to lie, then go ahead. I'm not crying for the other guy, I'm just making it clear that that's what you'd be doing. – Mehrdad Jun 14 '17 at 5:05
  • 3
    @Mehrdad I've negotiated about salary like all we did and always was completely fine with any questions of this kind. For starters, I'd never tried play high, I just named the figure is relevant to my current set of skills regarding the situation at the market at the moment. I've never treated this as if I'm forced to lie or insult anyone btw. – shabunc Jun 14 '17 at 5:19
  • 4
    Wrong advice, you just anchored around 50% more and are going to be in a long conversation about whether you will pay 20% or 30% more in the near future. – user42272 Jun 14 '17 at 15:46
12

I would have to respectfully disagree with the other comments and answers if you are looking for a long term employee. If you are looking to fill a hole quickly, then maybe I would make an offer. If I were looking long term, the fact is that this person is most likely to be unhappy working for you and will be putting in time while looking for another job. In the end you waste all the resources that go into training / getting up to speed. In the long run if that person thinks they are worth 50% more than you offer they wont want to stay long term.

50% is a big number. If he is going high to negotiate, he must really be wanting at least 20% or so more than your offer.

ps I would take one more look at your research into what the local market is paying for those skills. If his skills are in high demand, it may be that he really is worth much more than you planned to offer for the position.

  • 5
    That's my concern. I'm still very confused about the discrepancy. He seemed very confident that what he was asking was reasonable, and I'm still fairly certain that it was way off. I ended up turning him down as a candidate without further negotiations because of some additional reasons. However, we have more hiring to do in the next month or so, so I figured I might as well ask as many questions as I can now :) – Conor Mancone Jun 13 '17 at 18:12
  • 1
    @ConorMancone - I am not confused by the discrepancy, assuming I have correctly understood your comments on the question. He applied for a role (role 1), which had in its advert a salary of up to 3X. He therefore stated his salary expectation was 3X. You interviewed him thinking of putting him in a completely different role, role 2, which you would only expect to pay 2X for. I assume he thought he was interviewing for role 1, or equivalent seniority in role 2, and therefore expected the advertised salary. – AndyT Jun 14 '17 at 10:13
  • This answer boils down to "this employer should be paying 50% more than the market rate," and I'm not sure why this employer is not part of the market. Because they want a hire quickly? I can't really imagine a firm in a job market wanting a hire slowly. – user42272 Jun 14 '17 at 15:44
  • As for your last stanza it's really on the employee's burden to explain why he didn't just make up a number. And I strongly recommend not asking since you don't want to frame around an unproven high number. If he doesn't volunteer justification he's probably full of it. – user42272 Jun 14 '17 at 15:45
  • @djechlin You can't imagine any situation in which hiring ASAP for an immediate need, and taking your time to hire the best person you can at a reasonable rate, are at odds? – Matthew Read Jun 14 '17 at 19:32
3

You negotiate by simply declining to giving the candidate an offer at that price. What you don't do is negotiate poorly, which means letting the candidate frame the conversation at an out-of-band number, and that would surely happen if you open yourself up to having to explain what's wrong with their number.

"I'm sorry but we don't offer that compensation, good luck in your search."

Is about what you want to do.

0

Did you press him to give a number? If you did he could be following the advice of a book that I recently read on negotiation. There the author specifically says to give an unrealistic number when forced to give one. Then a person, in your position will say "wow, I can't do that". Essentially closing the "sale", now it is just a mater of price (salary in this case). You are probably considering raising the amount you were willing to pay for the position.

I'd talk to the candidate. You will have to make sure of two things: First he can afford to live on the number he is giving. There may be other reasons why he is asking for a high salary, perhaps personal reasons dictate how much salary he can accept. You do not want to hire someone who cannot afford to live.

Second is that he will be happy at the agreed upon amount. You don't want to hire someone who is cranky about the salary they accepted even though it was their choice.

It is always worth it to have a conversation to see where a negotiation could go.

The book is Never Split the Difference: Negotiating As If Your Life Depended On It, and a fun read for non-fiction.

  • 1
    Meh. If the author of that book is such an amazing negotiator, why aren't they out negotiating and doing awesome deals instead of writing books about it? By requesting an unrealistic salary, the candidate has come very close to removing themself from consideration for the job. That sounds like a lousy plan, "if your life depended on it." – David Richerby Jun 14 '17 at 16:53
  • 1
    Well the author was a hostage negotiator for the FBI; and, currently owns a consulting firm that specializes on the subject. He certainly new more about the subject than most people I know. – Pete B. Jun 14 '17 at 17:11
  • I'm failing to see the applicability. In a hostage situation, it's the hostage taker who's making demands. So he's advising them to make unrealistic demands to get more concessions from the FBI? – David Richerby Jun 14 '17 at 17:27

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.