Salary Negotiations 101

Does anyone here feel like they know how this works?

It always makes me crazy, especially if the question comes up prior to the actual in-person interview. How have people handled the question “What are your salary requirements?”, especially when it comes up in a pre-interview questionaire?

My sense for it is to give an accurate description of current salary and then side-step the salary equirements question, until after the interview (or give a farily wide range, if pressed).


Tell them one billion dollars, then give the Dr. Evil pinky laugh.

+/- 3% of your current salary would probably be a good figure to shoot out.

Tell them what you got paid at your last job and whether you considered it appropriate for that job. Then tell them what you think this new position is worth.

I never, ever tell people what I made at my last job. I just ask for how much money I want and if they don’t like it, I move on.

That would seem to be the best way. It’s pretty simple: they are asking you that because they are trying to lowball you. The best way to get a raise above the standard 3% merit increase is to get a new job. You know that. They know that. They’d rather give you the merit increase instead of paying what you’re worth.

Look at or and take it from there.

You may not want to reveal the salary you desire because it could either price you out of the job (if you give a higher number with the intention to negotiate down, the employer may think you’re just too high and not even proceed further) or you could leave money on the table. The best way to address it is by directing the conversation to compensation and quality of life rather than salary.

You can tell the recruiter or HR person that salary is just one small part. You take into consideration compensation and quality of life. Now this may depend on the type of job and industry but here are things that contribute to compensation that you can mention:
full benefits (vacation, medical, dental, vision, 401k)
company car
cell phone
tuition reimbursement
corporate discounts
company paid lodging
bonus structures

Then you can move on to mentioning quality of life issues such as:
commute time
work environment
managers personality
work hours

If your commute was 15 minutes each way versus 90 minutes each way, would you accept a slightly lower salary? If the times you had to be on call was a weekend every other month versus two weekends each month, would you be willing to take a little less?

You can emphasize the point that you’re looking to be paid fairly and competitively by market rates and you look at the entire compensation and quality of life issue, not just the salary figure.

When you finish explaining all of that, they still may ask “How much are you looking for?” Sometimes you just can’t avoid it.

There’s a psychological “satisfaction” factor involved in any negotiation over price, whether it’s your salary, or a car, or whatever.

To feel satisfied, both the buyer and the seller has to feel that they’ve gotten a better deal than what was originally offered.

So the dance goes like this.

They make an offer
You make a counter offer
They make a counter offer to the counter offer
You accept.

You make a counter offer so that the other party does not think, “gee, we could’ve gotten this guy for cheaper”.

Instead of accepting your counter offer, they make a second offer so that you do not think, “gee, I could’ve asked for more.”

You both leave the negotiating table feeling good.

You say, “Well, I’ve done x, I know y, and I’ve worked at Zsoft for this many years. So, I’d like to make as much as everyone else with my same qualifications. What are you paying for similar positions?”

See what I did there?

Like any other negotiation, the first person to name a price loses. Say “commensurate with experience” and stick to that until after they’ve decided they want you.

My view, as someone who has both hired and negotiated positions for myself for 20 years:

As Roger noted, you should try to get them to name a sum first. Asking you to name a sum upfront is a classic negotiation play, under the theory that he who names a price first is in the weaker negotiating position. If someone asks you this early in the process, it is perfectly OK to say “I don’t know enough about the position, the project or the people I’ll be working with to make that judgment yet.” As a rule, when interviewing/negotiating in my own behalf, I always push all talk of money to the end of the process, after all the interviews and visits to the office.

Beyond that, Super D has great advice on the trade-offs. And remember:

You don’t get what you deserve, you get what you negotiate.

Be real careful with some of these things because the hiring people usually don’t disclose the fine print. I’ve had a few friends take jobs they were super psyched about because the job had flex time and paid cell phones and lots of other neat benefits, only to find out that those benefits were only available to people with X years seniority, or only to people in management roles, or some other dodge that basically meant those benefits wouldn’t be applicable to the position they were hired for.

So don’t just accept “yes we have flex time” or “working from home is fine” instead ask the specific questions about how their policy goes and how many people use it. Get them to talk details.

Fuck, I’m glad this thread came up, because I’m clearly a piss-poor negotiator.

I would think, that they’d have to disclose specifics once you were in the wage negotiation part of the talk. But of course ymmw.
My last two interviews consisted of two talks. One about the job and me and no mention of money and one where the job was basically mine, if we could agree on the details like pay.
I didn’t do well the first time around, but the second time because I negotiated from a position of power, I did quite well.
So playing hardball also depends on, what you have to lose. I was in a good job, I liked, and somebody wanted me to leave that, so my point was, that it was going to cost them.

Usually they won’t ask you what you want in terms of pay, they ask what you made at your last job. At least we do. Then internally we look at what we pay normally for the position and make an offer. If the candidate is weak, it’s a lowball offer, if the candidate is strong they get a bigger offer. Any candidate that explicitly names his/her “compensation requirements” up front is usually grilled three times as hard at the interview. It doesn’t place them out, it just puts them under the microscope.

If you can’t dodge the question at all, or if they ask you point blank, sum up your abilities in a sentence or two (with confidence) then give a range. Say, "Well considering my experience and how much I think I could bring to this position, I was looking for a range of X to Y. X = your last salary plus enough to justify whatever is needed for this new job (relocation, cost of living, travel, etc.) Y = where you think you want to be with this company in 2-3 years.

HR knows the game too, but by doing it that way you can force the game of them wanting to give you a competitive offer. If they ask you your last salary know that for what it is … “well we could offer him his last salary plus 5 or 10%.” Answer accordingly.

Tip #2: If asked, you have been interviewing elsewhere, but are pursuing the position here because it seems like a much better fit for you and you like the challenge that the job holds.

I’m in the middle of interviewing for a new job, and I’ve been on the other side (interviewing candidates and hiring) for twenty something years. I’ve had the good fortune of having an national outplacement company available this time, and they have some great resources and experience.

The consistent advice is always avoid talking money specifics until they make you the offer (i.e., until they’ve narrowed it down to you as the #1 candidate.) Paraphrasing, the recommendation is pretty much, when asked about compensation requirements, to respond by saying that if you and the company decide that this is a good fit, you’re sure that they’ll offer a fair compensation package and that you’ll be able to work that out. If they push harder, “OK, but what salary are you looking for?” the standard answer is “It depends very much upon the job and the location and the total compensation and benefits package - what is the salary range that the company is considering paying for this role?”

If you get someone that absolutely insists on a number, like others have said, sites like are good for doing your homework, and you try to give a more abstract range response if possible, i.e. “what I’m seeing being offered for this type of role, depending again on the location and other benefits and the precise job responsibilities, is in the 80s to 90s, ballpark.”

If you have the good fortune to be working through a headhunter/recruiter, a good one, you can use them to do some off-line negotiation. For example, I have two companies that appear to be ready to make me an offer this week, one in the Kansas City area, one in the mid-Pennsylvania area, and I’ve had the recruiters feed things to the companies, i.e. “The other company is offering to buy-out their house as part of the relocation package” and “the other company is going to give him the vacation of a 20 year vet rather than a new hire”, etc. I’ve also had them as an in-between on some salary probes.

Oh yeah - in reference to people accepting jobs and being surprised after they get there, e.g. “Oh, we DO offer a 1:1 401K match on the first 4%, but only after you’ve been here 5 years.” - always get the offer in writing before accepting. With all the details. No company should balk at that, in fact they should do that even if you don’t ask.

I think it depends on the kind of company, the industry, etc. I’ve definitely known a few companies that would balk at putting things in writing, or worse some hr drone would say that the hiring manager exceeded their authority to authorize flextime for a new hire without the pre-requisite 9 years of seniority and just ignore what was in writing.

Not necessarily bad companies to work for either, just ones with excessively strict or powerful HR departments that don’t allow hiring managers any flexibility.

Can the company really unilaterally repudiate a clause in an offer letter after the fact without repudiating the whole letter? Is this an issue of it being bad form to sue your current employer for a minor benefit?

I coulda used this thread a month or so ago. But my boss is a fairly-active Qt3 participant, I’ll add that I’m happy with what I got, =)