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How to best clarify salary expectations
May 17, 2011 7:02 AM   Subscribe

A friend recently got a job offer, yay! When she spoke with the hiring manager at the time of the initial offer, she was told she'd receive a certain amount of money, with a percentage raise after the first year. But when she received the formal offer letter, the letter specifies only the first year salary, and says nothing about a raise. Should she say something to the hiring manager? Any suggestions on how she might phrase her concerns?
posted by lesli212 to Work & Money (11 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
Call the HR person that sent the letter;

"Thanks! I got the letter and everything looks great. Just you [or hiring manager so-and-so] said that I would have a guarenteed percentage raise the first year, and it wasn't in the contract. Can we get that added?"
posted by rich at 7:10 AM on May 17, 2011 [4 favorites]


Yes, she should say something. "Can you include the raise schedule we agreed in the offer letter?" is fine.

Until she finds out why it was missing from the letter, this isn't even negotiating. It's just clarifying something that might be a typo. Unless she's applied to work for crazy people, it would be very difficult to bring up something that was verbally agreed upon in such a way that would lead to the withdrawal of the offer.

But if it turns out that this is negotiating, she should keep in mind that she has the offer because the company have made a decision that they want her. She is now in a strong position, since they will be reluctant to restart the search (I'm assuming this is a skilled/expensive to fill vacancy).
posted by caek at 7:10 AM on May 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


IME you're always told you'll get a certain raise after a certain amount of time, or every year, or whatever. That's just something companies say to sell the job to you. I don't believe they have any actual obligation to follow through on it, although one employer once did, one year. But not the subsequent five years I worked there.
posted by tel3path at 7:19 AM on May 17, 2011


I took an internal job once that was a decent step up and was told "since it's November, we'll keep you at your salary until January (mid-fiscal year) and then bump you up to X." Well January came and went and I got no bump. I did get additional responsibility and hours including after-hours and on-call work. I fought with them for a year and then finally got a bump to an even higher rate than we had discussed (though really just for inflation reasons) and I was let go about 6 months later.

Now I get all of my terms in writing. It doesn't look like you're a money-grubber or being picky to do this. It's a contract and the language should be acceptable to both sides. I do get turned down for contract work now because my terms are not acceptable to the company, but I'm not working for less than I think I should anymore either.

I think she should call the hiring manager or HR department (depending on which makes more sense in this situation) and ask them to clarify the terms in writing if this is a deal-breaker for her.
posted by Clinging to the Wreckage at 7:47 AM on May 17, 2011


IME you're always told you'll get a certain raise after a certain amount of time, or every year, or whatever. That's just something companies say to sell the job to you. I don't believe they have any actual obligation to follow through on it...

Not unless they put it in the contract, no.
posted by atrazine at 8:25 AM on May 17, 2011


Here's the thing:

No matter how much writing she gets it in, it's not guaranteed. Even with the best of intentions, the time could come and their budget could change from above. Or the company could go under. Assuming we are talking about the US, it's very very unusual to have an employment contract at all. if it's a normal at-will job, they are under no under obligation to even keep her around for a year, let alone give her a raise. At the point in a year when they say "well no, we can't because blah blah" her only option is to eat it or walk. So basically, same situation you're in when you go to the boss and ask for a raise in the normal way.

Plus, what if she does a super-outstanding job between now and then and decides she deserves *more* of a raise, but she's already locked in to a smaller one?

When I'm negotiating for a new job, I always dismiss promises about "the future" as absolutely worthless and do not consider them at all. As I said, even with the best of intentions (and how often do businesses have the best of intentions?), circumstances can and do change in unforeseeable ways.

nb: If I was her I might be more inclined to negotiate a flat bonus after x months, since that's a more concrete deliverable. But of course even that is subject to never being delivered for any number of reasons.

posted by drjimmy11 at 8:55 AM on May 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


drjimmy11 makes very fair points above. My earlier comments were coming from more of a contractor perspective where there is a specific contract for X money on Y date lasting for Z months. I'm in an at-will state (as most of them are now) and I agree that paper is not worth much if they decide they don't need you anymore.
posted by Clinging to the Wreckage at 9:17 AM on May 17, 2011


Your friend's probably isn't a government position, but be aware that if it's any sort of "development program" or "probationary period" with a standardized hire-on program, it is guaranteed because it's a standard program.

I'm currently in such a program where as I pass through the program and my title is updated, my salary will be bumped up by at-least-X% per title, depending on performance, with a schedule and defined goals for each section.

However, you probably would have mentioned that if it were, so for private industry it's not guaranteed unless in the contract, and even then she should make sure the 'current' offer is to her liking.
posted by bookdragoness at 9:42 AM on May 17, 2011


I'm inclined to agree with drjimmy11, but two ways of going about this would be to take the "CEO of Me, Inc." attitude and always be looking out for yourself. If you want to have them include wording in the employment agreement (EA) attesting to the raise schedule, ask nicely and you can take their answer in stride. This isn't the end.

If they do include language in the EA about raises, think of Clinging To The Wreckage's (and mine) experience of the raise passing without notice. It's common for companies to want to pay as little as possible, sure, so as the raise milestone approaches, start asking to schedule a meeting for it, say two weeks before. Don't wait until it's passed so that you're wondering "Hey, what happened?" (out loud or not), be proactive. "My raise milestone is approaching so I want to be sure we handle it before things get crazy" or some such.

Hunt for jobs in this period. You aren't playing hardball, but if this raise milestone can act as a kind of deadline for you to see if the company is on the up and up, you might as well prepare yourself for the possibility that it isn't. However, you don't want to get denied this meeting/raise and then slink back to your desk for the next year or two. Have something in your back pocket, and if you get a bite for a new job you can use that as a negotiating tool. The extreme end of this is that if they shine you on about the milestone, even if it's in your EA, you'd be able to instantly reply with a two-week notice. This is the idealistic dreamworld of forcing them to take you seriously, I'm not recommending it for real-life as much as for a thought-experiment and a way to think about contingencies in a worst-case scenario.

If they don't include the language in your EA and there is no milestone to be had, start hunting for jobs as soon as you start to feel underpaid. For me this takes the form of "are you kidding?" type thoughts, or any general sense of lameness. If they have refused to keep your salary in mind for the future, you can do the same with your loyalty. Give them a chance by asking about increased responsibilities or "they told me in the interview," in case they do stick to their word, but if you have no scheduled raise you are best prepared by being able to jump ship.

I realize this is pretty strategic, but I highly recommend keeping your interests first.
posted by rhizome at 11:31 AM on May 17, 2011


lesli212: "When she spoke with the hiring manager"

Sorry to say, hiring managers say lots of things. Unfortunately for your friend, they're not the ones actually setting the terms of employment. Unless your friend is being hired as an executive/key employee, I don't think she'll get any kind of guaranteed raise built in to her offer letter. They, in turn, are not requiring your friend to stay with them for any length of time.
posted by mkultra at 12:10 PM on May 17, 2011


Ok, wow, most people really overcomplicated this question. My friend already knows that, as an "at will" employee, she could be fired at any time. She knows that having this language in the contract is not "ironclad" (meaning, if they fire her, she won't get a raise in a year). That's partly why she wasn't sure she should say anything, and the other part was wondering whether it even needed to be part of the contract.

But, as Clinging to the Wreckage pointed out, it's always better to have terms in writing as opposed to a verbal agreement. She actually already had those terms in writing (in an email), but it can only help to have them also in the contract which she and the company representatives will sign. Thanks to caek also for the advice of approaching the problem informally, as if it were a typo; ultimately, that's what it was (the hiring manager communicated it to HR, but HR forgot to add it to the boilerplate).

I really, really, don't think most companies are out to screw their employees. Presumably, the only reason companies make money is because they hire employees to do the work. Plus, it would be more expensive for the company to spend time and money training new employees every year; offering a raise to a current employee instead of the old employee being fired or quitting saves companies money. Thanks to rhizome also for tips about being proactive about mentioning the raise in advance of the year deadline; she said she probably would have neglected to think of that (there is a formal annual review structure, during which she can negotiate for the next year's raise).
posted by lesli212 at 8:24 PM on May 17, 2011


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