Tell me how to ask for much more
March 18, 2012 6:44 PM   Subscribe

What are the words I should use in my salary negotiation? I know what I want and my alternatives, etc. However, I'm going to be asking for a significant percentage increase over the initial offer, and it feels uncomfortable. Give me a script!

There are a lot of questions about negotiation on Ask, and I have perused every one.

This is more specifically about HOW I can ask for what I want. What are the best words to use? How do I phrase my request when I speak with HR?

Context:

I've been given a job offer that is definitely of interest, however the initial offer from the company would be an effective pay cut from my current salary (with change in cost of living factored in).

I'm fine with declining this offer if they can't meet my salary requirements. My best alternative to taking this job is keeping my current job, and I'm very happy with the company and I believe there is plenty of room for me to progress in terms of titles, responsibility and money in my current situation. To move companies would require a significant bump for me.

I plan to call HR tomorrow or the next day to ask for much more. My target base salary is a 25% increase over the first offer, so I believe I need to ask for about 50% more than the initial offer in my counter. This seems daunting. I know a lot about negotiation professionally and am good at it - just bad at doing it for myself (I'm female).

How would you suggest framing the conversation and potentially asking for a much higher number?
posted by rainydayfilms to Work & Money (21 answers total) 23 users marked this as a favorite
 
I deal with a fair number of people wanting to negotiate on salary and honestly, I can't totally recommend asking for that much more than you really want.

A real world example would be:
They're offering $60k but you want $75k so you ask for $90k - if someone came back to me with that request, I'd be unlikely to continue negotiating. In my experience, that's too much of a gap.

However, if someone came to me after a $60k offer and said, "Look, even with cost of living figured in, that's a pay cut for me - I'd really like to work something out but I simply cannot go lower than $75k" and I wanted them, I'd try to work it out.
posted by dotgirl at 6:54 PM on March 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


"It's not enough." Leave it at that. Don't be afraid of dead silence. "I don't know, it's just not enough." See what they come back with. They may double their offer straight off, unless you tell them you only want 50% more. QED
posted by rhizome at 7:07 PM on March 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


I agree with dotgirl -- asking 50% over the offered salary is simply so high that, unless it were an unusual situation, we wouldn't bother to continue negotiating. That telegraphs either that your expectations are absurd or that you're not serious. Like dotgirl, we'd try to work with someone who said "with cost of living, my bottom number is $75k" if we could, or be upfront with them if we couldn't. But if we're offering $60 and you're asking $90, we're not in the same sports league, let alone the same ballpark.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 7:11 PM on March 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


I recently asked for this kind of increase and got my target number with just one round of negotiation (me asking them for more money, them providing it). I laid out the reasoning (short and simplified) by phone, and explained where my cutoff point was to be able to consider making the move. They came back with exactly that amount, and seemed to respect that I'd bothered to do and explain the math to them.

I don't know many non C-level people who do several rounds of salary negotiation, or so I can't speak to how it's perceived by potential employers.
posted by deludingmyself at 7:14 PM on March 18, 2012


It may be helpful to say that I am fairly high level and I definitely have the leverage (skills, background) in this situation.

I'm intrigued by the positions suggested by dotgirl and McGee - and curious, if someone says $75K is their bottom line, do you actually give it to them?

Back to the actual question - how do people ask for more money in a way that you appreciate and are more willing to work with them on?
posted by rainydayfilms at 7:15 PM on March 18, 2012


deludingmyself - do you mind laying out exactly what you said?
posted by rainydayfilms at 7:16 PM on March 18, 2012


"I am excited about your offer. The salary you're offering represents a pay cut from my current position, which pays $x. Changing jobs is a big thing, and to be comfortable making this change, I'd want to be making a bit more at the new job than I did at the old one. If I were to ask for y% more than my current salary - a salary of $z - could you do that?"
posted by ManInSuit at 7:22 PM on March 18, 2012 [7 favorites]


(And - I'm with those earlier in the thread who say that it's okay to use the actual numbers you want. It's certainly possible to get 25% over the base offer by asking for 25% over the base offer. You don't necessarily have to start by asking for 50% over the base offer)
posted by ManInSuit at 7:23 PM on March 18, 2012


If you are afraid of asking for more than you actually want, you can ask for exactly what you want and refuse to budge. Using the above numbers as a guide, simply stick with "The job sounds great, but I really can't afford to take if for less than $75k"

If they come back with "well, we can't do $75k, but we can do $67k" you just respond with, "I'm sorry, but when I said I can't afford less than $75k, I really meant that, I need the $75k to be able to take the offer."

It gets more complicated depending in what other things are in the offer, though. When I took my current job I ended up negotiating a higher base salary in exchange for fewer stock units.
posted by tylerkaraszewski at 7:23 PM on March 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


Yeah, like others in the thread, I would not go 25% over - it could backfire by making you seem as if you don't have a sense of the appropriate salary for the role. That said, women typically undervalue themselves in salary negotiations, so make sure you are asking for what you're worth, and - as others suggest - simply refuse to negotiate downward from what you've said is your bottom line.
posted by judith at 7:26 PM on March 18, 2012


Also - tylerkaraszewski raises a really important point - there may be other benefits, financial or otherwise, that would make it possible/desirable for you to accept a salary less than the amount we are calling $75k. While it's good to stand firm for what you want, you can also be flexible about *how* you get that. You don't want to accidentally overlook a possibility where,say, they give you a $70k salary, and some other benefit that is worth $10k to you. (In the negotiation classic Getting to Yes, getting too fixated on the dollar figure would be described as The Cost of using a Bottom Line)
posted by ManInSuit at 7:33 PM on March 18, 2012


Like dotgirl, we'd try to work with someone who said "with cost of living, my bottom number is $75k" if we could, or be upfront with them if we couldn't. But if we're offering $60 and you're asking $90, we're not in the same sports league, let alone the same ballpark.
Wait... assuming $75k is the fair price that both sides would be willing to settle on... why is reasonable for the firm to offer $15k less than the fair price, but it's unreasonable for the candidate to ask for $15k more? I, too, would appreciate some insight here.

As for the OP, I would simply tell them what you told us: "My best alternative to taking this job is keeping my current job, and I'm very happy with the company and I believe there is plenty of room for me to progress in terms of titles, responsibility and money in my current situation. To move companies would require a significant bump for me." Tell them what your current salary is, and then tell them you'll take the job if they can offer that + X%. This way you're framing the argument in terms of a reasonable increase over your current salary, instead of a dramatic increase in their offer.
posted by monstrouspudding at 8:07 PM on March 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


Slate has a Negotiation skills mini-podcast, which gives pointers and some language, which you might find helpful.
posted by Mchelly at 8:47 PM on March 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


What ManInSuit said. I did this in the interview for the job that I'm moving home to Canada for. "I'm really excited by the job and the opportunity it presents, however the package you currently offer isn't enough to cover my cost of change. I need to have X to move, if you can match this in whatever manner works for you, then I'm yours".

I illustrated this by whipping out a spreadsheet on my Mac that showed them that I'd done the sums and wasn't just POOMAing* it. They went away and worked it so that the package made sense, but as others have said, give them flexibility to move and don't get fixated on the base salary. Also, this should be the opportunity to get everything you want out of the negotiation, don't try and pull a Columbo and say "just one more thing" once they have given you what you want.

*Pulled it Out Of My Ass (my old boss used to use this a lot!)
posted by arcticseal at 9:24 PM on March 18, 2012


"I'm intrigued by the positions suggested by dotgirl and McGee - and curious, if someone says $75K is their bottom line, do you actually give it to them?"

(and, elsewhere: "Wait... assuming $75k is the fair price that both sides would be willing to settle on... why is reasonable for the firm to offer $15k less than the fair price, but it's unreasonable for the candidate to ask for $15k more? I, too, would appreciate some insight here.")

I'm with a public institution, where our salary data is public, so it's a little different. For our higher-level people we have some wiggle-room, but if someone looked at our last Chief of Mongoose Management position that made $60,000 and came in and asked for $90,000, that would be a sign that they weren't particularly familiar with Mongoose Management roles in similar organizations and hadn't bothered to research our organization in particular. Also because we're fairly flat in terms of salaries across the organization, if you ask for 50% more than the offer, you're almost certainly asking to make more than your boss's boss.

So, I'm not assuming that $75k is a fair price; I'm assuming that the last person in the role got $60k and our preferred candidate wants $75k, firm. Chances are that we're going to say, "I'm sorry, we can't do $75k" because our budget is pretty constrained. Unless we're changing the job description significantly; then we have more wiggle-room. Or, for example, we had a position we filled about a year ago that was a managerial role, and the prior salary had been like the $60k situation. (I can't remember the exact numbers but these invented numbers illustrate it well enough.) Our preferred candidate was from out-of-state and wanted $75k, which he was upfront about. Looking at his prior experience and achievements, it was a fair request, but we didn't have it in the budget. HOWEVER, there had been a secretarial role reporting to that manager whose job had been largely made redundant by technology and that secretary was preparing to retire. So we were able to go to the candidate and say, "If you do it without a secretary, and take on the remaining shreds of that secretarial role within your job description, we can go to $75k."

We also don't typically engage in "positional bargaining" in salary negotiations (where, in this instance, we offer $60 and you want $75 so you ask for $90 and we negotiate to meet in the middle). We do more interest-based and integrative bargaining, where people are more up-front about their interests, needs, and goals, and it's viewed as a cooperative negotiation rather than an adversarial competition. So someone who came in doing that sort of positional bargaining would also possibly not be a very good fit for our culture. When you say this: "My target base salary is a 25% increase over the first offer, so I believe I need to ask for about 50% more than the initial offer in my counter." -- I would urge you to look at other negotiating strategies, and decide if you're sure that that sort of marketplace haggling is the right strategy for this. It might well be for your industry, location, and job type. But for us, we're more interested in working with the candidate to find a (forgive the phrase) win-win situation where everyone's interests are advanced; after all, they're joining our team.

But, again, we're a public institution where salaries are public information, so if we offer much less than we can afford, that's obvious to the job candidate. And if we pay more than we can afford, that's obvious to the taxpayer. :) And if we have three people in the same job, it's not like we can keep their salaries secret from one another. So it's a bit different.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 9:29 PM on March 18, 2012 [4 favorites]


Hmm. I actually *had* a script, but I trashed it. But I also had a spreadsheet. And since you're asking, the first thing I did was to email them back and say, "hey, that's a bit lower than I was hoping for. Could you send me over the full details on benefits so that I can make sure I'm making an apples to apples comparison against my current pay? Then I put those numbers (stuff like company contribution to health insurance, 401k match, expected bonus, etc) into my spreadsheet so that I could make estimate the total value of the compensation package to me compared to my current comp. (Since it was all in the same location, I didn't have to factor in cost of living, but I could have here.) Then I called them back up and said something like "hi, I'm very flattered by your continued interest in me as a candidate and by your offer, and thanks for sending over the additional details. I'm very excited about YOUR_CO and the position, but I have to tell you that when I crunch all the numbers and compare it to my current job, it's really not much of a step up for me. My current salary is X, with a Y-Z% bonus and pretty comparable benefits. I've got great reviews and am expecting total comp of $BASE+DREAMBONUS this year. That's actually pretty close to what you're offering me, with a few differences in overall compensation like [benefit A], [benefit B]. I'd need an offer of at least $TARGETAMOUNT to make the move to YOUR_CO."

We had a bit of back and forth about whether I'd be interested/willing to take stock options instead, and then he told me he'd call me back in 24 hours. He did, with exactly what I'd asked for.
posted by deludingmyself at 9:57 PM on March 18, 2012 [12 favorites]


You need to focus on what is market for the job in question with the degree of contribution you expect to make. What you are making now and what your expenses are irrelevant. You are selling a premium product, not buying something if you can afford it. Kids out of good law schools with high grades with no prior income or obligations can get $160k salaries because that's what the competitive market provides.

"I'm aware of three 'Director of X' positions that have been filled in Region Y in the past year and my industry sources lead me to believe salary levels averaged Z. LinkedIn confirms I have four years more relevant experience than the best-experienced of those three and therefore what I should make is Z+15%."
posted by MattD at 4:26 AM on March 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


Assume I know my value and have a spreadsheet with all data. Personally I do not perceive "state a value and refuse to budge" as an effective negotiation strategy though it may work in some industries. Also assume base salary is the sole issue (all other aspects are good)

The concern is HOW to phrase the request while being both pleasant and firm. My issue is either going very hard ball (ok in business, sometimes perceived as too intense in this kind of situation) or getting awkward, unsure and not seeming confident about request.

I think it was not clear this is a question about style, not substance of the negotiation.
posted by rainydayfilms at 7:38 AM on March 19, 2012


I think it is sometimes easier to think of this as your "salary requirement" not how much they are paying you...make it less personal.

I would agree with others that if you came back to me asking 50% more than I'd offered I'd be done. It would seem disingenuous and would make me uncomfortable with how you would approach future needs or issues.

I'm not sure what industry you are in, but I agree with those above. Ask for what you really want, explain how you arrived at that figure, talk about cost of living but also talk about the value you are bringing to the position. Finally, maybe you can get some additional benefits, like having the company pay for your move. Sometimes the issue is keeping your salary comparable to your colleagues, but you can eek out some funds in other ways.
posted by fyrebelley at 8:56 PM on March 19, 2012


Personally I do not perceive "state a value and refuse to budge" as an effective negotiation strategy though it may work in some industries....

The concern is HOW to phrase the request while being both pleasant and firm. My issue is either going very hard ball (ok in business, sometimes perceived as too intense in this kind of situation) or getting awkward, unsure and not seeming confident about request.


This might be clear to you, but I think it's important to understand: There's a real difference between taking a "very hardball" approach, saying "$x. Take it or leave it", and the approach others and I have suggested here, which is to talk honestly and openly about the figure you are hoping for, how you arrived at it, and why it makes sense to you.

Even if that figure is one you require, and you make clear that you'll walk if you don't get it- that's not "hardball" in the sense of being overly aggressive. That's being honest and clear.

On the other hand - naming a figure much more than what you want, in hopes that concealing your real prefences/needs will work better than being honest- that seems to be more aggressive, and less cooperative/collaborative (even if it seems less "hardball" because you've created the appearance of flexibility by artificially padding your figures).

Also assume base salary is the sole issue (all other aspects are good)

Sure. But what if you ask for that figure we are calling $75k, and they come back and say "We see what you are saying. And we wish we could hire you But out hands our tied. $70k is the very best we can pay you." If you're able to explore those other options, you might be able to find ways to create the extra $5k (or even more) of value. Being open to looking at those possibilities may make the difference between having to walk away from the new job, or being able to craft a deal where you can happily take it.

I realize some of this may be veering away from your initial question, and may be more advice than you want. IAANI (I am a negotiation instructor), so sometimes it can be hard for me to keep my opinions to myself on these matters.
:)
posted by ManInSuit at 1:00 PM on March 20, 2012


The difference between $70K and $75K is a bureaucratic quibble. Not only that, but taking a hard line on $5K tells me they don't necessarily want *you*, but that they want a person who is cool with $70K at face value (i.e. without further room for negotiation). I doubt vacation time or non-salary compensation is going to be any more negotiable than salary at a place like that.
posted by rhizome at 1:22 PM on March 20, 2012


« Older My husband and I have just ret...   |  I have given hundreds of lectu... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.