How do I negotiate salary?
September 5, 2009 4:42 PM   Subscribe

Negotiating salary. What? How? Do I email? Phone? Accept the offer, and then negotiate? And what wording do I use to not sound like a dick?

All right, I got offered a job! However, I'd like to negotiate the salary to get maybe $1-2/hour more. Here are details:

- The HR director sent me the email on Thursday, and was out Friday, back on Tuesday
- I have not officially accepted the offer yet
- The position is entry-level

Things in my favor:
1) I am hardworking, a good employee, good references, blah blah, but I'm guessing this will not sway them as I haven't worked there yet
2) I am considering other offers that pay $3-4/hour more than what this job has offered me
3) I know for a fact the guy who worked the job before me, who had similar credentials, was paid the salary I'm asking. Before [i]him[/i] they paid someone $3/hour more than that (though that person had much better credentials than I do).

Things not in my favor:
1) This job is entry-level
2) I do not have direct job experience in this exact area

I'm not sure how this negotiation will work. Do I send an email that says "I would like the job, but could you give me more money" just to acknowledge the offer as quickly as possible? Do I wait until Tuesday and call to say the same thing? Do I accept the offer by email, then call to negotiation on Tuesday? Do I accept the offer with HR and negotiate the salary with my would-be supervisor? I have no experience in this area whatsoever. I don't want to leave the offer hanging over the weekend, but I also have read it's improper to negotiate by email.

Also, what specific language would you recommend so I don't sound greedy?
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (11 answers total)
I had a great job offer once, but it was a little out of my way. When I hesitated (over the phone), they immediately upped the hourly rate to $1 more.

I'd say wait until Tuesday, let the HR person get settled in their office after a long holiday weekend (i.e., 10:30ish after their coffee break/emails but not so close to lunch that they'll be starving), and give a call. Just say, "I'd really love to work for your company but I need $XX per hour to make it feasible to accept your offer. Will that work for you?" They may be going by a scale and offering the lowest to start.

Don't take a job where you can't survive on the salary or feel it's not in line with your experience and abilities (unless you are destitute and need it, given the economy, etc.). I've had to renegotiate other jobs and ended up making as much as $4 more than the original position by pointing out that people using similar softwares and performing like tasks made $XX. The response will let you know if they have room to negotiate.
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 4:56 PM on September 5, 2009 [1 favorite]

Something along the lines of "I'm really interested in this position, but I was hoping for a little higher hourly rate. Is there any room to negotiate here?" seems like a polite, non-greedy way to ask.
posted by FishBike at 5:20 PM on September 5, 2009 [3 favorites]

Just give them the facts: you have better offers, the people before you got more money, etc. Also, if the other offers pay $3-4/hour more, ask for $4-6 because it will give you some negotiation space.
posted by Foci for Analysis at 5:39 PM on September 5, 2009 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Just to make sure you know, accepting the offer means you accept the salary being offered.

If you want more money, you have to ask for more, and then if they agree they will make a new offer.

"I'd really love to work for your company but I need $XX per hour to make it feasible to accept your offer. Will that work for you?

This sounds like a perfectly reasonable way to bring it up. But really any polite phrase is fine. If they are the kind of the people who would hold it against you for trying to negotiate a fair salary, they are not the kind of people you want to work with anyway. In my experience the "how dare he? doesn't he know how lucky he is to work here/have an offer from us?" attitude is the NUMBER ONE red flag of a shitty employer.
posted by drjimmy11 at 5:44 PM on September 5, 2009 [3 favorites]

Elaborating on the above, since you have two offers to pick between, I think you should look at not only the money offered, but also the way in which each company handles the process. When a good company finds someone they want, they do everything they can to accommodate him. If they can't afford the money, they will offer something else, or at the very least handle the negotiations in a professional and respectful fashion.

This is your chance to learn a lot about what kind of people they are before you commit to working for them. Remember you are evaluating them just as much as they are evaluating you. I know it's tough (I struggle with it all the time), but try not to be intimidated or overly deferential. You will get better results and feel better about yourself.
posted by drjimmy11 at 5:48 PM on September 5, 2009

Please do this on the phone, not by email. Negotiate on Tuesday, before accepting the job -- once you accept, there is no need for them to negotiate.

Don't ask for exactly what you want. Ask for a little more. Let's say they've offered you $10/hour. Another company has offered you $13 - $14. A few dollars more than that ($15 - $16) would make you giddy with happiness. So, you ask for $15 (the low range of giddy). This gives them these options:
- Accept your counter, at $15
- Counter-counteroffer something more than $10 but less than $15
- Refuse, and say that $10 is their limit

You don't screw things up by asking for more; they will not retract the job offer.

Here's what I would say: "I've gotten offers from two other companies for similar work, that will pay $15. But, I'd really like to work for your company because I feel I can make a real contribution. Is there room for negotiation? Could you match what they have offered?" Then after you say that, wait. There may be silence, but do not feel nervous and compelled to speak to fill up that silence.

If they say $10 is there limit, I'd tell them I need until the end of the day to consider this. They might call you back with a counteroffer, after getting it cleared through their management. Either way, you've got until the end of the day to give them a yes or no.

By the way, this is not greedy. Believe me, it's done all the time. Don't you think they negotiate the prices of everything? Widgets, computers, what-have-you? The person you talk with probably did the same thing when she took her job there. It's not greedy; it's just good business. And, your power to negotiate pay is never stronger than at the moment that they've decided they want you, and they don't have you yet. Every increase with them afterwards (and arguably with others, as every company wants to pay just a sliver more than your last employer) will be based on -- and on top of -- this pay rate. So, you want to get it right.
posted by Houstonian at 6:16 PM on September 5, 2009 [10 favorites]

Be careful asking for too much. If they think you are being unreasonable, or that you might take the job and be a malcontent it could back fire. Definitely ask for what you want and can reasonably expect, but if you throw out a number that is too pie-in-the-sky they might start reconsidering.
posted by SLC Mom at 6:30 PM on September 5, 2009

"I'd really love to work for your company but I need $XX per hour to make it feasible to accept your offer. Will that work for you?"

I'd lead with this. If it's on the phone, then they'll either say flat-out no, yes, or try to negotiate. Only for the last one should you bring up other offers. If you start with other offers, you could come across as sounding mercenary. You want to say "I need $X, which is conveniently what Widget Co. are offering. This is swaying me towards them, but if salaries were comparable I'd join you, Thing Corp, because of your great E, F and G", but only when you've made it clear that you need $X, not just that you want a big wage.
posted by djgh at 8:20 PM on September 5, 2009

Houstonion has it.

You may be delirious with joy about having a firm offer -- maybe you have been out of work for a while -- but you have a power now that you really shouldn't just waste.

I was in this situation very recently. I had a position at which I was stupid under-paid, but I liked it OK. When another position was created for me at the same company, I realized that they wanted to benchmark what I had been making, and that that was not OK with me. First they said they'd bring me over at the same money, I said no. Then they said they'd bring me over at $4 more an hour, I said no. It looked like that might be it -- I had time to sweat and feel that I'd overplayed my hand, and reflect that I had been telling them that I'd rather stay where I was if I couldn't be paid what I thought was fair and damn if I wasn't going to find out whether I meant that... then they came back with $13 more an hour, $1 less than my pie-in-the-sky number. Well... OK, I said. Boo-yaa!

What made me realize that I was underpaid, and gave me the confidence to ask for much, much more that I had been willing to accept before, was joining a professional organization for people in my line of work. You need to know what people in your line of work get. Join the National Association for People with Schroedingers' Job. Or look online. The State of California tracks salaries, for example, and probably your state does too.
posted by Methylviolet at 10:42 PM on September 5, 2009

DO NOT bring up the fact that you know someone else was making more in the same position. You may say that while doing your research you've discovered that similar positions are paying in the range of X to X+. NEVER mention a previous employee unless that employee is the Heralded former CEO who is retired, but still on the board, and that you used to deliver papers to when you were a lad...
posted by Gungho at 5:41 AM on September 6, 2009 [1 favorite]

Jack Chapman's web site and book are very helpful.
posted by valannc at 9:07 AM on September 6, 2009

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