Is negotiation the best option?
April 18, 2010 1:33 PM   Subscribe

Would I be greedy if I tried to make a salary counteroffer without any real reason?

I just received a job offer for an entry-level analyst position at a mid-sized sales/marketing consulting firm. The salary, signing bonus, and benefits offered are at the mean level for the position, as far as I can tell (though the (non-US) city I am in has few examples to which I can refer) and are fair, IMO. I like the environment and the people as well, and the salary is nearly twice what I make now -- something the company knows since they requested proof of my current salary. As a result, and since I have no other offers on the horizon, I've been thinking strongly of accepting the offer outright.

However, after reading various archived threads, I feel like I should attempt to negotiate my salary upwards by about 5-10%. As far as I can see, the pros and cons to negotiating:

- The possibility of more money
- The possibility of making more money in the future as a result (due to raises and promotions being affected by my salary)
- Changing jobs is the best time to negotiate salary increases, so now's my chance

- I risk making my relationship with my boss somewhat awkward at best or antagonistic at worst (unlikely, but still possible)
- I have no experience to which to point as a reason for asking for more money
- Even if the offer is on the low end (of which I cannot be sure), it was still within the reasonable range for the position
- In the worst case, I have to be prepared to walk away from the offer entirely (?)

Should I accept the offer as-is, try to negotiate for something better, or go apply for a job at Starbucks and forget about the rat race entirely? And if I should negotiate, what should I say and how should I say it in order to obtain the best result?
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (9 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Absolutely do negotiate. Companies are hoping to pay you as little as possible. They don't truly offer the absolute high end of the spectrum on the first word go.

As for how to negotiate, I'm at work and can't look up any solid techniques, but I'm someone will drop by to give you a handy choose your own adventure type script.

Just please, practice with a friend before you try it on the potential boss. You want to be confident, and not stammering.

You deserve a good wage, go get 'em!
posted by bilabial at 1:37 PM on April 18, 2010 [1 favorite]

I don't think your cons are realistic.

1. Your boss almost certainly EXPECTS you to negotiate on your salary.
2. If you don't have experience, you can cite the job duties or responsibilities as justifying a slightly higher salary. ("A salary of $xxx seems more commensurate with the responsibilities of this position.")
3. If the offer is reasonable, then the offer plus 5-10% would still be reasonable.
4. No you don't! The worst case is that you take the salary they originally offered. If you ask for salary $xxx and they tell you they cannot budge on the salary, then you take the original offer.

Based on my experience (which may or may not have any bearing on what you will experience) what will probably happen is that they will come up a little bit on the salary, but not as much as you ask for.
posted by jeoc at 1:58 PM on April 18, 2010

maybe it is because I live in a state where getting a job is next to impossible right now... I would ask, given the positives you've stated, is it worth having the position withdrawn if they don't want to meet your demands.

I do hiring a bit different... Because I offer a salary that is the absolute maximum our agency can afford for a given position, I state the salary up front... I ask during the interview if the salary is sufficient, if the answer is "no", I say "thanks, have a good day". Folks who come back later and ask for more if I offer the position have wasted my time.
posted by HuronBob at 2:20 PM on April 18, 2010 [1 favorite]

If they aren't biting on the salary negotiation, I would also throw in some lifestyle perks- work at home days, flexible hours, etc.

But go for negotiating salary.
posted by TheBones at 2:21 PM on April 18, 2010

Always negotiate. What I would do is say something to the effect of:

"I'm interested in the job but I was actually hoping for something more in the area of X."

They might ask why, and say they need to justify it to HR or something, so have a couple points of consideration--your interest in Y, an internship, if you do a personal website related to the business, or simply that you think it's more "appropriate."

Be friendly; it need not be adversarial. You like them, you want the job, you're going to take it anyway, you'd just like to see if you can get some more money. Obviously you're not telling them all of these things, but it's not a situation where you're going into it wanting to screw them, and they don't want to screw you, either. Screwing people is not the way to foster long term business relationships.

You can approach it with the idea that this is a relationship you are both entering into and both sides want it to be fair.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 2:22 PM on April 18, 2010

A: No.
posted by IAmBroom at 8:56 PM on April 18, 2010

Negotiating is expected in some situations. There's certainly nothing rude about negotiating in certain situations, like accepting job offers or buying cars. If you handle it maturely and are clear on what you want, and most importantly, have a good case to make, your boss has no reason to be upset. In fact he might be impressed by how you handle it. If he's offended you asked, he's unlikely to be a very good boss anyway, and I'd rather find out what I have sooner rather than later.

Employers, just like everyone else, can make it explicitly clear if an offer is non-negotiable.

If you really can't think of a good case for being paid above the mean, then that's your problem. That has nothing to do with negotiation, that has to do with preparation, or the realities of what you are worth. If you don't believe, or can't easily argue you're worth more, then don't do it.

The simple argument is you believe you are above average for the role. So what if it's entry level, there is a range of performance people will have in their first year in an entry-level role. If I felt I could argue I'd be in the top 25% of performers in that role, I'd ask for commensurate compensation (a classic HR-jargon term).

The best one resource I've read on the topic is Getting to Yes. It's not exclusively a book about jobs, but it's an easy read and gives you a framework that helps think about all kinds of negotiation.

The key concept is BANTA - Best alternative to negotiated agreement. In simple terms, how easy is it for you to walk away and do something else? Or more precisely, how good is your case for what your BANTA is. The fact that the salary is twice what you are making is irrelevant - the question is what they are paying less than what you might be paid somewhere else.

For example: If you had another job offer for more money, your BANTA is very strong, meaning you have lots of bargaining power. Alternatively If an alien species promised to blow up the planet if you don't take this job, you have very little bargaining power. You'd be desperate.

Another approach is to ask about bonus/raise cycles, and if that can be accelerated as terms of your contract. If you're confident you can out perform your peers, ask for an early opportunity to get a raise based on X months of working for them. If nothing else, the conversation will teach you oodles about your boss, and how bureaucratic or not the organization is.
posted by Berkun at 2:32 AM on April 19, 2010

[This is a followup from the asker.]
I went ahead and called my prospective boss, expressing my positivity about the offer I received and looking forward to the chance to working together, but I mentioned that the base salary was a bit low compared to the responsibilities of the position and the average salaries in the market. Finally I asked, "Does the company have any room to negotiate?" My prospective boss said that he'd have to consult HR, and that he couldn't guarantee anything due to there being a set salary band for the position, but I made sure to end things on a positive note. One day later, I received notification that they decided to raise the offered base salary by 10%, and I accepted! Although I was wary about seeing any results, given the still-soft economy and the entry-level nature of the position, I'm glad I decided to negotiate. Thanks to all of those who encouraged me to do so.
posted by cortex (staff) at 6:43 AM on April 20, 2010 [2 favorites]

Yay for anonymous!
posted by A Terrible Llama at 1:57 PM on April 20, 2010

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