Negotiating a salary when I know what my friend there makes?
March 17, 2011 11:29 AM   Subscribe

How should I negotiate for a salary at a place I'm applying to, when I already know the starting salary of one of their recent hires? (Anonymous because I don't want to jeopardize my candidacy at this place, or get my acquaintance there in trouble.)

While meeting with this acquaintance socially, she told me she had just gotten hired, and she mentioned her starting salary. This was before either of us had any idea I might ever apply there myself.

Fast forward a bit, and now there's a chance I'll be offered a job there too (knock on wood!), thanks to the referral of my acquaintance. I know she and I will be doing very similar things, and I'd be happy to make what she makes. If they offer me what they offered her, no problem.

But if they offer me less, how should I ask for more? Would it be okay to tell them that I know my acquaintance's starting salary, or would that look really bad? (If I did tell them, I'd certainly make it clear that she told me her starting salary before either of us knew I'd be applying to this place.)
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (13 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Why would you need to tell them you know a particular person's salary? Salary info for most positions can be easily researched online. If they offer you $X, and you want/think you deserve/can get $X+2, that's your counter-offer. "$50K? I was hoping for something more along the lines of $55K."
posted by Tomorrowful at 11:31 AM on March 17, 2011 [1 favorite]

Ask for 5-10k more than you actually want. Settle for what you actually want.

If they offer you less then you turn them down.

"The number I had in mind was closer to X." is a good way to talk about it. You don't have to give justifications for the salary you're asking for.
posted by ged at 11:32 AM on March 17, 2011 [2 favorites]

I would not tell them that you know someone else's salary, for a few reasons:

- You don't deserve X for your labor because someone else makes it. You deserve it based on your skills and experience.

- Companies generally don't like employees comparing pay. This works to the company's advantage, because you never really know if you are making significantly different amounts than your peers. You should at least pretend that you and your acquaintance are aware of, and following, the "rules."

- A lot of people don't like comparing pay, because it is very difficult to not have an emotional reaction. If you make less than someone else, does it hurt your feelings? If you make more, do you feel slightly superior? You should consider that once you tell the company, you'll probably report back to your friend, and then you'll give an update and you must tell because they did... and someone's on their way to hurt feelings. Stop before it starts.
posted by Houstonian at 11:45 AM on March 17, 2011

Do not mention anything to do with the salary-talk with your friend. Even though there's nothing wrong with it - especially couched in the terms you explain - it's just bad form and complicates the issue.

Speaking of, it's probably in your best interest to start extricating your own brain from this line of thought as well. If they offer you the job, they are doing so based on what their estimation of your worth is. The fact that it might be more or less than that of your newly hired friend is a non-starter for negotiations but if it might offend you, you should be prepared for it.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 11:46 AM on March 17, 2011

Revealing that you know your acquaintance's salary would have a solid chance of getting your acquaintance in trouble. Don't do that.

The value in knowing your acquaintance's salary is that you know they have probably budgeted at least that much for the position. This means you can say, in response to a lowball offer, "I was thinking more along the lines of [acquaintance's salary]," without taking a major risk. Confidence that the amount you're asking for is within reason is the only thing your special inside knowledge does for you. Revealing it wouldn't strengthen your position at all anyhow.
posted by jon1270 at 11:50 AM on March 17, 2011

Would it be okay to tell them that I know my acquaintance's starting salary, or would that look really bad?

Depending on the terms of her contact, that could cost her her job.
posted by NotMyselfRightNow at 12:02 PM on March 17, 2011 [1 favorite]

And if they offer you a figure that's higher than your friend's rate--don't blurt out anything to her right away. If you're a guy and she's female, she might not have done a ton of hard negotiating or they might have low-balled her. If you get the job, check your paperwork about salary disclosures.
posted by Ideefixe at 12:10 PM on March 17, 2011

Agree with what every one has said so far.

Most places will ask for your salary expectations. Set your expectations in the range that you want your salary to be. If they can't meet that or if that salary is a stretch for the role that they are offering you, they would typically tell you that. In some places, they'll want to haggle you down, but your acquaintance can probably wise you up to that (if that is the case) and you can set your expectation accordingly.

Your salary is also be function of what relevant experiences, capabilities/skills etc that you have managed to project to your interviewers. Based on that, they'll peg you at the lower or higher of the salary range for the role that you are going to take.

As others mentioned, mentioning your acquaintance's salary seems to be in somewhat poor taste. It may get her in a bit of trouble and it may not reflect well on you in the eyes of your interviewer.
posted by justlooking at 12:12 PM on March 17, 2011

Nthing not ratting out your friend. Setting a specific number first is a mistake because then you'll be bargaining against yourself, which is a fool's game. Instead, go online and find some salary data for your field. If you can come up with a rationale to throw out a salary range that's 10-15% more than what you'd be willing to take. Then easily allow for downward adjustment while asking about what kind of goals you'd need to be hitting before they could justify the salary you want.
posted by Hylas at 12:38 PM on March 17, 2011

Would it be okay to tell them that I know my acquaintance's starting salary, or would that look really bad?

Do not do this under any circumstances. You should use this as a base line in your negotiations, but telling them this could possibly screw your friend.
posted by spaltavian at 2:12 PM on March 17, 2011

It's really not a good idea to openly play the "but so-and-so makes thismuch" game with your employer. Too much like wrestling with a pig:

So, say you get hired and you've been there a year or two. Let's say your salary is $50,000. You're an awesome employee who brings a lot of value to the company. Ohhh, but Some Other Perfectly Nice Employee With Your Title makes $45,000. Guess you don't really need a raise, huh.
posted by desuetude at 4:10 PM on March 17, 2011

Take your friend's salary into consideration, but don't make it the only piece of info you have going into negotiations. You may not be equal to her as an employee, and/or she may have left money on the table in her negotiations. Plus, it's just not about her.

Salary negotiations are not about fairness across employees. (This is coming from a woman, by the way, though I'm better at negotiation than most.) It's about you trying to get paid as much as possible, and the company trying to pay you as little as possible, and together finding the number you can both live with. The hiring manager has budgeted a salary range that's been approved for your position. You should be shooting for the top of the range, not for your friend's salary.

So what is the salary range you're aiming for? Ideally you'd base that on a wider understanding of the market value for your skills and experience, and your personal standard of living requirements.

Find a salary survey for your position (they're usually available online). You'd be better off informing your negotiations based on aggregate data of similar roles than based on a sole data point. Bonus points if you can get info specific to the region you live in and the exact title you're applying for.

If you haven't already, do your personal budget. Figure out what you spend on an average month, multiply by 12, add 5 - 10% for savings and holidays and another x% for taxes (this will vary drastically based on how much you're making, what state you're in, etc.). Then double-check against the salary survey to see if your number is reasonable.

Knowing all that info, and before starting negotiations figure out what your ideal salary is, and what your lowest acceptable number is. Assuming you're in America (other cultures negotiate quite differently) you start negotiations above your ideal number, and expect some back-and-forth. If they can't or won't offer at least as much as your lowest number, then this isn't your job and you need to walk away.

By no means should you take the first offer they give.

How do you ask for more once they've stated a number? You say "I was looking for something closer to $x". If they push back rather than counter-offering with another number, be prepared to talk about how specific previous experiences (work, school, life) and/or your personal characteristics have made you the best candidate for the job. You want to reassure them that what you're asking for is reasonable (assuming it is).

And, by all means, practice saying these things (especially your numbers) out loud so you can do so without stuttering, mumbling, or otherwise sounding insecure. If you've never had a salaried job before, a reasonable wage can feel like a lot of money, and you might have to say it a few times before it sounds natural.

Oh, and absolutely DO NOT share with the company that you know another employee's salary. It makes her look bad, as others have said. And as a hiring manager it screams "rookie move" to me, and tells me you don't feel confident enough in yourself to defend your number based on your own assets.

Good luck!
posted by nadise at 6:31 PM on March 17, 2011

Based on what you've told us, I don't think just knowing your friend's salary is particularly helpful. Questions that may also affect the starting salary: same job title? equivalent level of experience? Same group or same hiring manager? Was her position a back fill or a new hire? Is your position a back fill or a new hire? Did you and she have comparable salaries in each of your previous roles? How hard did she negotiate? How hard are you planning to negotiate? Does the company publish their salary range as part of the position description? Are there other forms of negotiable compensation besides the salary? Did she negotiate for an accelerated performance review? Are there any kinds of certifications in your respective roles that one of you has and the other doesn't? Was there a relocation involved for her or for you? Was there a recruiter involved for her or for you? Was there any kind of formal aptitude test involved in the hiring process? Does she interview well? Do you? Are you both just out of school where GPA or honors may be a factor? Do you have the same level of education? Do you have the same or similar degrees?

Meanwhile, N'thing the advice above to not explicitly mention it. As a hiring manager, if someone brought that up in the process -- "but so-and-so makes $X" -- my response would be a frosty "we aren't negotiating so-and-so's salary, we are negotiating your salary."
posted by kovacs at 7:57 PM on March 17, 2011

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