You mean *I* get a say in salary talk? Wha?
October 3, 2012 9:25 AM   Subscribe

I was recently contacted by a recruiter and in the last month have been through several interviews, the last taking place today. Now, the recruiter's called to ask if I am ready to take the next step and has asked about my salary expectations. What?

I am a recent English PhD, and have been sniffing for non-academic job opportunities for a few months now, while I continue to teach part-time. I make okay money teaching. It's hardly exorbitant, but it is enough to live off for now. I like working in an academic environment, but I am well aware of how dire the job market is these days.

The recruiter contacted me. After a couple of initial interviews, I completed a sample assignment with which they were pleased. Today I met with a couple more people and they seemed very pleased with me and the work I did for them. Not long after the interview, the recruiter (he works in-house) contacted me to ask about my salary expectations.

He had asked about this before. I didn't give him a number, noting that I felt I was well-qualified for the position. They were actively looking for people with humanities grad experience (for the writing and analytical skills), and I've got that for sure. But, I acknowledged that the position was entry level and I knew that going in.

Today when he called back I back-pedaled again, not wanting to be the first to throw out a number. He gave me a range back, which was a bit lower than what I was hoping—say $5-$10K less than what I thought was my realistic expectation. He said that is the standard salary for the entry level people in my position, but acknowledged that they value my PhD. Also, most of the people in this job have MAs, rather than PhDs. He also suggested that there is ample opportunity for advancement.

Now the ball's in my court. How do I come back? I'm in the happy position of not needing the job, absolutely, but my part-time teaching is not 100% reliable, especially in the summer months. The stability would be nice. I do have a list of the benefits and they're agreeable to me, but I am not sure what value they hold in relation to the salary, or what value my PhD has for them. Long story short, I'm not 100% I NEED THIS JOB PLEASE TAKE ME but I am certainly interested enough that I want to play ball.

So, how do I play? I'm used to part-time academia, where you are told how much you will be paid and that's the end of discussion. I've checked out GlassDoor and done some googling but it produces a huge range of salaries. For this position, there's one listed at this company on GlassDoor that is significantly higher than the number I was quoted, but it doesn't say that person's experience or how long they were with the company.
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (15 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
In my experience, if you feel that this is a good fit for you, and there's opportunity for advancement, play ball for a little while. Then, after 6 months of good work, go to your management and talk about advancement or an increase in compensation.

For the recruiter's range, give him a range that overlaps with his top end, but goes a little bit higher. That way, you have a place for negotiation, and management isn't under any false assumptions that you aren't aware of your own worth.
posted by thanotopsis at 9:30 AM on October 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

How much money do you think you're worth for this work? That's the question. If your recruiter is lowballing you with $5k-$10k less than what you were expecting, then you're exactly on-target, because it's part of their negotiation strategy to get you to tell them what you want.

I would tell them that the numbers you got were "lower than I expected," and see if there's any room, given your credentials, to move up. If they keep saying you have to give a firm number, give $5k over the amount you'd hoped to get, and let them talk you down.
posted by xingcat at 9:31 AM on October 3, 2012 [3 favorites]

"That's a little lower than I was expecting to hear, given my PhD, and the research I did on similar positions in similar companies. Are you prepared to go higher, say $10-15k higher?"

You should expect their first offer to come in lower than they're prepared to pay. They need negotiating room. Coming back with a higher number, and eventually meeting somewhere in the middle is pretty normal.
posted by toxic at 9:34 AM on October 3, 2012 [13 favorites]

"I was looking for something more like $X + 10K." Then shut your mouth and leave the ball in his court.
posted by DarlingBri at 9:38 AM on October 3, 2012 [3 favorites]

Come back asking for another 10-15K. You won't get it all, but if you let them lowball you with no fight you'll always be the sucker.
posted by Lyn Never at 9:46 AM on October 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

The above suggestions are good. I'll add this: do you know any people in the industry? Can you ask them what they think a reasonable salary would be? That might be helpful information.
posted by grouse at 9:48 AM on October 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

Is this a recruiter for a recruiting agency, or a recruiter for the firm that is considering hiring you? If the former, give them your actual expectations (and do so upfront, as they get paid based on placing you, and do not need to be part of the wink-wink-nudge-nudge salary negotiation act). If the latter, negotiate up a bit based on your qualifications.
posted by ellF at 9:58 AM on October 3, 2012 [2 favorites]

You will never, ever* lose a job offer for responding "I was looking for more like $X + 10K". You might not get it, of course, but you won't be told to "get the hell out" or anything.

(*If on the offchance this does happen to you, consider yourself lucky to have dodged the bullet of working with those people)
posted by wrok at 10:05 AM on October 3, 2012 [2 favorites]

Seconding toxic. If it's a third-party recruiter, they have nothing to gain by lowballing you. They will be trying to get you the highest salary that the client will bear, as their fee is normally calculated as a percentage of this. So tell them, "I would accept an offer of no less than $X", without trying to game it too much.
posted by sevenyearlurk at 10:17 AM on October 3, 2012

In addition to saying, "I was looking for more like Y" add the following, "But I'd have to see the whole compensation package before I make a decision."

This way, you've let them know that you'd like more salary, but that if the benefits are great, you might be flexible.

Also, perhaps you can work out a deal where you work for X, but work fewer hours per week, or get half days on Fridays.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 10:31 AM on October 3, 2012

"That's a little lower than I was expecting to hear, given my PhD, and the research I did on similar positions in similar companies. Are you prepared to go higher, say $10-15k higher?"

Don't let them anchor your salary, give them the first sentence, forget the second, and wait silently. Only say the "$10-15K higher" line if their second offer is below that, and yeah, after you find out what the non-cash compensation (insurance, retirement, etc.) comprises.

They're always prepared to go higher, it's not their personal money, so you don't need to beg or be passive. Just say, "it's not enough," and let them figure out what your value to them is. You aren't hurting right now.
posted by rhizome at 10:44 AM on October 3, 2012 [2 favorites]

When they throw out a range, they are functionally offering you the top of the range. Their hope by offering a range rather than a number is that you will then engage in negotiation within those parameters so that, when they finally offer you the top of the range, you will feel like you have negotiated well when, in fact, you will be accepting their first offer.

The proper way to respond is to treat it like exactly what it is: an offer of the top of the range and an opening to negotiations.

So, if he said $X to $Y, you respond with "$Y is insufficient, considering my education and experience."

If they really want you to name your own number before they make a second offer, say $Y+15 in order to allow room to meet in the middle and still end up at a salary you are happy with. Assuming $Y is at least $40k, coming back with $Y+15 won't seem in the least unreasonable, even if the thought of doing it makes your stomach turn over.
posted by 256 at 12:17 PM on October 3, 2012

I did exactly what everyone is suggesting. I wanted $X. They said the position started at $X-$15k. I said I was hoping for something more like $X. They came back with an offer of $X-$8k. While it wasn't what I had in mind, it was a hell of a lot better than the original number.

This was in academia, albeit administrative rather than educational/research.
posted by jph at 12:30 PM on October 3, 2012

I should add that I specifically said "Given my law degree, and that I have the preferred qualifications for this position, I was hoping for something more like $X."
posted by jph at 12:31 PM on October 3, 2012

I would ameliorate your counteroffer somewhat by prefacing with, "I'm very interested, and I want to come to terms. Having said that, and given my PhD, I'm looking for X. So let's keep this conversation going."
posted by thinkpiece at 3:30 PM on October 3, 2012

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