How should I negotiate?
October 12, 2012 10:14 AM   Subscribe

I have two initial interviews next week at two different companies. Both with the HR person for basically the screening interview. I am very well qualified for both positions and I don’t want to not even get past the first interview because my salary expectations answer is wrong. I am looking for actual scripts on what to say because I don’t know how to phrase this and I want to practice this weekend.

I have read all the past threads on salary questions in interviews as well as lots of other stuff on salary negotiation. I’m wondering if I can get a little extra input here based on my situation.

I am a female in a professional position with about seven years experience. I am underpaid for my field (my company underpays pretty much across the board). I am really reluctant to say what my current salary is (if they ask) because I don’t want it to revise downward the salary another company is looking to pay. A few figures:

My salary: $61,000 plus 20% performance bonus (which I will likely get – I have always exceeded any targets set for me)

Market average of what people in my field with my experience should make, according to:

- My manager (who is a personal friend and encourages me to look for something better, I trust him on this) - $70-$95 plus bonus

- My friend who works in the same industry: $80k - $100k

- A recruiter for the industry - $70k - $90k

I’m wondering how I should reply to the following two questions:

1. What is your current salary? (Do I need to tell them this? Is there any way to reasonably avoid it without being rude?)
2. What are your salary expectations?

For the second one I think the answer should be something along the lines of “I couldn’t say that without knowing the full details of the job responsibilities and the benefits, etc…” if it is early along in the process. But if it’s further along in the process and I already know those things, should I just give a range? Or should I give a single number but overshoot a little? Like, if I want $95k, should I say $105k? Or do I continue to avoid giving a number at all and seem evasive?

Please give me your thoughts and experiences on what I should say to the above questions and if I give a number, should I overshoot or stay within a reasonable range? I am female and do not want to undervalue myself. I’m not shy about asking for what I think I should earn but I just don’t know what the most reasonable number would be in such a large range.

Thanks for your thoughts.
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (11 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
well say that 80-100 is what you understand the market value to be for someone seeking this position. Mention that you are a high performer who has always exceeded any targets for you. I think in your situation that that's enough to say. Then if they offer you 80 or higher, take it, because it's much better than your current salary.
posted by saraindc at 10:19 AM on October 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

actually, if your biggest concern is not getting past the 1st interview for the position, then you need to lower that range- maybe say 70-95. If your biggest concern is getting a fair salary I'd stick to my initial advice but add that if you get less than 80, it still might be a great deal for you, it just seems like an appropriate range to give in hopes of the higher salary.
posted by saraindc at 10:23 AM on October 12, 2012

When they ask what your salary is, you can response with "My total compensation over the past year was X", where X is your salary + bonuses. I've had interviews where that's all they really cared about. If they want to know more, they'll ask.
posted by blue_beetle at 10:29 AM on October 12, 2012 [2 favorites]

Always set your base at least 10k above prior year's base+ bonus= ie the total amount of money that you make last year. (so you made a total of 73k after last year's bonus, you're looking for at least 85k in base salary, but are looking for something around 92k (so they can round down to 90 and you'dll take it- that's increasing your base by 50%, and honestly I think it's unlikely they'd offer that high)

Keep in mind, that it is very, very difficult to get a base increase above 20% in this economy- you need to interview extremely well.
posted by larthegreat at 10:30 AM on October 12, 2012

When you are asked for your current salary you can say:

"I hate to just throw out a number without the context of the entire compensation package. What is the salary range for the position, and what type of bonus and benefits are included?"

When they give the range, concentrate on the top number.

You can follow up with:

"The top of the range is about where I am now, and I've always been a top performer in my workgroup"

And that rather answers your salary expectations as well.

If you're asked point-blank:

"It's hard to say exactly how much salary I'd expect, somewhere in the eighties, but it would depend on the total compensation package."

If you're pressed, press back. "Is the salary significantly lower than some of the numbers we've been discussing? If so, please let me know, I'd hate to waste our time."

There's no shame in walking out of an interview early because the money is too low.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 10:31 AM on October 12, 2012 [5 favorites]

In my experience as a hiring manager, and now as a business owner; when a range is given I only ever hear the bottom number. So if you say 75-100k your offer will be 75k.

If your top priority is getting through the interview say "60+bonus currently" because that threshold is more likely to get you through.

Frankly say whatever you can to get through if that is really your top priority. From there you may have an opportunity to later request a higher salary.

HR is the worst IMO. They turn away people for ridiculous reasons, I've had applicants flat out admit that they lied to HR to get into my office.

I have hired some of those people. I hired none of the people HR turned away.
posted by French Fry at 10:31 AM on October 12, 2012 [2 favorites]

this comment from a salary negotiating question asked earlier today contains links to direct tactics.

My strong recommendation (as some random internet person) is that you do not give them your current salary under any circumstances - it can only harm your negotiating position, especially because you are currently so significantly underpaid for your industry.
posted by namewithoutwords at 10:37 AM on October 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

As a person with lots of sales experience, as well as hiring experience, I know that the request to state your salary requirement is kind of a no-win situation because you risk either selling yourself short or being unrealistically high. Since interviews are with human beings, who vary in personality, etc., there is no standard approach that fits all cases. For example, if the interviewer is gregarious and fun, you might even get away with something like "As much as you are willing to pay me!". If the interviewer is taciturn and serious, you could probably say something like "The amount I am currently making, plus whatever additional amount you feel I'm worth" (which could thus cover the amount you are currently underpaid and/or the incentive to get you to change jobs). If they press you on a number, I would mention that your current company is known for underpaying and that's why you are asking for "X" amount. Certainly nobody will hold it against you for looking out for your own best interests, as long as you are being realistic. So I think however you answer, the most important thing is for your request to express a balance of confidence and reasonableness. Too low means you are not confident, and too high means you are not a reasonable person.
posted by Dansaman at 11:09 AM on October 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

You're getting some weird answers here.

You need to tell the truth about your past comp, because it is verifiable. And being squirrely and refusing to answer does not play well at all in interviews.

When asked re what you've been making, go ahead and tell them what you made - the whole comp and how it was structured. It is perfectly fine to immediately add "my research suggests that's below market, which is part of the reason I'm interviewing. Various people in the industry have told me the range ought to be around 80-95k, plus bonus. Does that sound right to you?"
posted by fingersandtoes at 11:31 AM on October 12, 2012 [3 favorites]

Try to avoid disclosing previous salary. Ask if they have a range defined for the requisition. If they ask you about previous salary tell them it's confidential but was competitive for the industry. If they insist you have every right to believe this is a) tacky b) rude c) they are not hiring for talent but to meet a number. Tell them you're more interested in learning how they value your experience rather than what your market rate might be. Tell them you don't feel comfortable discussing salary at this point. Ask them if they're ready to make an offer. Smile and tell them you have some general expectations in mind but would be happy to consider a reasonable offer. Smile and tell them you'd find it unethical if they chose to pay more than $225k annual. If you can hold your wit and if they're truly interested in hiring you, you may find an increase of upwards of 10% (given your former position was on median for market). Good luck!

Here are some resources I've found to be helpful in strategizing and negotiating salary and benefits:

Also, this but I've not listened to it.
posted by uhom at 5:36 PM on October 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

Answer to 1: I like to consider at the entire package, and the position, and team. But if you need to know whether you're in the right ballpark, tell me the ranges you're looking at for this position.

They will either give you a range, or more likely say they can't divulge that. You don't need to either. Just say "I'm confident you will make a competitive offer."
posted by zippy at 9:43 PM on October 12, 2012

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