salary requirement for administrative work
January 23, 2013 4:35 PM   Subscribe

I have been working as a temp in a university staff /admin support position for several months. I make $12 an hour as a temp. They're finally about to hire me, thank goodness, but I have until tomorrow to give them my "salary requirements". What the heck am I supposed to ask for?

The details:

- HR lists my job class as being low-20k salary for total beginner, to mid-30k for midpoint, seasoned performer. I've been temping for several months so I feel that I'm not a total beginner... I have learned and independently done all the major tasks of my job at this point.

- From diplomatically asking my boss, I gather that I will probably get offered in the mid-20k range, and they will probably simply offer me the lower amount if I ask for more than that.

- My boss does not directly determine my hiring rate.. the overarching school of the dept. I work for does.

-I have a Master's degree and on paper am "overeducated" for this job. I have some but not a ton of past administrative experience.

- All of the people I work for in this position really like me, which is why I'm getting hired from temp position (ie, they're not interviewing anyone else)

-This is a large university, and I don't know if that means there's not really any wiggle room here or if I should bother negotiating, do the powers that be in universities simply give out a blanket starting salary?

I am tempted to ask for about $28-30k, but I don't want to look greedy and I especially don't want that to somehow mean they decide not to hire me after all. I need this job and will work for less than that, but I don't want to low-ball myself and am not used to what I'm supposed to ask for. If I ask for 25k, which is what my boss seems to think they'll offer, will they then try to offer less than that? Do I need to "prove" that I think I'm worth the money? I hate this dance.
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (12 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Is this a public university? Salary data should be publicly accessible through the HR office. They may have an online database and civil service listing for positions with the same title.

If not... find a university that does and look there ;)
posted by Madamina at 4:39 PM on January 23, 2013

Don't low-ball yourself. If you want 28-30K, ask for it. You might not get it. But if you don't ask for it, you DEFINITELY won't get it. Also, if they like you enough to hire you, they're not going to just turn you down because you asked for midpoint salary. They'll probably just tell you the job won't pay that much (which may in fact be the reality, if you're in a university that's in cut-back mode).

Also, ask for them to consider the time you spent as a temp time-in-service, in case that helps you get more vacation time. Or, if they refuse to give you the amount of money you want, you can use their refusal to try to negotiate for something else - for instance, a few extra vacation days, or the opportunity to work from home a few days a month, or a flex schedule.

Once the offer is made, you're in negotiations. So negotiate! :) Salary/benefit negotiations generally continue until you say either yes, I'll take it - or no, you're not offering me enough, I don't want it.
posted by kythuen at 4:43 PM on January 23, 2013 [4 favorites]

Are you simply a wage employee of the university, or are you placed by a temp agency? If it's the latter, you may have more room to negotiate than you realize. In addition to paying for your wages, taxes, and benefits, your employer is also paying a fee to the temp agency. Asking for $26k is probably a break even point for bringing a $12/hr temp in-house.

I have a sneaking suspicion that you're a woman. Recent studies have indicated that a major reason for the "glass ceiling" in women's compensation is simply that women don't like salary negotiations. Women are, on average, far less likely to ask for more money in these circumstances than men are, and when they do ask, they tend to ask for less. There is no obvious reason for this, but there you go. You don't ask, you don't get.

But consider that we're talking about what amounts to a secretary position. Most employers aren't going to be terribly willing to negotiate all that much for a position like this one. Don't be surprised if they aren't willing to budge all that much.
posted by valkyryn at 4:52 PM on January 23, 2013 [1 favorite]

I think you should shoot for more than you think you would get, and be willing to negotiate down. They like you, so there's a win in your box already. Finding new quality employees is expensive. They're likely paying $18/hr or more to the temp agency (if you were placed by an agency -- if not, you have slightly less wiggle room, but still plenty), so there's no reason you shouldn't expect near that, especially since they like you already.

Best case, stall and say that you're willing to negotiate, and make them offer first. Offering first almost always puts you at a disadvantage, unless you need to reframe their expectations higher initially. If you must put a hard number down, $32k wouldn't be unreasonable given your current hourly rate. If you have to explain, you have two/three great things going for you:
  1. You're well liked and have a history of performing well in this position.
  2. You're well educated (universities do like education :)).
  3. They will not have to pay the Temp Agency premium anymore (again, if there was an agency).
Their alternatives are to a) find another temp (high risk, more expensive), or b) post a job and deal with a ton of crap before finding someone half decent (and even then: no guarantees that people will like them).

Once you start negotiating, remember that this: Hiring you saves them money; you're worth more to them than their initial offer, which is always a lowball. Whoever makes the offer is just trying to keep costs low. Your goal is to be paid what you're worth.

When they get stuck at a number, see what else they can wiggle on. Health benefits, vacation time, etc. Everything's fair game.

Good luck!
posted by andrewconner at 5:00 PM on January 23, 2013

If you're a temp through an agency, they are paying a premium on top of your hourly wage. For a $12 p/hr position, this is often billed to them as $18-$21. Going with the lower number would be over $37k. So, asking for $30k would be fair for both of you. If they can't do $30k for whatever reason, you can then ask what they can do and decide if it's worthwhile to you.

I don't know if you have benefits as a temp or not, but you might want to take into account that this is counted as part of the overall compensation package if the University will be providing them. Premium for insurance(s), retirement contribution/matching, that sort of thing. The rules on these are usually set pretty firmly at Universities, from what I understand, but it's good to know the approximate to value to understand the total compensation offered.
posted by batmonkey at 5:08 PM on January 23, 2013

From the OP:
An update about the temp agency thing: the temp program is run through the university itself, so as far as I know, my dept. is not paying any outside agency fee. But certainly, it would cost them money and time to interview/hire a new candidate if I left.

Perhaps also relevant: this position hasn't been officially staffed for about a year. For awhile they limped along without, and had some temps come and go, before I came on.
posted by jessamyn at 5:16 PM on January 23, 2013

It is entirely possible that they won't budge on the actual salary numbers-- a couple of months wouldn't quite qualify you as midpoint where I work. Mid-20k sounds about right, given their scale. They may not actually be able to budge at all; my department can't. On the plus side, university benefits are usually pretty great-- 403(b) matching, health benefits, lots of vacation, free classes. They may be able to play with the benefit scale more, especially if they'll consider your original starting date when considering your pro-rated vacation hours/sick leave and the amount of time before they start contributing to your 403(b). If you can argue for a higher salary, go for it; many universities do percentage yearly cost-of-living increases instead of bonuses, so you lose out even more in the long term.
posted by jetlagaddict at 5:44 PM on January 23, 2013

Ask for $29,000 (or maybe even $30,000). I've had two university jobs and they'll always take any opportunity/excuse to give as little as possible. Ask for the top of the salary range. If they can't do that, they'll just say so.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 6:15 PM on January 23, 2013

At my university, central HR allows departments to offer starting salaries up to the midpoint of the salary scale, meaning that when they say that salary is commensurate on experience, they have discretion to decide what 'exoperienced' means, up to that point. Anything higher has to be approved by central HR.

I'd ask for the mid-range salary, expecting them to make a lower offer. See if you can then get them to agree to a compromise between those two numbers.

Also, go in with information on paper. Keep in in a file folder or tucked into a legal pad. If they're trying to lowball you, produce the salary scales or a printout of average salaries on campus. It will show that you know the degrees of freedom, and that you've done your homework.

Finally, know the absolute lowest salary you'll accept. If they offer you that or lower, say no. They might move if theY think they're going to have to start over again with a new temp.

MeMail me if you have questions. I've been through this a few times.
posted by mudpuppie at 6:19 PM on January 23, 2013 [1 favorite]

I have no experience to help answer your question, but I'd be really interested to hear how this turns out for you. Good luck!
posted by dahliachewswell at 10:23 PM on January 23, 2013

Also keep in mind how regular raises are for staff at your university. I was able to negotiate a higher salary for an admin I was hiring by pointing out that classified staff haven't gotten raises in like 4 years and weren't likely to get a raise again this year.
posted by rachums at 4:49 AM on January 24, 2013 [1 favorite]

Followup from the OP:
An update for anyone out there: after an endless slog through HR, I did ask for around 30k, and they are offering me mid-20k and not budging. I threw out two numbers between their offer and mine and not budging. I asked if they could negotiate on vacation time or etc. and they said "against university policy". I know that someone else in my dept. was recently hired and did get a tiny bump through negotiation, but not much.

I don't know if I should or will continue to push, or how without doing a snippy "let me talk to your manager" thing with the person from HR, but I suspect I will end up just taking it. It's not the worst salary in the world, and it has better benefits than a lot of companies, but I'm still a little disappointed they aren't willing to negotiate AT ALL. Maybe it's because they're a huge university and have salary limits set by the dean's office and etc.

I'm hoping this won't scare me off from negotiating in the future.
posted by LobsterMitten at 8:55 AM on March 2, 2013

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