How to phrase an email for a job that I might have priced myself out of?
June 13, 2014 11:58 AM   Subscribe

I got hit with a "what kind of salary range are you looking at?" inquiry from a prospective employer, and I asked for a figure which is at the upper limit for starting positions at said company. It's been two weeks and I haven't heard back. I could use your advice on how to best phrase a follow-up email letting HR know that I am just checking in and also am open to negotiations.

This is my first time negotiating salary - I've been pretty happy with offers from my past jobs - so I asked my friend who works for the company for a general range. She said that asking for anything from 40-50k sounds pretty reasonable. I think I got greedy and pushed my luck too far; I replied to HR that I'd be open to a salary around the 50k range. I haven't heard back for two weeks, and would like to find out if I'm still in the running or if I basically disqualified myself.

I I'd like to send a respectful email asking what's going on without seeming impatient. I don't want to sound desperate, but I kind of am; I'm at the moment woefully underemployed and this would be a big step up in pay (although I've had salaries around this level in the past). Would it be a good idea to re-emphasize my skills and the ways I can contribute to the company? Should I mention that I'd like to negotiate? Tips please!
posted by Thanquol180 to Work & Money (13 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
You're SUPPOSED to ask for more than you think you can get, and they're supposed to give you a counter-offer. That's just how it works. You didn't do anything wrong.
posted by showbiz_liz at 12:01 PM on June 13, 2014 [7 favorites]

For my current position, I did the same thing, quoting a figure 10k above their starting salary. So when I didn't hear back regarding my application, I sent a follow-up email, in which my contact said that they weren't offering the starting salary I had indicated and therefore they figured I wouldn't be interested. I wrote back and emphasized other aspects of the position, field, etc., that made it worth my while to take the pay cut, and I got the job (higher than their starting salary, even, just not what I had asked for).
posted by Aubergine at 12:01 PM on June 13, 2014 [1 favorite]

I always buffer these conversations with ranges, and qualifications,

"I'd expect to see between $50k and $60k for the base, but I'd evaluate the entire compensation package before making a decision." There are benefits, bonus, stock options, and a whole host of other things, and I'm hinting that it's all negotiable.

OTOH, if that's the salary you want, then move on, they're not even trying to woo you!
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 12:05 PM on June 13, 2014 [6 favorites]

showbiz_liz: Good to know. Unfortunately, the counter offer response didn't occur.

aubergine: Good idea, I might try that.

Ruthless Bunny: I'd be willing to drop down as low as 45k. I understand what you're saying re: wooing me, but - like I said - I'm a bit desperate, and this would really help with paying the bills :/ Also, there aren't many positions in my desired field where I'm living.
posted by Thanquol180 at 12:12 PM on June 13, 2014

I'm confused, did they offer you a job, or was this a preliminary 'feel you out' kind of thing?

If it was a negotiation of a job offer, call the recruiter back and find out what's happening. If they were responding to a resume submission, and you haven't even had an interview yet, then you can call the recruiter back and say, "I've been thinking it over, and I am still interested in the position, can you tell me the range you're thinking of, perhaps we can work something out with additional PTO, or some other benefit."

You don't EVER want to appear desperate.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 12:27 PM on June 13, 2014 [2 favorites]

Aubergine gives some good advice. Email and ask what's the status of your application, etc.

Generally speaking, don't negotiate against yourself in anything. So, further to what showbiz_liz was saying, you give an offer, and they give a counteroffer. If they don't give a counteroffer, you do nothing.

Two weeks is not a lot of time to wait for a response, even if they're champing at the bit. If you ping them now to say $45K, you're just showing your desperation (as you acknowledge above).

But even if you write them and they say "You're too expensive," that opens the door for you to rebid. I like the response, "I'm sorry to hear that--but I remain interested in at least hearing more about the position, and if it sounds like a good fit for both of us, perhaps there's a way we can bridge the gap in comp."

As showbiz_liz notes, you did everything right. It's the company that's either 1) continuing to take its sweet time on your application; 2) just being kind of rude by not letting you know you're out of the running; or (less likely) 3) playing a shrewd game of negotiation brinkmanship and waiting for you to underbid yourself.

My guess is 1).

Good luck.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 12:29 PM on June 13, 2014 [4 favorites]

Do nothing.

You don't know why they haven't gotten back to you. If your friend at the company says $40-50K for this position and you said $50K, it is very unlikely that this is why they haven't gotten back to you.

If you want to follow up, follow up, but do not say anything about salary. Just say you remain very interested and would be happy to provide any further information that could help them in their decision.
posted by chickenmagazine at 12:38 PM on June 13, 2014 [2 favorites]

It doesn't sound like you're out of the range. Hiring takes forever, and the hiring manager is usually doing other stuff besides interviewing and reviewing candidates. I know it's slow as molasses for the candidate!
posted by radioamy at 12:49 PM on June 13, 2014

Like everyone said, if they don't give a counter offer, do nothing, and yes, you are within the stated range, so no need to panic.

It's funny how we seem to work against ourselves in salary negotiations - we'd never approach the sale of our house from the lowest possible price we could accept.

Should your 'asking price' be too high for them and they counter too low, there are many ways to meet in the middle: you can ask for a starting bonus, a guaranteed raise over the next x years, a better title, more PTO, stock options, or whatever is typical in your industry.

As for their silence for two weeks, I can tell you some of the reasons I've had to wait in the past: the department had to do their due dilligence and interview other people although I was a shoe-in; they had solicited applications before an official opening was created and had to wait on upper management to approve it officially; HR was simply busy; there was a client emergency they had to prioritize.
posted by Dragonness at 2:47 PM on June 13, 2014

Yeah, back it up a step here like Bunny said.

There's nothing in Thanquol180's question that implies he already had an offer. This sounds more like the initial HR screening question which I see a lot of these days. If you're asking too much then they know to pass on you and save the time of interviews.
posted by JoeZydeco at 3:12 PM on June 13, 2014

You didn't price yourself out of it. If they want to offer you a salary in the 40s, they will. It's not like you asked for $100k.

All you need to do is check up and reiterate your interest. I don't think two weeks is too soon, though I'd wait until Tuesday or something -- don't send the email on a Friday. You don't need to say you are open to salary negotiations or ask if they have an issue with your proposed salary range.

Just email and say you wanted to check in on the open position and see if they had any further questions about your qualifications you can answer. Then reiterate your interest in the job and your belief that it's a good fit. Keep it short and professional.
posted by AppleTurnover at 3:51 PM on June 13, 2014 [2 favorites]

Thankquol180, can you take a temp job or something while you are searching? If the money's getting tight, that can help you keep looking for good work without having to worry about making the rent. That might help your bargaining confidence too.

For the record, I have never regretted negotiating; either I learned that a place was not for me (usually confirmed later by talking to others who worked there and were underpaid/had a negative work environment) or I got a better offer. And I started out pretty much in the range you're asking. Good workplaces will at the very least tell you regretfully they can't get close to what you want, and wish you luck. Bad ones want you to take crap wages. And then some are just disorganized and never get their act together, and that says iffy things about them too.

(my favorite was the one that asked me on the phone "What do you see yourself doing in five years?" and I said "Hopefully managing people who do this work or something similar!". She got offended. "This is not a position that promotes to managment!" Well, that was valuable information about what kind of people I was dealing with.)
posted by emjaybee at 5:23 PM on June 13, 2014

I just shot out an email, and tried to sound as "non-desperate" as possible. If I land an interview, I'll keep you posted.

If I don't get an interivew, I'll run from this thread in shame and never come back :)
posted by Thanquol180 at 7:08 AM on June 20, 2014

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