Help me negotiate!
November 17, 2014 3:16 PM   Subscribe

I had phone and in-person interviews for a new job last week that went extremely well. I think odds are very good I might be hired, but I need a strategy for negotiating a salary!

Here are the details: I make $35,000 a year pre-tax at my current position, not including bonuses (small, last year it was about $200), OT and on-call pay (which comes to about $100 a month.) Excellent health benefits and vacation/personal time. The work I do at this job is directly relevant to the work I would do at $NewCompany, but I also have over 8 years in experience that is less obviously relevant, but I think I made a case for it in the interview. I've been at this job for a little under a year and half. Company is mid-size and thriving financially. I believe my current salary is good-excellent for my level in the industry (if totally depressing for how old I am...)

Job I applied for: salary was listed as "$32,000 and up, based on experience." Company is much smaller, only 20 people. We didn't discuss salary or benefits in the interview.

While new job is attractive, I do not want to take this job for a penny less than I'm making in base salary. But, I don't know if my experience is worth an extra 3-5 grand more than the minimum they're willing to pay! Other possible factors:

1.I live extremely close to $NewCompany, and due to proposed expansion of public transit, property values in our area are due to skyrocket in our already-expensive city. While I'm locked in to a lease this year, this could mean both their rent and mine could go up substantially in a few months. Should I mention this, or is that a bad idea?

2. I'm ok with losing some vacation and personal time, and the health benefits are likely to be less attractive. Could I argue the potential tradeoff calls for more money?

What I'm looking for are possible scripts to use, directions to steer towards, and pitfalls to avoid. I would especially like to hear from folks who have successfully negotiated salaries before, and/or hiring managers. I'm very fortunate in that while I want to get out of my current job, I am well-paid and highly valued. I'm leaving because my team and I are chronically overworked and newly required to work undesirable hours. These things suck, but at this juncture I am willing to wait for a better job offer rather than take a pay cut.
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (11 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
 
You said you believe your salary is good-excellent for your level. Do you have data to back that up? I'd make sure you've done your research on your value in the market. In my experience, arguing from a market rate angle is more successful than almost anything else.

Without knowing the field and location, it's impossible to say, but $35k doesn't strike me as even remotely "well-paid." Obviously such things vary widely, though...
posted by primethyme at 3:35 PM on November 17, 2014 [9 favorites]


No one cares about your personal situation. I'm not saying you can never use it to negotiate, but "property values are going to go up some day" is a really poor argument. Maybe if you were relocating for them or something, you could make an argument based on your personal finances. Your argument just doesn't work. They all live in your city too.

As for arguing their health benefits are worse so they should give you more money, I think that again falls into my previous point -- the benefits are clearly explained and if you accept them, that's a personal choice. Their benefits just happen to be what they offer. I would focus on the value you bring, rather than trying to draw a direct comparison to your last job's health benefits.

What you don't seem to mention in your question is how much you think you can get, how much you want and how much is market value for this job. You also don't mention if they know what you earned before. I am going to assume they don't.

You won't go below $35,000. That's good to know. I think if you ask for $40k, you will end up at $35k or a little above. If they offer $35k, then you could admit, "I make $35k at my current job and would really like to see in increase in compensation to accept a new job." Again, I think you will get something just a bit above $35k, so about $40k or below. If you say you had $45k in mind but are open to negotiation because you're really excited about working there, I think the worst that will happen is they will counter offer something lower -- but you may be able to get a bit more than the other methods. It's just a question of whether you think you will be setting yourself up for massive expectations with that amount or not.

Either way, I would try to get them to throw out a number first if you can. Say the listing said $32k and up and you think you bring a lot of valuable experience, but you'd like to know what they had in mind.
posted by AppleTurnover at 3:39 PM on November 17, 2014 [1 favorite]


I've both hired, and been hired, and negotiated on both sides of the ball. It's simpler than you think - this isn't executive compensation with stock options. On both sides, it will be less sophisticated than much of the literature on negotiation tactics call for.

The new company will make you an offer - you counter-offer with your reasonable best case scenario - put simply that this is what it's going to take to get me to come on board. Housing prices, or your current benefit package/personal time, aren't going to be relevant to them - those are relevant to you in setting the bounds for what you are willing to accept to take the job. You need to know the value of what you have in order to translate it into another offer.

Your power in negotiation is your capacity to be clear and direct about what you want, and strong in a way that suggests you may walk away if you don't get what you want. If you aren't willing to do that, you're not going to be a good negotiator. You need to walk into the room (or on the phone) with a personal agreement with yourself that you're worth $37,000 + your current benefit package, and if they don't give you that - it's just not that great a job.

Personally, unless you're guaranteed to be moving to a less toxic environment, I would never take a new job for the same salary as your current one. You're experienced, you sound like you have a lot of flex and great benefits. The upside seems to be less work and maybe a marginal amount more salary, which if you're in the private sector could also mean less job security. It's possible to leverage a job offer into an improvement in your current work as well - perhaps if you get a solid offer, you can take it to your boss to see if they can offer more desirable hours than your current one.
posted by buoys in the hood at 3:39 PM on November 17, 2014 [6 favorites]


I wouldn't change jobs under those conditions. You change jobs for significantly more money, to get out of a batshit crazy situation, to reduce a commute by an hour, or to learn a completely new skill.

You're on the cusp of a good reason to leave. I'd need MORE money than I was currently making to make that move. Don't take less.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 3:55 PM on November 17, 2014 [9 favorites]


At the end of his (her?) post, OP said he is overworked, his new expected hours at his current job will suck, and it sounds like he will be able to get a bit more money if he negotiates properly with a new job. If he is currently unhappy, I do not see those as bad reasons to look for a new job. It also sounds like his commute will become shorter if he switches jobs. He should probably think about job security and the stability of the company, but all in all, if he can get a $5k raise and a schedule that better suits his lifestyle, I really don't see the problem. I agree that $35k is a not starter, and he should tell the prospective employer he wants more than that.
posted by AppleTurnover at 4:26 PM on November 17, 2014 [1 favorite]


I'm ok with losing some vacation and personal time, and the health benefits are likely to be less attractive. Could I argue the potential tradeoff calls for more money?
Absolutely you can argue that reduced vacation time and poorer benefits compared to your current job call for more money at the job you are expecting to be offered. Salary, benefits, and PTO are all part of the total compensation package and it's entirely appropriate to compare them. Don't forget to also compare retirement benefits or 401(k) matching, training, clothing and/or equipment allowances, differing tax rates between job locations, and anything else that affects the amount of money you bank at the end of the week.

And personally I have no idea why you're "ok with losing some vacation and personal time" -- you can give that up but it will take years and years to earn back. Many employers won't blink when you say "The two weeks' vacation you have offered is pretty common for a starting position but based on my years at my current job I am earning four weeks. You'll be getting the benefit of that experience and seniority if I accept your offer. Can you do any better?"
posted by Nerd of the North at 4:50 PM on November 17, 2014


Remember, too, that "old job" and "job you just interviewed for" are not your only two options.

You have stable employment right now and as far as they know you're not desperate. Sure, you might not want to stay where you are forever but if this job doesn't make an offer you're excited to accept you always have the option to keep looking unless there are literally no other employers in your area. Given that you live in an area with an expanding public transit system I have to think there are more than two possibilities.
posted by Nerd of the North at 4:57 PM on November 17, 2014 [2 favorites]


For general tips on how to best negotiate, this may be the single best article I've ever read on the subject. It's written for software engineers, but the advice in it is by and large universal. I recommend it to everyone I know who's got a new job on the horizon.
posted by Itaxpica at 5:29 PM on November 17, 2014 [3 favorites]


One argument that might be successful is: I'm sure you have a salary range in mind for this position, let me tell you all the reasons that I am better qualified for this job than the minimum, will hit the ground running and not spend a lot of time in training but immediately start helping the company, and these are reasons I am clearly at the top of the payscale range you had in mind.
This approach works well when everyone is dancing around the numbers and you don't want to lay out cold hard facts. It can also apply to when you've got an offer and real numbers to work with, (addresses vague things like their unstated maximum salary) but in your case you should definitely include a more numbers-based approach.

You would want to list monetary considerations: less health insurance, higher premiums, less vacation time, etc. These are things that you could reasonably say "this is what my previous job gave me and I expect the same from you" and have a cash-value request in mind for if/when they say they can't do that.

You don't want to list the conveniences you're giving up: commute time, rent, etc are things that affect you because of your personal choices (where you live). Trying to argue that they will soon owe you because the local economy is about to pick up so they should start paying you extra now? Nope. Reminding them they may be paying more rent next year and have less cash on hand for your salary? Double-nope.
posted by aimedwander at 6:49 PM on November 17, 2014


Switching jobs is a risk. Do not do it unless there is a known payoff, usually more money (my mental number is 15%). You have no guarantees that the hours are doing to be better, and you absolutely need to take into account vacation and benefits, especially as you're startung from a low base.

Why not approach your management about additional compensation or bringing on new staff based on your increased workload? I definitely see why you'd be unhappy, but you want to be able to tell a story about moving on better opportunities, rather than running away from a suboptimal job.
posted by snickerdoodle at 4:48 AM on November 18, 2014


You make 36,400 with good vaca. time. Currently, a week of your vaca. is worth 697. (36400/52.2). Your health benefits can be valued a number of ways, one of which is comparing maximum out of pocket. So, if you'd lose 2 weeks vaca. and a potential 3000 max. out of pocket in health coverage, the new job would need to provide 40,800 to be competitive. You negotiate for pay by being very pleasant and cheerful, while asserting your experience and work ethic. You don't have to take the job, and they may not be able to afford you. No harm, no foul. Remember that you are likely to run into people at other workplaces, so be calm and cheerful. If you don't take the job, say "I really enjoyed meeting you all, and I know I'd like working with you, but it's a financial hit that I just can't take at this time. "
posted by theora55 at 5:33 PM on November 18, 2014


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