Wet behind the ears with a new job offer. How to get what I want?
February 24, 2015 11:56 PM   Subscribe

At long last, after a year jobhunting, I’ve seemingly finally landed a job! It’s not 100% set in stone yet, and I’m a bit uncertain of how to proceed. Help me navigate this whole process.

Last week, I had two interviews with a small company (>15 people at the local office, with other offices of similar sizes): one via the phone, another in person, for a data entry/website support position. The in-person interview went well, and surprisingly enough, I received an email yesterday with them saying they were pleased to hire me and that they wanted me to start as soon as possible, and that they’d send an offer letter with more specifics within the next few days. Of course, I leapt at the opportunity.

However, there’s a few things bothering me. I’d like to ask for help navigating through this process. I haven’t had much experience with job interviews/negotiating a salary, and I’m decidedly wet behind the ears.

1) I’m deaf. We did the initial interview via relay. At the end of the call, I explained that I would need an interpreter for the in-person interview, and was told that they did not provide interpreters and asked if I could bring my own. I explained that in most cases, it was the law to provide reasonable accommodations, but after talking with my VR (Department of Rehabilitation), they said they would provide interpreters for interviews/trainings. I spoke with the hiring manager again and clarified upon that, and all went well. It still kind of came across as a small red flag, but I chalked it up to them not having had experience working with Deaf people. However, to be truthful, it came across as a bit penny-pinching, which can be another red flag.

2) During the phone interview, they asked me how much I wanted to be paid. I explained that my previous job (with a retail company) was $16/hour, I would be happy with that base salary. I was told $12 was the most they were offering for this position, which seemed low to me, especially for the job description and for being in a major city (DC). I foolishly said that would be fine. However, it’s unlikely, but possible that the operator misunderstood or misspelled the number. When I get the offer letter (either via email or in person), how do I successfully negotiate and go higher? $12 a hour really smacks of being way too low, especially for DC, but I’m afraid I had talked myself into a corner by saying (on the phone) that $12 would be okay by me. However, it’s possible the manager forgot/will assume the phone interview was a bit wonky (which it was; the operator made several mistakes). Would negotiating for paid metro (DC’s version of a subway) also be ideal? I’m just concerned that if they pay such a low rate (lower than retail!), does that say something negative about their way of doing business? It’s a full-time position and does include medical/vacation/sick days, though. I'm not clear if it's actually salaried, or paid hourly.

3) Another (very minor) red flag is the fact that glassdoors.com doesn’t have any information on this company. Very minor, but a bit odd, I would guess, especially given that many companies are on that website. What should I expect, working in such a small setting?

4) When/if I get the offer letter (possibly tomorrow, or next Monday, when I start), how long should I wait to respond?

This whole process is completely new to me, and as you can see, I’m completely wet behind the ears. I only had experience working at my university with various odd jobs, an internship, and a retail setting. I also have to deal with closing SSI, discontinuing food stamps, and arranging for an interpreter for the first few days with VR. Oy.

Many thanks!
posted by dubious_dude to Work & Money (13 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
This sounds unwise to me. You're taking a 25% cut from your expected salary to work for a company that's making it clear that appropriately compensating their employees is not part of their business model. It absolutely says something about their way of doing business, and what it says is we don't value our employees enough to pay them a living wage. I realise that sometimes a job, any job, is better than no job, but it doesn't sound to me like this is necessarily one of those times.

You might have painted yourself into a corner with this one company--it's possible you'll say there must have been a misunderstanding, because you cannot work for $12/hr, and they'll say, well, nice talking to you--but you don't have to accept this job, and this will not be the last job offer you get. If you're able to support yourself as it is, ask yourself if you really want to go work for this company for under 25k/yr. Assume that you're going to have to fight, every time, for reasonable accommodation, and remember that in the future, when prospective employers ask about your previous salary, this is the number they'll get. I'm not sure it's worth it.
posted by MeghanC at 12:48 AM on February 25, 2015 [6 favorites]

1). They didn't sound malicious, just unaware of their legal right to accommodate. If they have no experience with people needing accommodations but are willing to learn and get out of their comfort zone than that is a positive sign.
2). You've already negotiated and accepted $12. I agree it is low but is the job market tight in your area? There is no professional way to open this conversation back up. Are there any programmes that can help "top up" that salary?
3). Some small companies are more willing to be flexible, some are unable to be flexible because of short resourcing. Impossible to say. Not every company is on glass door (mine is 100 years old and has 200 employees and we aren't on glass door for example)
4). Respond to the letter immediately. This isn't the rules and playing games is unprofessional.

If you haven't worked in a year I would take the job and continue to look for other jobs from a stronger position. Much, much easier to find a job while employed. If you are still there in three months (or get a better offer in writing and want to stay) then re-negotiate the pay. The other issues that are stressing you out are not your employer's responsibility and are the type of things a lot of people have to deal with. Considering the salary, see if you still be eligible for food stamps or a working poor supplement.

Good luck in your new position!
posted by saucysault at 3:06 AM on February 25, 2015 [3 favorites]

One way to bump up the salary is to review the entire compensation package. Then say, "I know we talked about $12 per hour, but after reviewing the total compensation $16 is more in order."

In the future, don't accept low-ball offers. I'm looking for work too, and I get it, you freak out a little bit, especially when you like the people you're talking to, but don't sell yourself short.

Being deaf makes looking for work problematic. A lot of jobs are just not viable for you and the ones that are can be compromises. A lot of employers don't know what reasonable accommodation is, and some won't come right out and say it, especially very small companies, but they may not want to, or can't afford to provide it.

Check out the ADA and confirm that very small firms are required to provide you with what YOU deem to be reasonable accommodation, they may not, and you may find that just getting what you need will be a significant part of your job.

That said, if the combination of money and benefits works for you, and having this job is better than not, accept it but keep an eye peeled for better work.

I will say that the Federal Government actively recruits folks with disabilities and you should for sure check that out.

Since you're in DC, another option is Gallaudet. I don't know if you're an alum, but even if you're not, I'll bet they have a career center, and perhaps they can connect you with employers with whom they have hiring relationships.

Good luck to you!
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 5:25 AM on February 25, 2015 [1 favorite]

I had some success in a job negotiation in the past with the approach Ruthless Bunny suggests - "I am really enthusiastic about this opportunity, but having reviewed the total compensation package compared to my current one, I would need to see something more like $X in order to accept the job." They took that perfectly in stride, thought about it for a day or two, and came back with the amount I had requested. (In truth, I had simply misspoken in the phone interview when asked my current salary - I wasn't expecting the call, was a bit off balance, and had misspoken and given my salary from before my last raise, not my current salary.)

I would not be concerned about the glassdoor thing. I would suggest you respond within a day to the letter if only to acknowledge receipt and say that you are reviewing the package and will respond within 2 days or whatever seems reasonable to you.
posted by Stacey at 5:48 AM on February 25, 2015 [2 favorites]

Don't worry about Glassdoor.

In my experience, the only people that post on Glassdoor are pissed-off employees, pissed-off EX-employees, or employees asked to say nice things about the company to improve it's standing on the site. It's very hard to find a constructive review there that is organic. Happy and busy people are too happy and busy to bother with a review.

You mentioned the company is small, which means you have a very small sample of the groups above. I honestly wouldn't expect to see any reviews at all until the company hits 50-100 employees.
posted by JoeZydeco at 7:13 AM on February 25, 2015 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Thanks for the advice and thoughts thus far!

An update: I received the offer letter officially a bit earlier this morning. They are offering a gross salary of $12.45, plus health/dental after 60-90 days (the standard wait time), sick days after 6 months, and 6 paid holidays. I acknowledged the email and told them I would review everything then get back to them.

I can see both perspectives. On one hand, it definitely is much less than what I earned at my previous job. On the other hand, it's difficult finding a job, and would be easier once I have my foot in the door and more experience on my resume.

I will be seeing someone today to discuss SSI's "Ticket to Work" program. If I'm eligible and the program (9 months) work for me, then that may be a good thing, as well.

How would you suggest I negotiate further? What would a reasonable counter offer be? I'm afraid that if I counter with $16, they may be "scared" off, even with the script offered above. Am I being too gun shy? What would you suggest I do? Would suggesting a metro transit card be a good idea? I don't understand why they are offering so low.

What's making this more stressful on me is that I'm working with my VR agency and they were the ones helping me find a job, and they are trying to arrange for interpreter services, so they need to know ASAP. I don't want to "back out" and make my VR annoyed with all the work done already, and the 'job offer' forms already signed be rescinded.

I hope this makes sense. Thanks!
posted by dubious_dude at 8:20 AM on February 25, 2015

How about asking for a salary review at the 6 month mark when your sick days and vacation days kick in? "I was hoping for a slightly higher salary. I am confident that my work ethic and work product will demonstrate I am a valued employee. I would like to build into the offer a 6 month review of my work and my compensation."
posted by 724A at 8:54 AM on February 25, 2015 [1 favorite]

It's low, but you desperately need to build a solid work history. They may be lowballing you because your work history is sparse enough to be a pretty big warning flag - if you prove yourself you may be able to negotiate up in six months. If not, in a year you'll have enough experience to move onto something better.

Ultimately, what you get paid is based on what value they think you're going to bring, not what's good for you. You have a middling degree. a short internship quite some time ago, and some retail work in your history, with a dangerous amount of unemployment. Can you survive for a year on what they're offering? If so, go, and knock their socks off.

Snickerdoodle's point that you're comparing (assuming the retail job didn't offer bennies) two different classes of jobs is a good one.
posted by Candleman at 9:32 AM on February 25, 2015

Response by poster: Not intending to threadsit, but just a point of clarification. My previous retail job did offer benefits - health (medical, vision, and dental), as well as paid metro (transit) in addition to the $16/hour.
posted by dubious_dude at 9:35 AM on February 25, 2015

$12 is criminally low. You should really evaluate if its worth losing whatever benefits you currently receive from govermnet programs and if it's not, refuse the job if they don't up the pay and really start working the resources available through goverment programs to get a better paying job. Especially since this is data entry and they are making you commute to the office. Can you look for telecommuting data entry jobs?
posted by WeekendJen at 10:14 AM on February 25, 2015 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: Sorry to be thread sitting, but I just spoke with my VR's agency (a private company contracted by my VR who has been helping me), and was told that $12 is normal/good for an entry level job (which is what the job is; sorry if people didn't realize it was an entry level job, should have been more clear about this). Is this right? Based on the responses, it seems like the general consensus disagrees.
posted by dubious_dude at 10:29 AM on February 25, 2015

It's low but that's the job market and your demonstrable skill set/dedication to work right now. To be blunt, if you could be making $16/hour right now, you would be - you're not. I used to interview for entry level positions and I wouldn't have let you get to the interview stage because a 26 year old with an undergrad degree, six month internship, and a year and a half at sales and huge gaps of unemployment screams unmotivated special snowflake and would have a significant risk of either not working hard or deciding the job was beneath them and quitting. I would have gone with the person that might not have gone to college (or had an associates degree) and had spent years working lousy jobs but done something to show they were hungry for something better.
posted by Candleman at 10:58 AM on February 25, 2015 [5 favorites]

I would listen to your vocational rehab agency. They know the local market, and they know your skillset and experience.
posted by jaguar at 1:18 PM on February 25, 2015 [2 favorites]

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