How do I renegotiate salary pre-offer?
February 16, 2017 9:28 AM   Subscribe

Initial prescreen salary question was probably too low. How do I renegotiate back to what I was making before?

I've been looking for a job for 3 months. When I left my last job, it was mid six figures. Prior to that, it was low six figures. However, that area of my expertise (medical communications) pays pretty well. I made a career transition to formerly a digital project manager (I was one informally for 10 years). So I've been looking for digital project manager jobs at various companies and agencies. The interviews I had with general agencies/companies said that my six figure salary was wayyyy out of line. Even a low 90s was out of line. So I started to fill out applications between 80-90k but even then, recruiters were telling me that the actual salary is mid to upper 70s and maybe low 80s. I can't keep being unemployed so I started to cut my salary expectations even lower to match that information.

Well I had an initial prescreen interview with a medical communications agency and I put 80-90k. When she asked if I was comfortable with that I said "well honestly, it is a cut but I've seen everything across the board in salary for PM and I don't want to overshoot nor undercut."

Well I went on and saw that their PM salaries were from mid 70s all the way back to what I was making at my last job (mid 100ks) so now I feel that 80-90 is a too much of a cut (if they say mid 80s). How do I backtrack to tell them that I want more? I'm reasonable and accepting that mid six figs is probably an overshot but I want more of upper 90s-low 100s but I also don't want to ruin this opportunity with the change in request and then interview with companies that clearly will give me 70s if that.

What is the best way to renegotiate to a reasonable, higher salary without messing this chance up?
posted by stormpooper to Work & Money (8 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
You were happy to accept that pay level, until you realized they pay some people more? That seems weird to me. Nothing changed about the job, your skills, or your desire to work there, right?

Anyway, you can't tell them it was an typo or something, you specifically confirmed that you were ok with that number. You could try to tell the white lie that your circumstances changed, and thus you can't accept what you thought you could.

I think the one thing that might work is saying that you consider yourself top level, senior, etc, and you put down what you thought they paid top level senior folks. This is basically saying you made an error of judgment, which seems pretty close to the truth.
posted by SaltySalticid at 9:51 AM on February 16, 2017

Have you been offered a job? If not, wait until you are. If/when you are offered a job, I would just ask for more. If they say "but wait, you were happy with this level before" you can just honestly say that you've had a chance to do more research and that you think 105,000 (or whatever) is more in line with the market, given what you now know about the skills/responsibilities of the job.
posted by lunasol at 9:54 AM on February 16, 2017 [14 favorites]

Remember, for the future, most (not all, but most) recruiters have every incentive to downplay your salary expectations. Their commission comes on you being offered a job in the first place. They get paid on closing. Even if they can theoretically get paid higher commissions if they negotiate a higher salary for you, their main challenge is to get the deal closed in the first place. I got pushed down so much on my salary just to be on the recruiter's 'books'. It wasn't only until later when I realized that I could have held a lot firmer with my salary expectations.

It's hard to backtrack on your salary negotiations. The best way to get a reasonable higher salary is to get competing offers.
posted by moiraine at 10:20 AM on February 16, 2017 [1 favorite]

Not specifically about the negotiation but generally about the PM market: You mention you were a PM informally. You might want to pursue a PMP or Scrum master or other certification (perhaps getting an employer to pay for it if you take this job?). I think it might be hard to command over 100k without it or other specialized knowledge. I make your former salary as a PM but that's with almost 20 years in a niche role with one company. When I tried to change industries awhile ago, i would have had to take 20k - 40k pay cut and that's with a PMP.
posted by cabingirl at 10:31 AM on February 16, 2017

@Cabingirl. I'm currently studying for CAPM but that's only because I am short on some PMP hours for closure. My former company that I was with for 10 years didn't do closure.

I honestly don't know what a PM makes because I saw ranges between 70-120k depending on the company. Agencies, I was told 70-80 was about right. Healthcare communications always pays more. Copywriter at say Leo Burnett can be about 50-70. Copywriter at a healthcare/pharma agency---90+. It's a different market. This company is back into healthcare/pharma.

I used to sell myself short by 1/2 of what others made until I did research and wised up. Unfortunately (but fortunately for me) it put me in a high paying market. Once you're out of that market, then you take a cut. I am "happy" to take a cut but there's a difference between a $10k cut and a $40k cut. Of course, anyone wants to get the least amount of cut as possible.

This whole job hunting after 10 years is hard. My confidence has been shot lately. I was hoping that PM was more of a stable route for a person in their mid 40s. Of course, every company wants younger/cheaper employees unless you want to be a VP. I don't want to be a VP. I want to be senior level or first line manager.

@Cabingirl, I wish you luck in your market. Yes a PMP should make a helluva lot more than what you were being offered.
posted by stormpooper at 11:50 AM on February 16, 2017 [2 favorites]

I think your best bet is, if you get an offer, at that point say that based on what you've learned about the position, level of responsibility, applicability of your previous experience, etc., you feel like $xxx is more appropriate, and see how it goes.
posted by msbubbaclees at 4:09 PM on February 16, 2017

Regardless of whether the recruiter is presenting you to the hiring manager as a candidate with a salary requirement range of 80-90k you will want to have the "money" conversation with the manager either at some point in your interview or if you are having to come back for a second round do it then. At which point your approach can be what lunasol suggested above: You did some more research and thought about the responsibilities you discussed with the hiring manager and based on your past experience you need the salary to be in the range of $xxxx.
posted by eatcake at 4:24 PM on February 16, 2017

To the OP - I'm not a PMP but I'm involved with PMI. If you're not involved with a local chapter you might want to find someone and ask to pick their brain about logging hours for qualification. You said your previous company "didn't do closure," and as long as you legitimately did the work you might be overthinking the formality of that. You don't want to fudge (they do audits, especially on first time applicants), but you may not be at the company's mercy as much as you think. Feel free to PM me.

PMP is a lot more prestigious and basically the same test, if I understand right.
posted by randomkeystrike at 7:00 AM on February 17, 2017

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