Salary negotiation ball in my court
May 1, 2017 10:52 PM   Subscribe

For an administrative assistant position they offered me $15/hr. I gave good reasons why my expectation was for $20. They cannot start me at $20 and want to know my "absolute limit for accepting the position."

Whole story: a friend* referred me for a position that wasn't being advertised, and Company X invited me for an interview. Between our first contact and the actual interview I was laid off from my current job (not a huge surprise. Seeing layoffs coming was why I was seeking new employment). The interview could not have gone better. It's an admin support role in a field in which I have a great deal of experience, so I'm bringing a lot to the table wrt admin experience and insider knowledge, training, and experience in the industry.

The internet tells me that admin assistants in my city typically make $15-20/hr.

Company X is a successful (good reputation, have been around for several years) nonprofit org. Their benefits are not great.

My absolute limit is, honestly, I'd take the job for $15/hr but I'd feel resentful and have a wandering eye for a better opportunity. $18 would make me feel pretty happy. My gut is telling me to ask for $17.

Important to note: they give a pay increase following a 6 month review, and then yearly raises thereafter. Benefits like paid time off increase after 3 years.

I'd love to work there and have been fantasizing about a real, actual future of growing with this organization and developing new programs. There have been no red flags.

It sounds to me like I have to give a number. The info I still don't have is what their health coverage looks like (this is US). My contact/boss is wonderful and stated she knows I have a lot to offer and it would be a loss to them if I were to choose not to work there.

Also, I've also declined other opportunities that pay more/have better benefits but look shitty for various reasons. I don't want to be unemployed.

Should I just ask for $17? Should I go lower based on the risk they deny me? Is there a way I can deflect this back to them to proffer a number?

Other lesser details: A woman held this role for 20+ years before retiring. The job was then split into 1.5 jobs-- mine, and a part-time bookkeeper. I also have a background in bookkeeping and I imagine I will absorb the other position down the road (like I said, I'm envisioning a whole future~)

I've read Ask A Manager. What a great resource! But I hope you can help with my specific situation, which is rather time-sensitive. Thanks for any advice!

*The friend that referred me's position or reputation is not at stake whichever way things go.
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (18 answers total)
I would say $18. If you get it, you will be so much happier in the job.

If they turn you down, tell them this is your dream job, you would really like to make it work. Ask them to name a number. if they can't offer money, is there some other way they can sweeten the pot? Indicate a willingness to creative - more time off? a leg up on time to better benefits? allowance for continuing education and training? different title on your business card?

Small organization, if they really like you and you are a sweet deal, I can't believe they would walk away just because your final offer didn't turn out to be quite so final.
posted by metahawk at 11:21 PM on May 1, 2017 [11 favorites]

The ball is indeed in your court.

If you want to lob it back you can be honest: "Tell me how much you are willing to pay. Frankly I'll take the job for $15 but I'm feeling low-balled and it's at the very bottom end of my range, can you do any better?"

It's impossible to say for sure but I feel they wouldn't have given you the opportunity to make a counter if $17 was a non-starter. That'd just be mean, if they're only willing to go up to $15.50 or something.

But 100% clarify the benefits, especially health care (including the employee contribution) first. That's a big percentage of your salary.
posted by mark k at 11:37 PM on May 1, 2017 [1 favorite]

You've provided a lot of additional information here, but the bottom line is that you're asking whether you should counter with $17/hr or $18, right? I think you should ask for the highest number you think you could reasonably get, so ask for $18.

I also agree with trying to negotiate on benefits rather than just salary. What about relocation? Signing bonus?

I wouldn't recommend saying that you'd accept $15, even if it's true. They're clearly willing to offer you more than $15 or they would have phrased their counter differently, and in order to successfully negotiate it's probably more to your advantage to let them believe you would walk away unless you got what you wanted, even if you don't say so (and you probably shouldn't, it's just implied).
posted by treehorn+bunny at 11:55 PM on May 1, 2017 [14 favorites]

My strategy would be to ask for 18 but then if they tell you that they're only prepared to offer $16 or 17 or some such thing you can always find some reason to come back to them afterwards and say that you've reconsidered (or move to negotiating on other aspects of the job at that point to make up for the pay issue).
posted by treehorn+bunny at 11:57 PM on May 1, 2017

Isn't it their turn to name a number? You said 20, they said not possible, but what could we get you at?

If I were you I'd say, "Because of my experience and skills, I was expecting $20. I'm so grateful for the offer and excited about the company. Could you let me know what you're able to offer?"

To hell with this what could we get you at bullshit, unless you're absolutely desperate for this job.
posted by Uncle Glendinning at 12:06 AM on May 2, 2017 [46 favorites]

They want to know want to know your "absolute limit for accepting the position"? Your response should be "I've told you what my expectation is. What is your absolute limit for the position?"
posted by MexicanYenta at 12:46 AM on May 2, 2017 [4 favorites]

quoting you:

My absolute limit is, honestly, I'd take the job for $15/hr
posted by philip-random at 12:59 AM on May 2, 2017 [1 favorite]

As has been stated, the ball is their court, recommend you request clarity re their offer, take the position at 17 and rock it, honestly the fact that that they are are lying low now is an indicator they may not be the dream employer
posted by blueprinter at 1:01 AM on May 2, 2017 [2 favorites]

At least they came back instead of wholly revoking the offer (my exp lately). Compromise at $17 ish
posted by tilde at 3:54 AM on May 2, 2017

Don't let them bully you into accepting less than you deserve for the position. Agree with everyone else that they should be counter offering with what they are willing to pay, and not putting the burden on you to essentially negotiate with yourself.

Personally my answer would be the same as the first ($20) since they gave you nothing to work with. I'd tell them to make an offer.

Don't get too hung up on this being your one and only dream job forever and ever. While it looks like a great opportunity this salary negotiation could be a red flag that could haunt you for all of your time there. If this is how they approach such things, how hellish will it be to get those raises they promise? After all, there are plenty of people working for non profits who haven't seen a raise in years. i wouldn't bank on those promised raises, I think you have to be prepared for them to say there's no money for raises. As such, you should start out at a rate you can live with right now.
posted by cabingirl at 3:56 AM on May 2, 2017 [2 favorites]

I'd say something like " Based on my experience, I was expecting $20. If that's not something you can do, I'd like to start at $18 with an additional week of PTO." Feel free to substitute another benefit you'd like better.
posted by notjustthefish at 5:13 AM on May 2, 2017 [8 favorites]

The info I still don't have is what their health coverage looks like (this is US).

Figure out that detail. Tell them you can give them an answer about salary after they give you these details. Health coverage is worth {monthly cost / hours per month} to you, and to the community who care about you, who all contributed to your life so far, and would support you if you became ill or injured.

My gut is telling me you should counter with $18.50 -- if the health coverage works out -- because it's a significant step down from your original $20, and it would let you still feel like you were being treated well. Plus, they may respond with a lower counter-offer, and you might still feel good about that other rate.
posted by amtho at 5:16 AM on May 2, 2017 [3 favorites]

I've used, "I'll definitely say yes to $18."

Doesn't mean I won't say yes to something lower and lets them know we can end the negotiation right here without any more back and forth. It's up to them.

Also, of course, this is all dependent on benefits, other perks, etc.
posted by paulcole at 7:32 AM on May 2, 2017 [5 favorites]

Do you know how much of a pay increase you would get after the six month introductory period? For me, knowing what percentage or dollar amount increase I would be receiving after the first six months would help me frame my minimum starting salary appropriately.

I disagree that the onus is on you to provide a number. I am not sure of your gender, but a lot of info online re: negotiating while female tends to come with a big flashing warning about avoiding being placed in the position to name the number, since often times workplaces are willing and able to pay you more than what you might end up suggesting.

Even though this organization is a non-profit, you haven't asked for the moon here; you asked for the higher end of the standard salary range for a position you are eminently qualified for.

Like others have said, I'm all for responding with some flavor of "I was really hoping for $20 given my experience and qualifications, but I am excited about the good work your organization does, and I would be willing to work with you to find a happy medium re: compensation. What would you be able to offer?" This puts the ball back in their court re: a hard number, but you're still indicating your interest and flexibility.
posted by helloimjennsco at 9:28 AM on May 2, 2017

I've used something along the lines of "I take a holistic approach to compensation. If $20 is out of the question, are you flexible on PTO (increased amount, banked immediately stocked, etc), modified work schedule (ie, 4/10 hour days or 4/9 hour days and a 4 hour day, etc) reduced work schedule (straight up $20/hour, but only work 4 days a week)." The whole "What other areas might you be able to flex in?" puts the offer back on them.

I've been able to get some pretty sweet work schedules because a company actually couldn't pay me what I wanted. In my case, this allowed me to use a couple days a week that my son wasn't in daycare, and thus, increased my take-home pay each month.
posted by furnace.heart at 9:54 AM on May 2, 2017 [4 favorites]

I am a manager at a small non-profit in the US. I hire 30-50 people a year for project based work, and 1-2 people a year for full time staff. This sounds like my every day. I have some thoughts.

1. I see no serious red flags with how they have conducted the negotiation. It would have been nicer for them to counter your counter (they started at 15, you said 20, it is in fact their turn) but they could be asking you in good faith for your limit. If they are true to the non-profit mindset a dollar saved on payroll expense is a dollar to put towards their mission. Still, you should not feel bad about advocating for yourself. I would only run away if they cannot provide detailed info on the health insurance. You are within your rights to ask them for a counter plus detailed health info and explain you don't want to negotiate against yourself.

2. If you give them your lowest, they will probably offer the lowest. Don't expect them to negotiate for your benefit. Again, more dollars saved for the mission, etc.

3. When it is within my resources, my favorite way to end to a negotiation is meet in the middle ($17.50). Both sides give exactly the same. You do not have time on your side - while days go by and you haggle over $17 or $17.50, another candidate might indicate they would do the job for $13. However, investing time in further interviews/negotiations is also a cost for them.

3. Asking for more vacay is a great move. In my very seasonal company, we just sealed the deal with a new employee by offering another week of vacation in the summer. They get more time with family, we don't spend more money on higher salary, and the position was results-based not hours-based, so we'll still get the same value from the employee. If they come back with a "this is the best we can do" for the rate, you can still ask for more vacation or PTO. The worst is they say no, and you take the job anyway.

Good luck! Oh - and make sure to negotiate higher pay if/when that part time bookkeeper gets fired and you "temporarily" have to pick up the slack.
posted by sol at 10:34 AM on May 2, 2017 [3 favorites]

Don't say $15. You'll be so pissed and probably ready to leave as soon as something better comes along. if you say $15, you'll get $15 and look like you undervalued your skills. Instead ask for $18, clearly they're will to pay more than $15 or they wouldn't have asked. Also, your raises aren't going to amount to a $3 increase, at least not anytime soon. Plus, raises aren't guaranteed. If you say $15 you might be there for quite a while. The biggest raise you can get is now during negotiations. Also, as others have suggested factor in benefits like vacay and maybe a more accommodating work schedule or title.
posted by CosmicSeeker42 at 11:26 AM on May 2, 2017

My experience with nonprofits is that they're trying to squeeze every penny. Negotiate the higher salary now because they'll (in my experience) be very stingy with raises. You can also try for more vacation, work from home, flex time, etc. But it won't hurt you to say "my preferred salary is $18-$20 an hour" and then see what they counter.
posted by TheLateGreatAbrahamLincoln at 1:54 PM on May 2, 2017

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