Switching industries, got a job offer. Negotiation tactics?
September 10, 2020 7:34 AM   Subscribe

I got a job offer in a new industry, highly specialized. I'm trying to figure out how to negotiate for a better pay rate. Any thoughts would be appreciated.

While I want to keep as much identifying information as possible out of this post, the full-time (permanent, non-contracted) position requires about 3 years in public relations experience, is in the telecommunications field, and requires me to have a car (which I don't have yet), however, seems to be mostly virtual right now, given COVID-19. The commute from where I live would be about an hour, give or take. I live in a very high cost of living area; the city where the new job is has a somewhat lower cost of living. I don't want to move.

The offer is a couple more dollars per hour from my current (part-time) job, but also about a couple dollars less from my previous (laid-off, full-time) job. I was very underpaid in my previous job, due to many factors, but mostly because I served as a "jack of all trades" kind of position. This position seems to be highly specialized, requires some travel, would require me to get a car (which is what I've been wanting to do anyway).

I do feel the offer is a bit on the low side, and with rent/car payments, and student loans (after COVID-19's waiver; and if Congress decides not to cancel them outright), it'd be quite tight. I have more than 5 years of public relations experience, so that's a strong feature to be brought to the table.

How would you recommend I negotiate for a higher salary? I've done comparisons on Glassdoor/Payscale for this city and years of experience, and it seems like I'd need to ask for ~$2-3 more dollars per hour in order to be comparative. How would you recommend I start this conversation, and ask for more/what my fair value is? Also, any red flags I should look for, that I'm being lowballed? I found it interesting in the job offer letter, they used a hourly rate rather than a yearly salary.

Another factor holding me back is that, so far, while my current job isn't perfect, I do feel like I'm part of a big family at my job, it's a huge corporation as well, and my job feels very secure so far there. I have a group of like-minded people I work with and have an unique bond with. It's retail, but it's better than average. The benefits/discounts are amazing. I'm a bit afraid if I take this new job, COVID may mess things up even more in the forthcoming months/years and I'd end up getting laid off or that industry seeing cuts. At the same time, I'm ready for a change as well, and things has been slowing down at my current job in terms of customers, because of all the requirements (masks, distancing, etc), and it'd be nice to have a stable schedule, with weekends off, etc.

Thoughts/tips would be much appreciated!
posted by thoughtful_analyst to Work & Money (6 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
People overthink negotiation. Just ask. Say "I was hoping for $x+3/hour, is that possible?" They'll answer either yes or no. If not, they might offer $x+1 or $x+1.5. That's really all there is to it. There's no special code word that will make them recruiter say "ah, this person knows how to negotiate, so we should meet their demands!".

If they say that $x is the most they can offer, you can ask for other perks (the easiest being more vacation time), but you'll have to do the math to see if you can take it. If $x is too low for your budget, let them know that, and there's a chance that they might increase the offer if they really like you.
posted by kevinbelt at 8:03 AM on September 10 [2 favorites]

"Thanks! I'm so pleased to receive your offer, and I'm really looking forward to working with you. If you're able to offer ${whatever}/hour, then I'll be very glad to accept. Look forward to hearing from you!"

All the other detail that you shared - what you get paid now, what you were paid in the past, cost of living here or there, COVID, comparisons on glassdoor... none of that is part of the conversation. Pick a number that you'll do it for, and tell them what it is.
posted by rd45 at 8:07 AM on September 10

Actually, per Ask a Manager, market rate is relevant here. How much money you need and how much you've made in the past don't really, though.

Also, they're mentioning the hourly rate--will you be paid hourly? How many hours a week are you expected to work? Will they consider you exempt or non-exempt from overtime? How do expenses work when you have to travel? Those are important things to know.

I would ask these questions, and say something like "Thank you for the offer, I'm so excited! This job seems like such a great fit for me. I had been hoping for more like $X+3 for the salary though; that's on par with the market rate for this kind of role, and especially for someone with my experience. Would that be possible?"

Enthusiasm for the job, the rate you had hoped for (and push it to the high end of that; if you'd take X+2 or X+3, say X+3, because you don't want them to counter with X+1), the fact that you've based that on real world research.

I would also personally be open to negotiating other perks--I'd take a lower-paying job with way more vacation, or their annual salary for 35 hours a week instead of 40.

And think before the conversation about what you'd do if they just said "sorry, not possible." Is the extra money a nice-to-have or a requirement?
posted by gideonfrog at 9:05 AM on September 10 [3 favorites]

It can really depend too on the industry you're moving into.

If you know you really want the job and would accept at +$3 bucks an hour, I've had success in saying: "If you can hit X comp by Friday, I'd be happy to accept and shut down my search, otherwise I'll need some time to think about it and finish my search."

That is dependent on you having the information that you do want to work there and having gone through the decision making process already to decide that you would accept.
posted by Carillon at 11:37 AM on September 10 [1 favorite]

It might make a difference if you're hourly or on salary.

If the offer is close to market rate, I've seen people ask the company to pay for car insurance. Where I am now, that can be a few thousand dollars a year. In the US... several hundred dollars a year?

For hourly, I've seen people negotiate the extra commute time as a function of their hourly pay. ie., $30/ hour divided by 8 = an extra $3.75 per hour.
posted by porpoise at 3:13 PM on September 10

Patrick McKenzie's Salary Negotiation: Make More Money, Be More Valued offers some good advice for negotiation-- it's mainly written for an audience of engineers but a lot of the advice is not engineering specific, +/- hiring markets for different industries.

To highlight a few points: it may cost the employer a fair bit of money to identify someone they're willing to hire and close a deal, and it also costs them more money if it takes longer to fill the role. At my megacorp employer we end up hiring something like 1-2 people out of every 100 applicants -- it will cost the company at least $10k paying wages to interviewers and hiring managers to get to the point where they've made one or two candidates a job offer, that the candidates might end up turning down! So depending on how hard the employer is finding it to fill the role, and how soon they want it filled, it may be an easy decision for them to agree to pay you a higher wage than their initial offer if they avoid needing to spend another $10k repeating the job search looking for another good person to fill the role.

Patrick's has good advice to respond to an initial salary offer of $X with a superficially positive but ambiguous -- "$X is interesting (*) but not quite where we need to be to get this done. Do you have any flexibility on that number?". This can be effective to see if the employer will just propose a better offer without you needing to volunteer a number yourself! I've seen this result in a better offer within the space of less than 1 minute while on a phone call. Often the first number in an offer is at the low end of the range an employer is willing to offer -- unless the industry is highly regulated for some reason, unlike the private sector.

If you have some understanding of what employer values and how your skills or experience could provide them with additional value that they might not have thought about, that's a great way to frame discussions rather than focusing on how much you will cost the employer:

> Applicant: Well, I know you do a significant amount of business with your online store. At my last company, I increased sales by 3% by $YADDA_YADDA. What would a 1% increase in sales be worth to you?
posted by are-coral-made at 3:39 PM on September 10 [1 favorite]

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