New job pay negotiation
December 19, 2021 9:37 AM   Subscribe

I was offered a job on Friday. Do you have any advice about negotiating the pay?

I am a woman. I have negotiated little in my life, and never my salary.

I feel like I have little "argument" to negotiate in this instance. But I know that it is generally expected, and that I could be leaving money on the table by not trying.

It is hard to compare this job to jobs that are closely similar with known pay, because this job title is used next to never.

I have negligible experience with the technologies used at at this company. I have maybe intermediate programming skill, but in a different language.

I originally applied for a job at the new company with a lower salary range, so the company knows I will accept less. The gross pay is about 30 percent more than in my current job. The pay range is 55K to 60K, and they offered me 56.5K

Various benefits are unremarkable, but less generous than in my current job. My project today is to work on the math to try to figure out the cost of what I would lose, given that my defined-benefit pension plan at my current job won't be growing for the next 11 years until I retire.

According to a salary survey for the broader field, the new salary would be in the bottom 15 percent. But that survey included managers and used "snowball sampling", and states itself that it shouldn't be considered representative.

Looking at the field, even more broadly, Glass Door also put the new salary on the low end. But I don't understand Glass Door enough to know, for instance, what percentile the salary is at, or how it matches up with my level of experience. (I have only about five years doing this work.)

I told the new company I will respond Monday. They said either phone or e-mail, but the latter is better.

Do you have any tips or information for me?
posted by furtheryet to Work & Money (13 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
I usually say something noncommittal about being interested, and ask if they have more budget.

"Wow! I'm so excited to get an offer for this position! I think we are a great fit. I was expecting an offer closer to 62k. Do you know if there is any room in the budget for a higher starting salary? In addition, my last position gave me 17 paid days off. That's something that I would really value in this new position, do you know if there is flexibility there?"
posted by bbqturtle at 9:44 AM on December 19, 2021 [15 favorites]

I've been out of the workforce for a while now, but there's one rule I remember:

The first negotiator to speak is at a disadvantage. Let them throw the salary and benefits package at you, then go up from there.

It's not relevant imo that you originally applied for a different job. That job has less responsibility, therefore it pays less, correct? So you're up for a job with more responsibility that should pay accordingly.
posted by champers at 9:54 AM on December 19, 2021 [3 favorites]

> Various benefits are unremarkable, but less generous than in my current job. My project today is to work on the math to try to figure out the cost of what I would lose, given that my defined-benefit pension plan at my current job won't be growing for the next 11 years until I retire.

I did exactly this -- quantified the dollar value of the losses to me financially (and otherwise) of taking a new position with a somewhat higher salary but worse benefits. Among the things I itemized were increased healthcare premiums, decreased healthcare benefits, the loss of a couple of weeks of vacation, and even subsidized parking and a free public transit pass.

I ended up getting most of what I needed to make the change roughly compensation-netural, with the remainder made up for by better job satisfaction and more opportunities to grow in my career than I had in my old spot. In the end, this gave me more leverage with which to ask for more money, but in order to do this, you need to be willing to walk away or have them take their second choice for the position at a lower salary. At the time I was not loving my job, but I was willing to hang on to it for a while to make sure my next move was the right one.
posted by tonycpsu at 10:12 AM on December 19, 2021 [6 favorites]

Regarding the job you applied for with the lower salary range: You know you need/will accept a lower salary and the company likely knows it, too. However, for all practical purposes, Do Not Anchor yourself to the lower paying salary. Best if you can can mentally block out that you ever applied to the lower paying job . In fact, if the company brings that up as an argument as to why they should deny your request for a better salary or benefits, that is a real jerk move and an important data point for you in dealing with this company going forward. That is what a car sales person would do to a prospective buyer asking for a lower price on a vehicle purchase - "but you were looking at [top of the line model], so surely this price isn't too high" - that is nonsense, do not fall for that line of reasoning, from yourself or from your prospective employer. Instead, you need to focus on framing the current negotiation as being for the current job. The other, lower-paying job, as well as what you are currently making in your current job*, is outdated information and no longer applicable to the conversation at hand.

By the way, if the current job is more demanding, has higher requirements, or is in any way a harder role for the company to fill, the job absolutely should be paying more than the original role you applied for. When it comes to negotiation, remember to think about it from the perspective of the other party, too - where is their negotiation position weak and how you can use that to internally justify to yourself why you should ask for more?

Don't ever bring up your current salary but feel free to bring up your current benefits or their equivalent value to you and ask if the company can match it.

When you don't feel your negotiating position is strong, you can work around it. In fact, you don't need to justify your request for more, at all. It can help, but I'm just saying you don't have to justify a request when you ask for more. You can just come back and ask if they can do a little better on X or Y (where X or Y can be salary, PTO, etc.) and leave it at that. Alternatively, another general response can be something along the lines of: I'm excited for this new role and joining your company. Once I start, I want to focus all my attention on bringing my best to my new position every single day instead of worrying if I'm being compensated in line with my peers in the industry. Is there room to go higher on X? -- and then see what they say.

I also advise spending an hour of two today Googling "how to negotiate job salary", it will be among the most lucrative 2 hours you ever spend. And when you have more time, there are also a ton of books on how to negotiate you can pick up from the library. "Ladies Get Paid" is just one example. 10 minutes of pain (an email or phone negotiation) can be a difference of hundreds of thousands of dollars across your lifetime.

>> I have negligible experience with the technologies used at at this company. I have maybe intermediate programming skill, but in a different language.
Also generally speaking, do yourself a favor and stop thinking like this. You don't need to convince yourself why the company should be paying you less than you want. Spend your energy thinking of all the reasons you deserve more, including soft skills, such as your confidence familiarity with the role and industry, your overall ability to pick up new, adjacent skills and work with autonomy, and your general level of experience and how that translates professionally. You don't have to meet every single criteria in the job description to be a strong and qualified candidate. In fact, there are companies that will unnecessarily inflate their hiring criteria in order to justify not paying you more, which is rubbish.

* Because almost guaranteed you're currently being under compensated.
posted by Goblin Barbarian at 10:32 AM on December 19, 2021 [8 favorites]

This is an excellent (long) read for people in tech.

For more general industry advice, Ask A Manager has tips.
posted by corvine at 11:25 AM on December 19, 2021 [2 favorites]

I’m a woman in tech who always negotiates salary. I never give a reason - I just ask, using language similar to bbqturtle.

The key components are to express enthusiasm about the role and then ask for more. Language like “I was expecting closer to x” is great. Don’t feel like you have to give a justification- any you give likely won’t matter anyway.
posted by jeoc at 11:51 AM on December 19, 2021 [8 favorites]

Much good advice here. I would suggest responding with "Looking at what I will be leaving behind in terms of benefits, and my talents; I would be looking in the range of X for a similar compensation.". Aim high, it's a tight market and you are certainly worth it.
posted by nickggully at 12:04 PM on December 19, 2021 [6 favorites]

> Do you have any tips or information for me?

(longer-term perspective, less on immediate tactics of this instance of negotiation)

Regardless of if you end up accepting an offer from this prospective employer or not, keep interviewing and keep gathering information about market rate salaries for your role or similar roles!

If you've never negotiated for salary before, you're almost certainly underpaid. This can be remedied, but it will likely take a modest amount of job-hopping. In my case, I had 5 years of experience before I came to appreciate I was underpaid, and the importance of attempting to negotiate for salary, even ineptly. It took me about 4 changes in employment situation, over 2 years (including switching from a permanent role to a few different contract positions) for my salary to settle at the mid-upper end for daily contract rates for my role, which was dramatically higher than where I started (~ 3x). I never really negotiated well, and still left money on the table. I spent a reasonable amount of time talking to recruiters and was open for taking on contract work, and kept on doing that until a great opportunity arose.

One thing to keep in mind is that the value that a given role creates for an employer can vary dramatically based on the size of the organisation and the context the role is performed in. E.g. suppose through your skill and diligence you help deliver a project resulting in a 1% reduction in costs while working at a small business -- maybe that saves the small business $50k / yr . In a much larger corporation, the same kind of work for a similar role with a similar 1% cost reduction outcome might save the company millions of dollars per year. So the latter company will be able to justify a much larger budget for the same role than the small business, especially if it believes there's some great candidate out there for the role who might even save them 1.5% . They're not going to want to pay a salary that's actually proportional to the value generated by the role, but they might readily see what salaries their competitors are offering and then be willing to beat that by 20%.

It isn't unheard of for business A to offer at most $X for a role, where business B is able to offer $2X for the same role. But you need to do enough interviewing or comparing notes with your peers in industry to get an idea of what the ranges are and which potential employers offer the more attractive deals.
posted by are-coral-made at 12:14 PM on December 19, 2021 [1 favorite]

It's very simple: ask what the compensation package is. If you feel it is too low, and you genuinely like the organization, ask for the higher number. Chances are good, they'll increase the offer. If they don''re in the driver's seat in this market.
posted by tgrundke at 1:17 PM on December 19, 2021 [1 favorite]

Another resource geared toward women and other disadvantaged folks negotiating salary: 81cents

You won't have time to get a report from them unless you ask for an extension on your current offer. However, I used their service this year and it was worthwhile in helping me prepare for negotiating. The negotiating itself didn't go as planned - I literally just said, "Is there any room for flexibility in the compensation?", but it worked. They improved the offer to a place where I was comfortable based on my research.
posted by skunk pig at 2:40 PM on December 19, 2021 [1 favorite]

They said either phone or e-mail, but the latter is better.

An e-mail may be better for them, but a phone call is better for you.
posted by skunk pig at 2:42 PM on December 19, 2021 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Thank you all for such wonderful, helpful answers! I felt like I was much better prepared this morning. I asked for an amount that I felt was a bit higher than what would be good for me, and I got it! So I am happy.

But, I think back on all the jobs I've taken in my life where I could have asked for more money and probably received it. I think a lot of us women have been trained to accept what is offered and not advocate for anything more. I hope that begins to change.
Again, thank you all.
posted by furtheryet at 8:59 AM on December 20, 2021 [5 favorites]

Honestly the best negotiating technique I've ever used is to lie to the new employer that I'm already making almost exactly what they're offering. Or, if they put me in the position of naming my own salary number, I lie that I'm making 20% more than I really am.

Usually this negotiating trick happens at an earlier stage of the process than your OP was at. But hey, congratulations! And remember this trick for next time. :)
posted by MiraK at 1:38 PM on December 20, 2021

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