Job negotation tactics
July 19, 2007 9:14 PM   Subscribe

I recently moved to Los Angeles, and I've been in the job hunt for a couple of weeks now. I'm relatively qualified in my field, and I just received an offer. Should I lie to them about other offers if I feel that they've low-balled me?

My friend is in the following situation:

"Just before I left, I had a pretty lucrative offer in DC. Needing an income to pay rent, I am forced to get a job pretty quickly. Luckily, I recently got a job offer at a nearby firm. The qualifications for the job are pretty much the exact same as those needed for my declined DC offer. The problem, however, is that the newly offered salary is drastically lower -- under two thirds that of the previous offer.

I really need a job and I think this place would be perfect for me. I've already told them that I had a previous offer in DC that was drastically higher. I stated that with my qualifications, it's still a low offer. After discussing the salary over the phone, the LA company has already raised the offer a little bit -- but is still pretty insignificant.

I need to respond to the company very soon and am wondering what to do next. My question is, would it be OK for me to tell the company that I currently have another offer which they should attempt to match -- even if that is not the case? Is that wrong?"
posted by holympus to Work & Money (16 answers total)
Is that wrong?

What would I do? Tell them that their offer is still unreasonably low. Unless I was desperate and willing continue looking for a job with better pay.
posted by philomathoholic at 9:20 PM on July 19, 2007

Just say no.
posted by blacklite at 9:32 PM on July 19, 2007

Deej's Rule of Life #87: Only bluff if you can afford to lose.
posted by The Deej at 9:50 PM on July 19, 2007 [1 favorite]

Are you asking if it's ethically wrong to lie to them, or whether it's tactically wrong to use that approach in negotiation?

If the first, then, well, yes.

If the second, maybe. It depends, as all ultimata do, on whether you (or your friend, whatever) are willing to walk away from their offer if they don't increase it.

You certainly DON'T want to be in the position of telling them you've had a better offer, them declining to match it, and then you sheepishly saying "Uh, well, actually, my other thing fell through so maybe I'll take your original offer."

That would make you look pretty much like an idiot.

If you think you still might accept their offer, as unreasonable as it is, you should follow philomathoholic's advice, above, and tell them that their offer is still too low.

You should follow this up with a counter offer.

This is negotiation, it's standard in almost every industry and they almost certainly expect you to engage in it. Unless you are a woman, in which case they may be surprised, as it is my understanding that women tend to be less likely to negotiate salaries than are me. (See here, among many other, places, for cite.)
posted by dersins at 9:51 PM on July 19, 2007

I'm not going to address the right-or-wrong aspect of the question. In poker it's call bluffing, in most other cases it's called lying. In business it's often called Tuesday. Whatever.

It would be a risky move. Would they be low-balling if they couldn't afford to lose the candidate? Does your friend have intel on other candidates? There could be 2 more in the wings for that position. Does the local market for the position really compare to DC?

If they need the job, hardball isn't the game to play. Get rent taken care of first. Let them know the concerns over salary. Feints and ultimatums can sour a deal quickly.

Good luck to your friend.
posted by EmptyK at 9:51 PM on July 19, 2007

than are me

"than are men."

Stupid typing-too-fast.
posted by dersins at 9:52 PM on July 19, 2007

Dear friend: You said that you needed an income quickly to pay rent, which says to me that this is not the time to mess around.

Take the job.

It's not a job for life, of course, so feel free to keep looking. If, while employed at the underpaying job, you later find and/or receive another, higher offer... THEN consider the match-this-or-I-am-leaving ultimatum.

Until you have two actual choices, don't mess around.
posted by rokusan at 10:10 PM on July 19, 2007 [1 favorite]

Seconding rokusan.
posted by davejay at 10:33 PM on July 19, 2007

Argh, hit post too fast.

Seconding rokusan. I personally took a job once in a hurry, because I wanted to bail on my current gig. It paid almost nothing, but it (barely) paid the rent that month while I looked for a good job. When I landed one and gave notice, the company I was with was impressed enough with my big performance at the crappy little job that they made a big offer to keep me, including creation of a position for me, and paid training to pick up a new skill and use it to make money from the company's clients. That situation led to a lucrative new career, one I still have today.

In short, take the gig, and don't feel like you're settling -- think of it as a temporary financial setback while you find something better...and that something better may turn out to be at the same company.
posted by davejay at 10:36 PM on July 19, 2007

That said, if you think some tactical lying (not about things like qualifications, however) can land you a job or improve your opportunities in some way, then you should seriously consider it. It's all very well being one of the typical goody-two-shoes commenters on AskMe, but when a stiff percentage of your competition are using tactics, lying, and even fabricating entire education and career histories, you gotta play hard ball.
posted by wackybrit at 11:23 PM on July 19, 2007

Wrong? No.

Iffy? Yes.

Take the job and keep the feelers out for other, higher-paying jobs. When you get a bite, negotiate.
posted by Pecinpah at 5:30 AM on July 20, 2007

Tell them you'd like to work for them but their offer doesn't meet your needs. Ask if they can help you with that problem. If they can't, or try to game you, go elsewhere.
posted by foobario at 7:25 AM on July 20, 2007

Just to give you the perspective of an employer, I've had candidates try to pull the "I'm entertaining several other lucrative offers" line on me several times and rarely, if ever, does it make me think, "Geez, I'd better up our offer so we don't lose this candidate to another firm". Rather, it usually makes me assume the candidate is lying because, frankly, if he or she was truly being offered such a great salary at a competitor what the hell is he or she doing still talking to us?

I agree with the advice to take the job and keep looking for a better paying gig.
posted by The Gooch at 8:29 AM on July 20, 2007

go to and anyplace else you can research salaries for the position in that region. The pay scale in DC is not relevant to the pay in LA.

Before you negotiate, decide on your bottom line. How much do you want the job; how soon is rent due; how confident are you of finding a better job. Negotiating better pay makes them respect you more.
posted by theora55 at 8:32 AM on July 20, 2007

Lying = wrong.

Jeez, people.

Just tell them you need more money and will keep looking if they can't meet your price.
posted by mds35 at 8:44 AM on July 20, 2007

No, but feel free to tell them that it's too low. My little ditty about "I'm not sure I'd be able to take the position at the salary offered" when I met with the hiring committee got me four extra grand, but I didn't lie about it. I told them that I wanted the job because it was in my field, but that I'd been looking at things that I was less interested in that paid more...
posted by klangklangston at 11:19 AM on July 20, 2007

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