Salary Negotiation Help
February 18, 2008 11:52 AM   Subscribe

I am starting a new career in a profession that is in demand, and I am just beginning the interview process. I feel confident in my skills, and I am aware that my resume looks pretty good. But prior to grad school, I only worked entry-level positions where the central issue in the interview process was "Pleasepleaseplease hire me!" I need advice from MeFites who have better job selection and salary negotiation skills than me.

I'm a newly graduated physical therapist and I just started sending out resumes, and was pretty surprised at the number of calls I got, as well as instant and vigorous response from recruiters (I have no clue how they found me, as I was carefully not responding to recruiter ads).

I am fairly certain of what I am looking for in a job in terms of mentorship, collegiality, and practice area.

What I need is advice on how to best position myself salary and benefits-wise. Is it okay, if you are offered a job during an interview, to say "let me think it over for a few days"? I have six interviews scheduled in the next week, and I don't want to refuse or accept any offers until I've been to at least a few of them. Is it okay to play different offers against one another, and if so, how? Any advice would be hugely appreciated.
posted by jennyjenny to Work & Money (7 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
Companies know that you have a hot skill set. Simply tell them that:
• You are interviewing with several firms.
• You're looking for a best possible fit - work environment, compensation and benefits are all factors in your decision.

That lets the hiring company know what to expect.
posted by 26.2 at 12:07 PM on February 18, 2008

The cardinal rule is to never accept the first offer- this applies to nearly any business negotiation. PT's are in pretty heavy demand out here where I live as well (north shore mass), so it's pretty likely that you will be entertaining multiple offers. I think any business that makes you an offer will be willing to wait a few days while you "make up your mind". Definitely don't be afraid to counteroffer, especially if you have a second in the bag. Just be vague when relaying the counter offers to competitors- you don't need to say exactly how much better another party's offer is, just that it is somehow a better deal than the current company is giving you. You want to maintain the ambiguity in the situation, so they are forced to make you a better offer than they otherwise would if they had perfect information.

The recruiters may have heard about you from your school? They often try hard to get into the school's placement office to develop a stream of candidates.

Congratulations on your graduation!
posted by jenkinsEar at 12:08 PM on February 18, 2008

Oh - and always ask for more vacation than they initially offer. When they can't pay more money, many firms will be liberal with vacation. Those vacation hours will mean a more to you than a few extra bucks.

This is from a girl with 5 weeks of vacation at a job she's had 4 years.
posted by 26.2 at 12:09 PM on February 18, 2008 [1 favorite]

You're not the only person they are interviewing (or if you are it's not by their choice) so there's no need for you to BS and act like you're not interviewing anywhere else.

If you do get an on-the-spot offer the simplest thing to do is say that you appreciate the offer but you already have a few other interviews scheduled in the coming week and you'd like to honor your commitments and meet with them all. You can add that being new to the field you want to get a look at several places.

You should also consider asking wherever you go for a written letter detailing your benefits and any special agreements you make, if any. Its the kind of thing that's completely unnecessary and pointless until the time where it's critical. I've never had it be an issue. A former co-worker of mine just avoided about $10,000 in taxes after leaving a job (they attempted to claim a certain benefit they'd been paying had never been agreed upon being 100% covered by them) because he had his original letter that contradicted their claims.

As far as playing them against each other, there's nothing wrong with asking for what you feel you deserve. However you should be plain-spoken about it and not go back and forth on the matter. "Mr Jenkins, to be honest I'd prefer to work in your organization - you have XYZ which is important to me. However another firm has offered me X amount, which would make a significant difference in my life. If you'd be comfortable matching that I'm prepared to say yes and come work for you."

I've seen people take offers back and forth repeatedly to drive up a salary. While it's a company's obligation to pay competitively and they have nobody to blame but themselves for falling for this tactic, in my experience it results in bad feelings. I'd avoid it.
posted by phearlez at 12:24 PM on February 18, 2008

I totally agree with 26.2 about asking for extra vacation time. However, if you do negotiate extra vacation time, be sure to ask what will happen at the next "vacation jump" level. For example, if your company normally gives two weeks of vacation to new employees but you negotiate three weeks, what will happen when you've been there five years and would normally have gotten another week of vacation. Will you get four weeks, or will you continue to get three weeks until you're there 10 years?
posted by Joleta at 1:02 PM on February 18, 2008

I was once advised never to make the first offer. That is, decide what you're looking for, but don't tell them at first -- wait for them to name their number. If they quote a number that's higher than you thought possible (it's happened), you didn't blow it and undersell yourself. If they name something in your range, you know how far you have to negotiate up. If they name something absurdly low, you haven't really lost anything -- but you'll have to be more adept at using the bidders against each other... Good luck!
posted by rdn at 1:47 PM on February 18, 2008

I don't know anything about this particular area, but to add to what rdn said about negotiating, if they quote you a number that's higher than you thought possible, don't immediately accept just because its over the number you've decided on (not that you would ;) ). You should take this as a cue that they have information that you don't, about your worth or their need, and they will go likely go even higher if you let them sweat it out a bit.

As for other negotiation tactics, the vacation time sounds like a great idea, and you should also think of other things along these lines that you might value highly but they won't value as much. Its usually easiest to get concessions along these lines.
posted by wuzandfuzz at 2:50 PM on February 18, 2008

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