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July 30, 2008 6:58 AM   Subscribe

Salaryfilter: I'm worried I gave a range that was too low and now I'd like to prevent any screwing of myself.

I work in publishing, make a decent-to-low salary (no one gets the big bucks in this industry anyway) but am in a rut at my current job. I'm bored, no opportunity for advancement, bad company dynamics, etc. I applied for a better position at a competitor in town, and in a pre-interview phone call, I gave a salary range that was slightly more than what I make. At the interview, salary was never discussed. But the interview went well and I'm really interested in the position.

Afterwards, I talked to my dad, a baby-boomer business man, and he said I should have asked for a minimum of 15% more than what I make now. This is over $4000 more than I make now at my entry-levelish job, which seems high but not unrealistic. Now I wish I gave a higher salary range.

My Questions:

Does this 15% rule still apply? To the publishing industry? Do people really make such big salary jumps between jobs?

No job offer has come, but if it does and they offer me something in the range I gave, can I ask for more (before I accept the position, of course)? How do I reasonably do this? What do I say and how do I say it? Something like, "I'm very interested, but wouldn't leave my current job for less than $X"? Do I be honest and say I meant to give a higher range but instead gave them a range of my current salary?

Am I screwed? Should I just take what they offer, pending that it's at the higher end of the range I gave? I'm pretty sure my current employer wouldn't counter-offer, plus I'm not really interested in staying anyway.

I guess I would take a better job for a little more pay than what I make, but I'm worried I missed a chance to make a couple thousand dollars more than I do.
posted by LiveToEat to Work & Money (6 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
1. Even if they come back to you with a job offer that matches the salary you gave, you're under no obligation to accept it.

2. Telling the employer that you were okay with a certain salary range during the interview and then asking for more money when they give you an offer will not impress your prospective employer. Depending on the size of the company, there may be a arduous process of getting job offers approved (multiple sign-offs, etc.), and you may be forcing a repeat of the entire process. I've had it done to me more than once in the past, and it never ended well for the applicant.

3. Personal opinion: It's bait-and-switch. If I say I'm willing to accept a position at a certain starting salary, I consider my word to be my bond. Only you can decide whether or not you think this is ethical.
posted by DWRoelands at 7:26 AM on July 30, 2008

That's a tough one. I've done exactly what you have done, and completely low-balled myself by about $15,000. (Much like your situation, the figure I gave them was a few thousand dollars more than what I was making in the publishing industry). Luckily, they were impressed with the interview, realized that if they wanted to keep me interested and at that position they should pay me industry standard, and offered me the "correct" amount in the official offer letter.

I guess you would have a couple of options.... 1st, be honest. Let them know if they call you back for a 2nd interview or offer you the position that you reevalutated your financial situation, are thoroughly convinced you want to work for them, but you feel you deserve or need more money... (I don't think I'd be able to do this... but...) 2nd, I guess you could say your current job offered you more money to stay to see if they match it, but that could totally backfire on you... 3rd... Take the job at current salary, wait the obligatory 3-6 month period before initial review, and if your bosses are impressed and happy with your performance push for a raise.
posted by Debaser626 at 7:26 AM on July 30, 2008

What about using benefits as leverage? I don't think you should change your salary requirement (make you look like you are trying to price yourself out of their range) but when they talk about vacation time/educational reimbursement etc act shocked that they are offering so little and suggest they up the salary to compensate for you taking less benefits then you would like. Gah, I would hate to do salary negotion, I am glad all my jobs are on a payscale.
posted by saucysault at 8:28 AM on July 30, 2008

Wait until you get the offer, and then say that while you like the company and are interested in the job, you've been exploring other opportunities and is there any way they can offer you an additional 4 grand? If pressed, say you've been doing research and it seems like that's the going rate for someone of your experience, which is true. You will probably get something out of this, though I wouldn't expect to necessarily get the money.
posted by xammerboy at 9:32 AM on July 30, 2008 [1 favorite]

This happens all the time. Like others have said, there's a good chance that you can negotiate better benefits or the like, based on the salary you gave them. Debaser626's raise idea is good as well. If you are making significantly less than others at the new company, you should be able to get a good raise if you put in one or two years. If not, then you can start looking for another job at that time.

Since you really want out of your current job, I don't think you should ask for more money, unless they bring it up first. Chalk it up to a learning experience.

This won't help you this time, but it's something my former boss came up with, and has worked for me in the past: The Noel Smith-Wenkle Salary Negotiation Method. The basic idea is not to give your interviewers a figure when they ask you how much you want. This forces them to make you a reasonable offer, rather than the other way around, and thus ensures that you can't inadvertently lowball yourself. The site describes the method in detail, and even lists a few handy phrases you can use to (politely) put the ball back in their court. It really works -- I got $5000 per year in extra salary out of a job this way. :)
posted by vorfeed at 9:35 AM on July 30, 2008 [4 favorites]

Seconding debaser. Suck it up for a few months and re-negotiate when you are reviewed. Be honest and forthright, both about what you have learned in your position and the salary you now know you should have. Likely, they hired you on knowing well were 'bought' at a song. If you have done a good job and they are reasonable, your reviewer should be sympathetic but, if they are not, that should tell you how this company treats its employees.

I was in the same situation. Did the same thing when I made a move from proofreading to IT and undersold myself by about 15-20%. My interviewer knew this fact. But, I checked average salary ranges only after submitting my requirements and got the shaft. Luckily, the wench who hired me was fired shortly after and at six months I was bumped up to proper compensation.

Hilariously, a few months later, in a wondrous kind of karmic retribution, an accounting error by HR got me a very nice 11% raise.

With what butters your bread, I always preach prudence. Things have a way of coming around.
posted by bumbleintuit at 9:50 AM on July 30, 2008

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