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How firm should I be with negotiating my salary?

How firm should I be with negotiating my salary?

How firm should I be with negotiating my salary?

This will be for a Senior IT position.  I know the job market is still rough, this is for a full time position.  

Any tips?

RE: How firm should I be with negotiating my salary?

That depends on how good the market is in your area, and much of a shoe-in for the position you think you have.

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RE: How firm should I be with negotiating my salary?

My realtor and I were discussing negotiating options recently when purchasing a home, and the comment that he made was this:

"The only thing that determines the value of a house is how badly you want it and how badly the seller wants to sell it."

I think that the same holds true with any negotiation.  If they've gone through a long interview process with several rounds of interviewing and are looking for a very specific skillset that you have, you might have a lot more leverage.  If you are currently employed you might also have more leverage.  If your skills are fairly common and/or you are currently unemployed, you won't have nearly as much leverage.  In short, every situation is different.

Typically in a negotiation there aren't too many rounds of offer and counter-offer.  You don't want to present the image that you're difficult to work with either, so that might temper your actions.  Typically in a negotiation whoever puts the first offer up "loses", in the sense that they don't get as much as they want.  That's why an employer usually will ask your salary requirements rather than telling you what they're willing to pay (and they probably already have some idea of the range, I'm betting).  That's also why I always ask for more than I would ultimately accept.  I'll either get what I want in the end or get a nice raise, but I always want the negotiating room.

Anyway, you tell them that you want a certain amount, and if it's within their range they'll usually take it.  If not they may counter.  Usually when they're at their final offer, they'll tell you that they can't do any better than whatever it is.  They may be bluffing, but at that point you might be able to negotiate for additional compensation in other forms (holidays, bonuses, etc).

Also, if it's a larger company you may be negotiating with an HR/Recruiting person rather than the hiring manager.  In those cases the recruiter typically doesn't care how awesome you are, they're just trying to fill a hole with a resume.  In those cases if you can get the hiring manager involved they can lobby on your behalf and sometimes get you more money.  I have a friend who went through this situation recently, and the recruiter told him that their offer was the absolute max for his pay grade that they could offer.  When the the manager got word that it was a sticking point, he was able to get the recruiter to bump the salary.  It turns out that the offer wasn't actually the max for the pay grade, go figure.  In these cases it's important to understand what everyone's incentive is.  HR wants to save as much money as possible on filling the position.  The hiring manager wants the best person for the job.

I interviewed for a position a couple years back for an IT Manager/senior engineer type of position for a small company.  It was a case where I had worked with their CEO and HR Director previously and they thought that I would be perfect for the job.  I was already employed at the time too.  So I told HR my salary requirements ($90k) before I even sent the resume.  They said that it didn't seem unreasonable, so I interviewed and slam dunked it.  Then I got a call from the IT Director a few days later asking about salary requirements.  I told him $90k, and he said that he was thinking more along the lines of $50k because their budget had been changed.  I asked if he was serious, because I couldn't believe he'd even ask when the gap was 45% of what I'd asked, and he said he was.  I thanked him for his time and told him that while I wanted to work for the company that there was no way I could consider taking that kind of pay cut, but to keep me in mind in the future if anything came up that was along my lines.  Normally I would have probably countered any offer for a job that I was interested in, but with the gap being so big it was extremely unlikely that I was going to be able to get them to move enough that I wasn't taking a pay cut.

That's a pretty cut and dry situation, because we were so far apart.  Of course, if I had been unemployed at the time then I would have given it more consideration, especially if I had been unemployed for awhile.  I might have countered and said I could go down to $80k, just to see if they were negotiating (badly) or truly cash strapped.  But it largely depends on your circumstances.

One other point to consider is that compensation takes many forms.  There is of course salary to consider, but also bonuses, vacation time, the quality of their health insurance plan (assuming that you live in the states), flex time policy, the ability to telecommute, etc.  If you hit a brick wall on one area, you might be able to make some headway on another area to make up for it.  Just keep in mind that once you accept a salary, you typically will only see small increases (if any) unless you change job descriptions or employers.

Also, when negotiating around bonuses make sure that the criteria for awarding the bonuses is something that you can directly impact.  If the company says "we give performance bonuses based on overall company performance" then you really have no control over whether you'll get them, and I wouldn't consider them a replacement for a lower salary.  On the other had, if they say "we give performance bonuses based on the number of widgets that you sell" then you can directly impact your chances to get those bonuses.  That's a big difference.

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RE: How firm should I be with negotiating my salary?

No one knows how firm you should be in negotiations.  

It's personal preference.  

Personally, if a place initially offers something below the minimum of my range, I won't bother to negotiate up to my range.  I'm not greedy at all--I simply look for market rate.  If a company wants to go budget and well below the market, then there is no way I'm going to accept a position even if they move up just into my range.  I don't want to risk not receiving appropriate raises, bonuses or sticking out like a sorethumb as "overpaid" (by their standards) when times are bad (recession).

Besides what is stated above, it's a case-by-case analysis for me.  Keep in mind that some places will have their hands tied as far as compensation.  If you really want figure X, and they say the best they can do is X-$1000, then just ask yourself, "how important is that extra $1000?" to me?  Maybe your new job requires you to suddenly pay for parking when you didn't have to previously.  Perhaps you can't do without the extra $1000 in this case.  On the other hand, maybe it's a much quicker commute than you're used to.  You might save that extra $1000 in the long run.

But for me personally, the bottom line is that I will never attempt to negotiate an offer up to my range if the initial offer is way off base.  It's just not worth it to me.

By the way, kmcferrin, that IT Director must have had guts.  I could never have the nerve to offer someone a position for just over half of what they requested (and what was probably appropriate).  

RE: How firm should I be with negotiating my salary?

I was recently offered $12,000 less than what I'm making now. I asked why the offer was so low. The IT director said that the economy in the U.S. is such that they're in the driver's seat. I din not take the passenger seat.

So, it depends. Are you in the driver's seat or is the company?

RE: How firm should I be with negotiating my salary?


It might have been guts, but he was awfully sheepish about it too (I know I would have been).  I think that he thought that it was a long shot but wanted to take a chance just in case I was willing to come down.  No hard feelings, but I was irritated that I brought up the salary requirements in advance before the interview and supposedly they were OK.

tcsbiz, it's funny how much companies look at situations like that.  I think that most business is cyclic, where we'll go through boom periods and slow periods.  You might be able to get by today offering less because the economy is bad, but when the economy recovers if those people don't feel that they're getting a fair shake they'll be the first people looking for a better job.  Maybe they take that into account.

During the boom years there was a lot of overpayment because there was a dearth of skilled workers.  After the dot-com bubble it leveled out.  There weren't as many sky-high salaried jobs out there, but if you had strong skills that were in demand then you could still command higher salaries.  Now that the economy is slow companies are trying to save money.  By have more highly skilled workers they can streamline operations and get more work done, but highly skilled workers are still in demand.  It's the mid-pack and lower-end skilled workers who tend to be in the greatest supply, as most companies laying off IT workers are letting go their worst performers.

I'm also not convinced that the economy is quite as bad for IT as they say.  While unemployment in the US is nearly 10% on a general basis, unemployment for people with college degrees is only around 5% at the moment (which covers most IT people).  Beyond that though, if you're trying to lure someone away from another company it probably doesn't matter what the economy is like.  If someone already has a job and the economy is bad it typically takes more money to convince them to take a risk by jumping ship, not less.

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RE: How firm should I be with negotiating my salary?

Great replies people!  Can someone list out some negotiation tips of their own. I have looked up online but would like to hear from this forum.  


RE: How firm should I be with negotiating my salary?

I did a negotiating skills course many years ago, and the one major thing I remember about this was to be the person who first mentioned a number rather than allowing the other party to do this.

It should be the only way to ensure you are both talking in the correct range.


"The cure for anything is salt water – sweat, tears, or the sea." Isak Dinesen

RE: How firm should I be with negotiating my salary?

I have found it important to stick to what you want.If you are negotiating for a permanent role, it is best to get what you can to start out with because chances are your progression salary-wise while you are there won't amount to much more than COL raises.

There is nothing worse than coming in at say a $40k salary and 6 months later some new people who are fresh out of college are hired in for $65k.

Or... getting hired in on a large contract for $55 an hour and you get there and find out everyone else you are working with is getting $65. :(

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