A Google search of “how to negotiate starting salary” netted just under 2 million results. 8 tips here, 6 steps there, all sorts of advice. For the most part, it sucks. There are some things I agree with. Do research – absolutely. You should know the market rate in your area of expertise. Don’t talk about your expenses, or how much money you need. We don’t care.
That leaves plenty of advice to make me want to jab myself in the eye with a dull pencil. Like leave the salary expectation question blank on application forms. Some companies make that little square mandatory. Guess who’s not getting an interview? Or how about this? 90% of all human resources professionals expect you to negotiate. So what, we still hate it. Here’s my favorite – realize the first figure out of the employer’s mouth is the lowest. Bullsh!t. The same guy who said that recommends asking for 15-20% more than you want. Hmm, so if the position pays 50-60K, you want (and have determined you’re worth) 55K, you’re now supposed to ask for around 63-65K? Seriously?? Don’t believe me? Look for yourself – link to that little nugget of info is here - #7 to be exact.
So what is a candidate to do? Nobody wants to leave money on the table, I understand that. Let me shed some light on the recruiter’s thought process, and I believe this goes for good internal recruiters as well as TPRs.
We are negotiating all along. Long before you even applied or had been sourced for the job we have been pushing back for the strongest potential offer. Most hiring managers are sensitive (and rightly so) to their budgets and other team member’s salaries. It’s our job to make sure they’re making salary ranges based on what’s realistic – what the market will bear, what it will cost to get the right person.
No really, we are negotiating the entire time. We will touch base often with a hiring manager about compensation. Especially once the submittal / interview process has started. We will continually remind them of what the salary range is for the position, what it will take to close a deal, and try to get them comfortable with making a fair offer.
Not everything is negotiable. Sadly, there are rules. If everyone waits 90 days for benefits, you will too. If we offer two weeks for vacation and separate sick leave, you're not going to get four weeks PTO. Some things are HR / company policy regardless of how recruiting feels about it.
Push too hard and you push that offer right off a cliff. I have been battling for a strong offer for you the whole time. I have finally worn down the hiring manager to a number that is not only good for you but also fair and equitable to the company. I have to take care of both sides. When you reject an offer purely because some idiot guru said you should, you run the risk of frustrating the hiring manager past the point of no return. Once we have a formal, written offer in place it’s already gone through a few layers of approval. If we have to go back and adjust it, well, you can imagine what a fun conversation that can be.
Do you have a backup plan? We probably do. Look, we made you an offer because we want to hire you. Unfortunately we’ve learned the hard way that offers do get rejected. Just like you’re still looking for another job until you sign on the dotted line, we keep looking for candidates. It’s not because we don’t love you. We really do want you, that’s why we made the offer. Please don’t jerk us around.
The negotiation conversation should never come at the 11th hour. This is a dialogue you should be having regularly with your recruiter. Talk money early, often, and specifically. It’s that important.