Negotiate Your Salary Offer? Three Stories

When I was a hiring manager, I almost never negotiated the offer I made to candidates. Why? I got to know people during the interviewing. I often asked in the phone screen when I knew I wanted to bring someone in, “The typical salary for this job is this range: x- y. Are we on the same page?”

If the candidate said yes, we would proceed. If no, I asked by how much were we off. If it was close, I would weigh my options. If I thought this candidate was worth the aggravation of looking for more money, I would say, “Okay, you’re outside our range, but I suspect that if we have a cultural fit, you’ll be worth it. Do you want to try us out? I’d like to start the process and see if we both fit.”

I was open and honest with candidates from the beginning. No surprises. I never made lowball offers, either. My job was to make the best offer, an honest and fair offer, even when I discovered underpaid candidates.

I read this post, Why I Did NOT Negotiate My Salary, and it resonated with me. This is the story of someone who is being treated fairly. How do you think the candidate feels? That’s story #1.

Contrast that with a story #2. A colleague is looking for a job. Colleague goes on an interview. It goes well. He thinks they will offer him a job. The recruiter wants to help. Colleague is concerned, but says, “Well, okay,” thinking the recruiter will ferry the offer to him. No, the recruiter tells the company what the colleague is making. The company bases the offer on the colleague’s current salary, not what the job is worth. That’s a lowball offer. How do you think the candidate feels?

Story #3 is about another colleague, who received an offer from a small company in his home town. He’s been looking for a job for about six months. He receives an offer, which is a little more than he’s making now, but a little less than what he wanted. When he receives it, he hears from the hiring manager, “This is what we think the job is worth to us right now. We are willing to do a review of you in six months to see if you bring more value to the job.” How do you think the candidate feels? This colleague is quite happy. This is a fair offer.

This is the interesting question: How do you think the candidate feels? Why? Because it sets the tone for the entire relationship for new employee. Yes, this is the social contract, not just the financial contract you have with this person. This is part of your culture.

Your offer sets the tone with your new employee. It’s crazy to lowball someone. Unless this is part of your culture. If that’s the case, be aware that you are creating a culture where people will try to cheat you, the employer. Because you are trying to cheat them.

On the other hand, don’t assume you can negotiate your way to some crazy-high salary either. That won’t work. You may well have to prove your value first, by working. Even if you ace the interview.

Respect on both sides is key. Keep that in mind, and your decision to negotiate and how will be reasonable.

For more on the hiring side of the job offer, read Hiring Geeks That Fit. For more on the candidate side, read Manage Your Job Search.

About Johanna Rothman

I help managers and leaders do reasonable things that work.
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