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Holy Cow! How to Negotiate Your Salary

Now that you’ve aced your phone interview and your in-person interview, it’s time to negotiate your salary!

Don’t know where to start? Don’t worry. Here’s my advice.

First things first. Be sure you remember what you have already communicated about your salary; consistency is key. If you are working with a recruiter, be sure they know what salary expectations you have been communicating and be sure you know what the recruiter has been relaying to the company.

Second, it’s important to be paid fairly, but it is more important to get a job you are happy with; if you think it’s fair, it’s fair. I strongly caution against web sites that purport to provide “accurate” salary information. Each person and each position is unique.  The skill sets possessed and required are different and a “fair” salary will vary dramatically.

Third, before you can negotiate with a company, you have to know what your expectations are – we find that many people don’t have a good grasp of their own expectations and it can be disastrous during this critical phase.

I recommend knowing your “Absolute Bottom” – the number which you would say “no” to if it was literally one dollar lower. This is a very important number to know. The longer you are looking for a position, the lower this number may be, and that’s okay.

This is about the position being fair to you. From here, I would find the “I think that’s fair” number and lastly the “holy cow!” number. Armed with these three numbers, you can confidently negotiate salary and know how hard to push.

If the company offers you a number below your “Absolute Bottom” – tell them that you were expecting something in the “I think it’s fair” to “holy cow” range. You have nothing to lose because you are not going to take the position at this compensation level.

If the company offers an “I think it’s fair” salary, you need to decide if it’s worth pushing back and potentially losing the offer. A great way to approach this is simply to ask “Is there any wiggle room in this offer?”. If the answer is no, thank them and tell them either you will accept it or you’ll get back to them within 24 hours (if you know you are going to accept, there is nothing wrong with telling them at his point).

If the company offers a “holy cow” salary, tell them thank you and you cannot wait to start!

Finally, if you are anything less than thrilled with the offer, I would encourage you to sleep on your decision.  Give yourself some time to consider it and don’t act impulsively.  The offer will still be on the table tomorrow and you will feel more confident after having carefully weighed your options.

4 Comments

  1. teju on April 11, 2018 at 7:11 am

    I used the tips mentioned by you in your blog, and I was successful in getting the desired salary package during my job interview. Thank you so much. It was really helpful and informative for me.

  2. Travis on October 27, 2009 at 3:10 pm

    This is a great question, Scott. How long is too long? It’s too long when you are no longer available. The discrepancy in the amount of time it takes to make an offer is quite large. There are often so many moving pieces that companies and hiring managers do not always know or are surprised to learn that time frames have changed. I think the most important aspect to remember is to not let “ego” get in the way of a good job. There will be instances where an offer takes 30 days or longer to materialize – which is very unfortunate and feels a bit unfair – but the question is, do you want this job and to work for this company. Conventional wisdom is out the door right now. I think it would be inappropriate to read into a drawn out process and decide the company is not reliable or they don;t really want you or you are not the first choice, etc. Everything is different today and sometimes it’s no more complicated than someone put the position on a temporary hold or wanted to interview additional candidates. We see candidates get frustrated all the time and the response is often to “withdraw” their candidacy out of protest. While their reasons are valid, it would seem that cooler heads will prevail and that every candidate would be better served to see how things play out.

    There are a few things, however, you can control. I would strongly recommend following up with companies every 5-7 business days after the final interview. It is VERY important that you never demonstrate any frustration – even if it has been a month or more (if you do show frustration, you likely will not get the position and you are just wasting your time). Instead, I would follow-up in the same polite manner each time. Communicate how much you enjoyed speaking with them, how interested you are in the company etc. Better to have several irons in the fire!

  3. Scott on October 26, 2009 at 4:11 pm

    I have a question about a similar matter. How long is too long to wait for an offer to be made? Let me say that differently, how soon after an in person interview should a candidate expect a decision from the hiring manager? A week or two, or a month or better?

  4. james on October 21, 2009 at 12:48 pm

    Everyone should negotiate once they are offered a job.

    I think I would always say negotiate, even if it is fair or holy cow. Once someone makes you an offer for a job they have decided they want YOU! And you should not forget they probably went through at least four other interviews to choose you, let alone the number of CVs they scanned.

    All offers are open to negotiation and will not generaly be withdrawn. You might get a curt no, but don’t be embarrased.

    This is your position of power. If it is not salary you want to negotiate, now is the time to ask for different working hours, more holiday or attendance at a particular conference in a nice destination.

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