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Got a job offer and they asked for my pay requirement. What should I do?


Got a job offer and they asked for my pay requirement. What should I do?

Signed Anonymous


Dear Anonymous

Congratulations on the offer!

I always find this question from the company to be disingenuous.  They know what they pay their people and their HR people do salary surveys so they well know the market.  A cynical view of this question is they are trying to see if they can pay you less because you may not know the market.  A less cynical view is that they are prepared to be flexible and negotiate (maybe).

Since they ask, let’s assume it is a negotiation.  You should never simply take your current salary and add a raise on top.  Your current salary is not relevant.  To negotiate, you need to find out what the company knows.  That is, what is the market rate for that position?   Without this knowledge you’re a sitting duck.

You may be able to find something on the internet like Glassdoor.  But your best source is through networking.  Contact friends and colleagues on what they know about the going pay rates.  In the best of all worlds, you’re able to find a cooperating contact inside the company.

What’s the next step?  Here are some options.

1)      Go back and say that you just want a competitive market compensation.  Say that you’re doing some homework on the market but what’s their idea?  This response tries to get them to open with an offer.  Whatever they offer, you can accept or try to negotiate up.  If you know the market, then you can judge how much upward room they have. There’s a chance that the company won’t come back with their offer first and end the discussion.

2)      You have done your homework and you know the range of pay for that type of job.  Should you give a range or a single number?  Based on your homework, you think a fair average salary is $70K.  If you give a range of $65K to $75K, they’ll work you to $65K because you told them it is acceptable.

3)      On the other hand, giving a single number sounds like an ultimatum and doesn’t imply any flexible give and take.   If you say $70K and they’re paying $75K for that job, they’ll accept your $70K.  If on the other hand, they are paying $65K they may or may not continue to negotiate.

4)      You can give a vague number in the competitive range.  Say you respond with “around $70K”.  It sounds like a single number but it’s actually a range with room to go in either direction for negotiations.  They will not be sure exactly what your low number is.  You’re telling them, it might be $70 or higher.  Without specifying what you think that range is, you’re inviting them to come back with a counter around your number.

Your negotiating strength will depend on how competitive the job market is and your current job alternatives. If the job is hugely popular and in demand, your position may be take what they offer and be grateful. If you have a current job you’re OK with, then you may be able to push a bit harder because you can always walk away.  Try to justify a higher pay because you’re bringing more to the table.  Market yourself!

You need to look at the total compensation package.  Salary is one key concern but there are other considerations such as vacation, medical plan, company contributions to savings plan and annual bonuses.  In your salary negotiations, if you can’t get them to go up from their offer, you can try for a one time signing bonus or more vacation.  If you ask nicely, they’re forced to consider it and might come part ways to giving you something.  If you don’t ask, you for sure will not get anything.  Small companies, unlike large mature companies, may have the flexibility to accommodate you in order to close the deal.

Congratulations again and good luck with your negotiations.