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We’ve all been there. You’ve just received an email saying welcome to the team! There’s even a mention that they are excited to work with you. You breathe a sigh of relief; it proves that all of your hard work has paid off because now you’re at the finish line of your job search!
But not quite. Because as you open that PDF you realize that the offer is less money than you were hoping for. While you’re happy you received an offer letter at all, it can be discouraging to see that you were not going to make as much as you had hoped to make.
So what can we do to get a higher salary? Better yet, how can we avoid the situation in the first place?
Let the hiring manager tell you the comp
There’s a stage in the interview when compensation is usually discussed. DO NOT TALK ABOUT COMP PRIOR OR ASK ANY QUESTIONS BEFORE THE HIRING MANAGER BRINGS IT UP TO DISCUSS. If you’re not careful this can screw you when it comes to getting the right offer letter.
Sometimes the hiring manager will ask a question like:
“..so, what were you thinking of in terms of compensation?“
It is very important not to give a direct answer to this question, at least not initially. Because no matter what you say, you’re not going to be in control of that situation. For example, if you say “well I need to make $50k at a minimum. That would be enough to pay my bills and for me to live comfortably.” and the hiring manager was prepared to pay you 65K, then you potentially just screwed yourself out of an extra 10 or even 15 grand per year.
You also have the same problem in the other direction. If the hiring manager asks you “what are you thinking in terms of compensation?”, and you tell him “I need to make at least 80K”, but he or she is only prepared to pay a maximum of 70, suddnely, you’re “just not the right fit.” He or she usually won’t go past budget to hire you at 80, unless he believes you are an extraordinarily phenomenal candidate.
So what do you do?
Put it back on THEM.
Put the onus on the hiring manager. Say something along the lines of:
“Well, as I understand, the market range for this position is around $ X – X. So I believe that I am right in the middle if not towards the top of that pay range, but I’m curious to understand what compensation YOU believe this position should have.”
Now, the hiring manager has no choice but to give you an answer! Based on that answer you can have a firm understanding as to where they are going to position themselves when it comes to giving you an offer.
Hold strong after the offer but show gratitude
If you get an offer that is lower than what you expected, remember, it’s the first round. There might still be room for negotiation. Here’s how you find out.
Sometimes it’s better to do this over the phone is possible (so you can hear tone of voice in their answer), but if you have to respond via email, say something like:
“Thank you so much for the offer letter; I’m flattered and super excited to be a part of your team!
However the salary you’re offering is lower than what I currently make now, and I want to make sure that I’m being compensated in a fair manner.
If you look at my skill set, and the going market rate for this position, it would make sense for me to get paid at a higher range. If you could increase the offer letter by $X I’d be more than happy to accept the offer and begin employment!”
There’s no harm in asking! Usually, they’ll make a small compromise or even completely meet your demand! Sometimes, they stand strong and say no. But you wouldn’t have known if it were possible until you asked.
What does it mean if they say no?
It could mean that they truly do not have the extra budget to pay you what you are requesting to make. It could mean that based on your current interview they don’t value you as well as they should, and maybe you could’ve done a better job of showcasing what you’re capable of accomplishing. It could mean that the company is suffering from bad culture and doesn’t value their people enough, perhaps you’re dodging a bullet. But more importantly, always remember that we do not have all the context into decisions that have been made. We have to analyze the cards that are showing and make decisions off of that.
Either way, by paying attention to how you respond to compensation questions in an interview, you can set yourself up to make more up front. Happy job hunting
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