should you always negotiate salary?

by Ask a Manager on May 7, 2014

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A reader writes:

I received a job offer for more than I expected. I had told them my range earlier in the process, and they came in a little over that. I’m thrilled! 

I know that I’m supposed to always negotiate, but does that hold true when I’m happy with their initial offer? I feel weak not negotiating, but I really would be thrilled to accept this.

You should usually negotiate, but that doesn’t mean always.

Cases where you shouldn’t negotiate:

* when you already told them the range you were seeking and they meet or exceed your top number (if you negotiate in that situation, you risk looking like you weren’t operating in good faith earlier)

* if the employer brings up salary earlier in the process and you agree to the range they cite (again, you risk looking like you weren’t operating in good faith earlier, unless something very significant about the job has changed since then)

* if they tell you that they’re making you their absolute best offer and the numbers back that up (you risk looking like you’re assuming they’re not operating in good faith when they are and/or that you’ll be a culture misfit if they are indeed people who say what they mean and act with integrity)

You’re thrilled about the offer, which is more than you asked for. Accept it, and congratulations.

{ 99 comments… read them below or add one }

Meg Murry May 7, 2014 at 2:17 pm

I would agree with Alison that you probably shouldn’t negotiate in this case, but if you are currently employed you might want to ask about the following before formally accepting:
-Health insurance costs, 401k matching and other benefits costs
-Vacation PTO/time – how much you’ll start with and how you’ll accrue it
-Confirm whether that it is an hourly or salary position (and if salary, what are the normal hours expectation – 40ish, or 50,60,70+ ?)
-That its a W-2 position, not a contract (1099) position.
And make sure you have the offer letter in writing, not just verbal. I only make these suggestions because I once was given a job offer where the pay rate seemed too good to be true, and it turned out that the company paid above average wages for the industry, but their benefits were mediocre to terrible, and very expensive for the employees. I did the math and determined it would actually be a pay cut on my take home pay, despite having a higher initial salary.

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Anonymous May 7, 2014 at 2:31 pm

This.

Especially find out how much you have to pay for health insurance.

I was burned on this once when I accepted what seemed to be a reasonable offer only to find out that I had to pay much more for health insurance (after I started). This ended up being a pay cut compared to my previous job.

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Bryan May 7, 2014 at 2:40 pm

Not just how much your premiums are but also how much things cost. I pay more for prescriptions now that on my old plan. But my retirement match went from 2% to 9%

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AnotherAlison May 7, 2014 at 2:50 pm

I hear that. My son’s Focalin XR costs an eyebrow-raising $220/mo. The pharmacists are always scared to give me the total. What they don’t know is I pay a super-low rate for my plan (employer covers most of it) & I get $1000/yr cash into my HSA from my company, so to me the $220 is a fair tradeoff.

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Bryan May 7, 2014 at 2:58 pm

Haha I’m diabetic and my former insurance plan required me to in full for my insulin (about $500) and they reimbursed me. I have no idea why it was set up like this (it was back when I was on my dads). They always looked so scared and I would have to preface picking it up as, yes I know how much it is.

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AnotherAlison May 7, 2014 at 3:04 pm

yup, exactly!

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Stephanie May 7, 2014 at 3:45 pm

I had a dental plan where I had to pay a large portion upfront and wait for reimbursement. Not fun.

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LV May 7, 2014 at 4:01 pm

I get good health insurance through my husband’s job, but we always have to pay for things upfront. The insurance company wanted to charge his employer extra for issuing healthcare cards to the staff, and the employer refused to pay, so nobody has proof of insurance that they can show at the pharmacy. It’s a bit of a pain!

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Maggie May 7, 2014 at 4:52 pm

You can’t log in and print it yourself? What insurance company is this?

Esra May 7, 2014 at 4:44 pm

The only plus there is if you put it on a credit card with points you can really clean up. Then pay it right off with the reimbursement.

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Cody C May 7, 2014 at 3:16 pm

Having a child on the same meds you might contact the manufacturer for their discount card it knocks ours down to 160 a month.

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LucyVP May 7, 2014 at 4:41 pm

Yes!

I take a specialty medication that is a whopping $4000 a month before insurance, and about $400 a month after insurance.

The manufacturer pays 80% of my co-pay which makes the monthly expense actually doable on my tiny salary.

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Maggie May 7, 2014 at 4:53 pm

Wow. I almost feel bad for the insurance company!

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iseeshiny May 7, 2014 at 6:21 pm

The insurance might not be paying the difference; often they bargain it down to a much lower rate.

AnotherAlison May 8, 2014 at 8:43 am

Thanks!

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Prickly Pear May 8, 2014 at 11:10 am

A lot of drug manufacturers have their coupons online and you can print them and take them straight to the pharmacy. Just make sure you google the name of the med and the maker- there are a lot of scam cards out there, and you want the official site.

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MB May 7, 2014 at 8:29 pm

Another Alison, Just in case this is helpful – My daughter was on Focalin XR and when my insurance changed on January 1, the cost went from $30/mo. to $260/mo. I definitely couldn’t swing that and after inquiring found that there was a generic equivalent -Dexmethylphenidate ER that cost me $15/mo. Two months after switching all seems well!

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AnotherAlison May 8, 2014 at 8:48 am

Thanks! I looked this up & it looks like the generic was just approved last fall. I will check it out with his dr. next time we go, since we will be increasing his dose for the next school year in August. He’s been on this for several years, so FINALLY having a generic would be great.

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Sunflower May 7, 2014 at 2:41 pm

Regardless of whether you are planning to negotiate or not, you should ask about this stuff(once an offer is made) esp insurance costs. These things are often just as important as the number on your pay stub!

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Celeste May 7, 2014 at 3:06 pm

For sure! You need to have the “big picture” before you commit.

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Bea W May 7, 2014 at 7:38 pm

Most every job I’ve interviewed for has gone over this information as part of the interview and sent me home with a packet of detailed information on benefits. I have also learned to ask and learn as mych as I can about benefits and costs during the process because it will likely factor into my decision and what kind of offer I’m willing to take.

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MJH May 7, 2014 at 2:45 pm

Retirement matching is so important, as are insurance costs. My old job had a 10% match, which I paid little attention to (being in my early 30s). I now have quite a little pile in that account, and I wish I still had a 10% match. Now I think it’s 3%.

I make 9,000 more a year, and I was thrilled with my offer at first, but I didn’t realize about the matching nor the fact that I’d have to pay $30 a paycheck toward my health insurance. (That went up to $60 a pay this year.)

Anyway, there’s more to consider than salary. Make sure that in your excitement about the number, you get the other details.

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Adam May 7, 2014 at 2:54 pm

Bingo. Every time I’ve needed to look for work ANY paycheck would have been better than none. But now that I’m looking to work in a satisfying way as opposed to just getting by all of these things become much more important.

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lachevious May 7, 2014 at 3:59 pm

THIS! I stabbed myself in the foot so many times by just blindly taking whatever I could get, but I was desperate and had no real choice. This blog has helped so much in building my confidence in discussing/negotiating pay. Now I just need to find a job where I care about the actual work…

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Adam May 7, 2014 at 4:27 pm

Good luck! I’m in the exact same boat and it’s both exciting and incredibly daunting…

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lachevious May 7, 2014 at 5:20 pm

Best of luck to you, Adam!

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Ruffingit May 8, 2014 at 11:29 pm

Oh AMEN!! Today, someone I know told me of a job they’d heard about and thought I might be good for. It’s a contract job. I turned it down without even hearing major details because contract work is no longer in line with what I’m willing to do. It’s a great feeling to say “No, that is no longer in line with my goals” and feel good about it. It’s a shift in thinking that is very helpful with moving toward what will work for you in life.

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SallyForth May 8, 2014 at 2:22 pm

I just had something similar happen. They offered the top of their scale for the job and I knew the budget wouldn’t go higher. It is a small non-union environment and I asked for and received 4 weeks paid vacation.

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Agile Phalanges May 8, 2014 at 2:45 pm

Oh man. Just recently, I was given a verbal offer that was 10% lower than the number we’d all (me, hiring manager, HR) been talking about previously. So I asked whether they would considering raising the amount of PTO. The person I was talking to said that shouldn’t be an issue, then proceeded to not get back to me (other than the reply to an e-mail saying they were still discussing it) for two weeks. She claims she left a voicemail, but I didn’t receive one (or a missed call or any other evidence she called me), then finally replied to an e-mail to tell me they were rescinding the offer because I had asked for more PTO and they couldn’t afford to have such an important team member not be in the office. Not even a chance to take or leave the original offer. I was very disappointed in the way they handled it, but probably wouldn’t have liked working at a place that operated that way.

But I’m just saying–be careful, even with non-monetary negotiations.

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Annie O May 7, 2014 at 2:17 pm

If you’re happy with the salary offer, you may want to consider negotiating for other things. Considering your industry and position, those other things could be more PTO, the purchase of software or equipment, a conference budget, teleworking or flexible scheduling arrangements, etc.

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Sharm May 7, 2014 at 2:18 pm

“* if the employer brings up salary earlier in the process and you agree to the range they cite (again, you risk looking like you weren’t operating in good faith earlier, unless something very significant about the job has changed since then)”

I’m in the middle of this now and am kicking myself. They gave a range, which was much lower than I was willing to accept, but I automatically said I could work with it. I don’t know why I did that. I wonder if I should just drop out of the process, because I’m wasting everybody’s time. I’ve been advised by people I know to stay in the running, but I don’t want to burn bridges by saying salary is a key problem when I told them it wasn’t. The job is for a cool org and has many interesting duties, but it’ll be a lot of work for much less pay and a title demotion.

I just find it so hard to tell a company I’m interviewing with that I have a problem with their salary. I feel like they’ll be insulted or that they think I overestimate my worth.

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CTO May 7, 2014 at 2:30 pm

Remember, salaries aren’t personal, they’re business. As long as you’re professional, a company’s feelings won’t be hurt because you tell them their salary is less than what you’re looking for. It’s a fact, not a judgement.

Just as with any dealbreaker, if you’re really positive that you don’t want this salary and you’re too far apart to negotiate into your desired range, you may as well withdraw. Otherwise you’re wasting your time and the company’s time.

When I left my last job at a small organization, a contact of mine reached out to me because she wanted to apply for the position I was vacating. I gave her a lot of details about the position, salary, and benefits. I gave her a very narrow salary range told her that it was definitely firm (I knew they wouldn’t go higher, because I had asked for a raise and was told that they couldn’t afford it even though they wanted to keep me. That’s why I left.) They made the same salary range clear in the job posting and interview process.

They interviewed her, offered her the highest end of the salary range, and then she asked for way, way more (think 25% more). Of course they couldn’t accommodate that, and both parties walked away frustrated because they had wasted their time and the position still wasn’t filled. The candidate probably burned her bridges there by continuing in the process when she clearly wasn’t interested the salary range that was made very clear to her. That’s why it’s not a good idea to just stick it out in the process if there’s a clear dealbreaker…

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Sharm May 7, 2014 at 2:39 pm

I know, you’re totally right. Ugh! I have been hesitant because it’s probably my one shot at this organization and I doubt it’ll come around again. But to take such a big salary cut, when I just got a raise at my current job… I want to make MORE money, not less! I think I have my answer.

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CTO May 7, 2014 at 2:45 pm

If you reeaaaalllllyyyy want to work for this organization at some point, it’s probably risky to burn bridges by wasting everyone’s time now if you’re 100% positive that you would turn down this particular opportunity on the basis of a hiring salary that they’ve openly disclosed to you. You never know when the right opportunity will open up there down the road…

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Maggie May 7, 2014 at 4:59 pm

I actually agree with this. Ultimately you have to decide what is more important – short term or long term gain. Its a risk to take the new job, sure, but if this low pay will simply get you in for 6 months and then you can get what you *really* want, then I would go for it anyway. But if it’s a total stretch (I’d be concerned that all of their positions salaries are curved down like your current one) and you can’t guarantee advancement…stick with what you have and bow out gracefully.

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Alanna May 8, 2014 at 3:30 am

I’ve been able to bow out of a process, ever after initially accepting a range, by telling them I ran my budget and realized I can’t work with that range after all, even though I really respected the organization and would love yo work there. There were no hard feelings – in fact, they have contacted me about other positions.

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AVP May 7, 2014 at 2:44 pm

Agreed, I think you have a better chance of not burning bridges or insulting anyone if you bow out now, and that way you leave yourself open to get a call if they have a more senior position open up later. If you know you’re not going to take it, and it’s because of the salary you’ve already told them was doable, they likely will not go out of their way to consider you for anything else in the future.

You can phrase it in a way that’s matter of fact and businesslike- “I’m so sorry, when you initially gave me the range I believed I would be able to work with it, but now that I’ve had some time to think it through and digest the scope of the position, I think I would need a higher number to make this transition. I understand that that’s something you won’t be able to meet, so I would like to withdraw from this process before we go any further.”

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Sharm May 7, 2014 at 2:48 pm

I will say that I have since learned the job is much bigger than the posting or title says, so perhaps that’s an out as well. They want a manager at an assistant price and name, and that’s what’s really bugging me about the whole situation.

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Jean May 7, 2014 at 4:15 pm

“They want a manager at an assistant price and name, and that’s what’s really bugging me about the whole situation.”

You put this very well. In this market far too many employers are happy to offer employees at Level X the salary for employees at the level just below Level X.

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PEBCAK May 8, 2014 at 1:42 am

Hold up, though…did you have this info when you agreed to the range? If you did not, and the job description has MATERIALLY changed since you said you could work with their range, you can indeed negotiate. You might not get anywhere, but it’s not “unfair” to say something like “now that I know the position involves X and Y instead of just X, it seems like $XXXXX would be more like the market rate.”

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Sharm May 8, 2014 at 4:24 am

Well… Based on the job posting, they aren’t asking for many years of experience. When I went in for the first round interview, they positioned it as a position that might grow with time, but they wouldn’t commit to that.

Now it’s getting to the second round interview stage, and they’re making me go through a small presentation exercise for that round. I think it’s a smart decision on their part, but to be honest with you, it’s more than I ever had to do when I was working at a higher level role at my other organization. That’s why I feel like they want a manager at an assistant price. In many ways, it’s a great next step for me, but the thought of taking such a big pay cut, and for more hours worked, and more challenges… I know the latter aren’t necessarily bad things, but I truly can’t swing such a big cut right now.

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Sunflower May 7, 2014 at 2:38 pm

* if the employer brings up salary earlier in the process and you agree to the range they cite (again, you risk looking like you weren’t operating in good faith earlier, unless something very significant about the job has changed since then)

This is kind of confusing to me. My bottom number is the absolute lowest I’ll go- and I’ll accept that number if they have ample PTO or work from home capabilities. But what if I’m offered that number and told that PTO/work from home is just ehh. Should I not try to negotiate the number? Or should I just be making my bottom number higher to start with?

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CTO May 7, 2014 at 2:43 pm

Then maybe you should just be open about that. Here’s what I’ve been saying in my latest round of interviews: “I’m seeking $X to $Y, depending on benefits and fit.” Or alternately, if they tell you the hiring range, “That’s at the low end of my range, but I’d definitely consider it for the right fit and benefits.” That way the company doesn’t automatically assume that I’ll say yes if they offer at the low end, but I don’t price myself out of jobs that I really would take for $X salary because their other perks are worth enough to me.

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Annie O May 7, 2014 at 4:46 pm

“That’s at the low end of my range, but I’d definitely consider it for the right fit and benefits.”

This is perfect. Thanks.

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Del May 7, 2014 at 2:44 pm

Honestly, in that case I think you’re making the mistake of starting yourself off too low.

Start higher and be willing to negotiate down if they offer good PTO/WFH/insurance/etc to offset a lower pay range.

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Blue Anne May 8, 2014 at 8:03 am

When talking to companies on the lower end of my range, I’ve always talked about salary and benefits in the same breath. As a junior accountant the most important thing to me is to have study leave and exam fees paid, so if I’m pinning down a number in a lower range I’d always say “Yes, I could work with £(number) and study support.”

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JM May 7, 2014 at 3:03 pm

This sounds so much like the situation that I am in now. I got a call this morning on a copy of my old resume lying around in Dice. I make 75K yearly now, with benefits, 22 vacation days, 401k and share purchase.

The offer that I heard this morning is in a range of 90-95K and no benefits and no vacation.

What do you think about this – take it or decline?

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Ask a Manager May 7, 2014 at 3:09 pm

Would you accept $1,666 more a month (before taxes!) to have zero vacation and have to pay for your own insurance.

Let’s say insurance will be $400/month (and that’s conservative). Now you’re at less than $1,000 more a month after taxes to have no vacation time. Worth it?

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Sunflower May 7, 2014 at 3:14 pm

How do jobs with no vacation time work? Can you just not take any days off or?

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Ask a Manager May 7, 2014 at 3:17 pm

I think they just have you take it unpaid, although that raises some legal issues if you’re exempt and just taking a day here and there.

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Laufey May 7, 2014 at 3:24 pm

I worked at a place where they’d let you take all the unpaid time you want (but, JM, if that’s the case here, add that into your calculations, because that will reduce your pay increase!). Alternatively, they might have a lot of holidays/shutdowns (some manufacturing locations will shut down for a whole month or more). Or they might just burn out all their employees within two years and deal with the turnover.

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JM May 7, 2014 at 3:49 pm

Thank you for opening my eyes. It was blurred since the offer:)

The position was described as an “hourly” one rather than a salaried one. I have always been a permanent employee all these years and have to admit that I don’t know what hourly indicates here.

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Laufey May 7, 2014 at 4:49 pm

In that case, also make sure you and the employer are on the same page in terms of hours per week. The only danger in an exempt position is being overworked; in an hourly position you can still be overworked, but you can also have to scrape for hours, affecting your take-home pay.

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Someone Else May 7, 2014 at 5:07 pm

I was working a hourly job with a high hourly wage and no benefits or vacation time, we were authorized to work the hours on other days within the pay week to cover days off and holidays, we also had the option to bank OT for vacations at 1.5 hours per 1 hour of OT worked so it worked out. I’m finally a perm employee so it all worked out! :)

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Celeste May 7, 2014 at 3:17 pm

I would need more information on no vacation. I understand they won’t give you paid leave, but do they have any policy on number of unpaid days you can take? Depending on how you used those 22 days in the past, a small limit on them might not be in your best interest. For example, I use a week to cover my daughter’s spring break from school, and I use vacation days and hours throughout the year cover days when she has no school (scheduled and unscheduled). I’d need to know if I could still take the time, albeit unpaid.

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CA Anon May 7, 2014 at 3:25 pm

Decline–it doesn’t add up.

Some basic estimates:

Health Insurance: $400/month (that’s what it would cost me to replace mine, so that’s the number I picked, that can vary greatly by region, etc.) = $4800/year (can you use pretax dollars for independently bought health insurance? because if it’s post-tax, then this number looks more like $6500 if you’re comparing it to pretax dollars)

Vacation days: basically, what would it cost to replace your current PTO with unpaid days? At current salary that’s ($75k / ~260 = ~$290/day, so $290*22=$6380) more than $6000. At the new place, it means forgoing $7615 to $8040, depending on where you fall in the range.

With just those 2 categories, you’re looking at spending an extra $12,400 to $15,000 to switch jobs and maintain your current benefits. That doesn’t touch the 401k or how you’d feel about a company that doesn’t care enough about its employees to offer basic benefits.

So basically, hell no.

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BeenThere May 7, 2014 at 4:55 pm

Agree. I always do the math :)

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Bryan May 7, 2014 at 3:30 pm

Also almost anything medical that comes up will eat up the increase of salary. It wouldn’t even need to be huge, just something like you trip and fall and break your foot.

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Bryan May 7, 2014 at 3:30 pm

I was assuming you wouldn’t get insurance. Don’t pay attention to me.

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the gold digger May 7, 2014 at 4:55 pm

Even with insurance, it can cost you a lot. I have a $2,500 deductible before insurance kicks in and even they, they pay only 80% of eligible (very important word there) expenses.

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Laufey May 7, 2014 at 5:12 pm

they pay only 80% of eligible (very important word there) expenses

Tell me about it. My plan went from covering 100% of everything after the (reasonable) deductible to covering 60% of “required” expenses. Makes one wonder what the point of getting insurance is, if it doesn’t even cover anything.

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Cat May 7, 2014 at 3:47 pm

I’d be worried, even if the money worked out, that the second employer was one that didn’t value employee happiness or retention; no vacation or benefits seems like a red flag to me.

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Stephanie May 7, 2014 at 3:53 pm

I’d decline it. Even with Obamacare, individual open market plans aren’t great. Group coverage will always be better. I saw a lot of high-deductible catastrophic plans when I was shopping around on the marketplace (to be fair, I am in my 20s and healthy, so the exchange may have pushed me toward those) which are really only good if you’re very healthy or very sick (or just have a chronic condition). Finding better coverage than that will probably eat up the salary differential.

Plus, it sounds like you’re in a relatively high-paying field. That just sounds odd that a company would offer that much without what are probably standard benefits in your field. Even contract houses offer benefits. Seems like a giant red flag that this company is too miserly to offer benefits.

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Lily in NYC May 7, 2014 at 3:09 pm

What if you get a job through a headhunter? As an executive assistant, I usually use a recruiter and they tend to just tell you the salary before you go on the interview. The only time I felt comfortable negotiating was when the company I interviewed with made it pretty clear the boss was very unfriendly and demanding. I told the recruiter that the salary was not worth working for a jerk (I said it nicely) and the company offered a lot more.

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KimmieSue May 7, 2014 at 3:51 pm

Every job offer should be negotiable (with or without headhunter assistance). If you are working with a headhunter that has led you to believe otherwise, then you need a new headhunter.

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Lily in NYC May 8, 2014 at 8:56 am

No one led me to believe anything. I was just young and didn’t really know any better. I have had very good experiences using headhunters except for one minor incident.

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Joey May 7, 2014 at 4:07 pm

You can and should not hesitate to negotiate through a headhunter. Just remember she’s her own advocate so she will probably be more inclined for you to hurry up and accept so she can collect her fee.

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PEBCAK May 8, 2014 at 1:46 am

AGREED. They often get a percentage, so they will claim they want to get you the most possible, but really, they want the deal to go through. I think they allude to this with realtors in Freakonomics. Same idea.

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Sarah May 7, 2014 at 3:31 pm

I started a new job a few months ago. They met my asking number, plus a few perks we didn’t discuss (the company is paying my whole insurance premium and the tolls on my commute). I negotiated my start date to be a week later (they’d only set it one week out) and my title. They were perfectly happy with that, and I established my reputation in a very male company as someone who looks at things closely and fairly, and stands up within reason for what I want. Something like that may work for the OP.

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Cally May 7, 2014 at 3:42 pm

What about organizations that claim to have a policy where they can only offer you 5% or 10% above your previous salary? I think a lot of government contractors operate this way, perhaps as required by the govt. Is there still room to negotiate, especially if your previous salary was low?

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NP May 7, 2014 at 4:33 pm

They should be basing their offer to you on the value the position provides to them, not benchmarking it to your previous salary (ideally they wouldn’t even know your previous salary, because it’s not relevant). Negotiate for what you want to be paid. I work for a government contractor (and know others who work for other government contractors) and have never heard of this practice, FWIW.

Take this “policy” as a red flag that there are likely other stupid/dubious policies there.

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Bryan May 7, 2014 at 3:48 pm

Does this also apply to entry-level positions/recent grads where you don’t really have a track record to price your skills?

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the_scientist May 7, 2014 at 4:13 pm

Yes, I’d also be interested in learning more about salary negotiations as a recent grad!

I’m in a field where one and two-year contract positions are the norm for entry-level employees and I’m quickly approaching the end of my first year contract and looking to move on (I’m hoping that because short-term contracts are the norm in this field, this won’t reflect poorly on me). Plus, I’m in a rather uncommon field so it’s extremely difficult to find accurate salary information, and salary tends to vary widely between sectors. As part of my current contract I have no benefits and no vacation, so really I’m not looking to be picky in a new job- if it pays the same as what I make now and offers benefits/vacation; I’ll take it. But when I know that a similar title and responsibilities in the government could net 20k/year more, I’m not sure what’s reasonable to ask for vs. laughably high, and terrified that I’ll wind up looking like an idiot.

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Joey May 7, 2014 at 4:17 pm

Depends. I would ask if the salary is negotiable as a first step

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Elysian May 7, 2014 at 4:29 pm

I agree – Ask if salary is negotiable. If their answer is anything other than a clear “No.” then feel free to try to negotiate. I almost made this mistake – the employer said “Well, we think the offer is fair.” That answer is not no. A colleague encourage me to push a little harder, and I got a higher starting salary by leveraging my knowledge of the market, etc.

Just because you’re a new grad or don’t have a work history doesn’t mean you can’t negotiate. It just makes it harder to know your value. You might be somewhat less ambitious, since you don’t have a lot of leverage. But do your research, find out what the market salary is for the position, and go from there.

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meesh May 7, 2014 at 4:18 pm

I live in NYC and most entry-level jobs (media/advertising/TV) have their cap and there is no wiggle room for any negotiation.

I interviewed with a bunch of places, still entry-level, that had no negotiation at all within the structure of the offer.

When I moved from my TV network job to another position in media, I asked for $1200 to offset my new yearly MetroCard cost (not needed previously) and they couldn’t even cough up $1200.

TL;DR- IMHO, negotiation is not for entry-level in New York.

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kac May 7, 2014 at 4:47 pm

I have negotiated my salary for every new position with two exceptions: My entry level job, and the (big) promotion I got from my entry level job. When I was brand new, it was more important to me to get my foot in the door than it was to make $1000 or so more. When I got a big internal position, it paid so much more than I was making (think 33% more) that I didn’t feel like I had a leg to stand on re: negotiation, specifically because they knew how much I was making before.

Outside of those two circumstances, I have *always* negotiated. Because the truth is: They have a range to work with. And no one offers their top amount right out of the gate. Sometimes it’s a trade-off; more vacation time when they can’t offer the salary you want, for example.

As someone who is a little cut-throat about negotiating for salary, I think I still would not negotiate as an entry-level person. You’re relatively dispensable when you’re entry level, and there is this (often unfair!) assumption that our generation is entitled. I’m afraid you run the risk of reinforcing that assumption if you negotiate as brand-new to the work force. I think two industries where this wouldn’t be true: sales and finance. Negotiate away in those arenas, because ultimately you’re just reinforcing what they are hiring you to do.

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MaryMary May 7, 2014 at 4:34 pm

What is everyone’s opinion on the ability to negotiate benefits with large versus small companies? In my experience at very large companies (Fortune 500), benefits such as PTO, health insurance, life insurance, retirement match, bonus structure, and sometimes the ability to work remotely were locked down based on role and tenure. I’m sure it’s different at the executive level, but there was no way an entry level or mid-level hire would be able to negotiate more PTO or a higher match than their peers. I currently work at a small company (less than 100 people), and I know it is common to negotiate for additional PTO or benefits. I found this out after I was hired, sadly, but I’m keeping it in mind for my next review.

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Annie O May 7, 2014 at 4:59 pm

In general, I’d agree that it can be easier to negotiate special benefit packages in smaller companies. But there will always be exceptions.

My husband is mid-career in a huge company and he was able to negotiate for 50% more PTO. His old company was generous with benefits and he wasn’t willing to accept an offer for less PTO even if the pay was better.

We take vacations seriously :)

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the gold digger May 7, 2014 at 4:59 pm

No! PTO is completely negotiable! I wish I had known that before I accepted the two weeks offered to me when I started with a Fortune 100 company – a peer had negotiated four weeks.

I did negotiate this time at a small non-profit.

Always ask – base your ask on the number of years you have been working in total. That is, on the benefits sheet HR gives you, it should break out vacation by number of years with the company. Just look at the years and say either, “I have been working professionally for ten years and want the ten-year level of vacation” or “I get X days now and want to keep that.”

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Joey May 7, 2014 at 5:09 pm

Try. It can vary widely. I know lots of small companies that believe you should feel lucky to be offered any benefits at all. And I know large companies that will do almost anything for top tier talent. The key is to understand that the more you are worth to them the more likely every company is going to be willing to negotiate.

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eemusings May 7, 2014 at 5:12 pm

This is exactly what happened with me (I wouldn’t have named a number except that the application form asked for it and I was afraid they’d skip me over if I left that entirely blank, though in hindsight I doubt they would have). They asked for my minimum and I put down a little more than my true minimum (which I believe was in line with market) and they offered a number that was my dream number, probably wouldn’t have had the guts to ask for in a negotiation. Yay for fair offers!

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Confused May 7, 2014 at 7:23 pm

I applied for a position at a company and they made me fill in a “min salary” section prior to the interview too!
I put down (what I later realized) was a ridiculously low number which I would now, having come to my senses and a variety of other reasons, certainly not take.
I keep wondering, if I ever apply for a position at that company, if they’ll hold what I wrote down years ago against me.

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LucyVP May 7, 2014 at 7:58 pm

I wouldn’t worry about it if it was more than a year or two ago.

As someone who works at a very desirable organization, we get repeat applicants often and assuming that the applicant didn’t say anything horrible at their previous interview, I always look at each application on its own – current – merit.

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Lynn Whitehat May 7, 2014 at 11:58 pm

I got an offer that was $30k over what I was asking for. My husband is a realtor, and he was with clients when I called to tell him the offer. He forgot himself and said “holy sh*t” and had to apologize to the clients. I didn’t negotiate that one.

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Lily in NYC May 8, 2014 at 8:57 am

Wow!

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LAI May 7, 2014 at 6:04 pm

Thanks so much for this! I posted a really similar comment in the open forum last week. I just accepted a job at their offering salary, which was only slightly more than I currently make. But it’s within the same company so they know exactly what I’m making already, and it’s also at the top of the published range for my position so it’s basically exactly what I was hoping for. Like the OP, I felt bad/weak by not negotiating – partially because there are so many articles about how women don’t negotiate and end up being paid less than men.

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Bea W May 7, 2014 at 6:50 pm

My current job came in at way over what I asked, and was a 25% increase over my old salary not counting the bonus and with phenominal benefits. There wasn’t anything to do but accept on the spot and then race down the hall to call a friend and squee in her ear. Sometimes the employer just makes it really easy to say yes.

Congratulations!

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Kiwi May 7, 2014 at 7:59 pm

Leaving aside this job offer, I would have an in-depth look into reasonable salary ranges for this position/level. Employers rarely over-offer. It’s more likely that your salary expectations are a touch on the low side.

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Cath in Canada May 7, 2014 at 8:34 pm

I didn’t negotiate at all, for either of my last two jobs. I’m at a public sector research organisation that’s operated by a massive health authority, and every single job falls into a very rigidly defined, non-negotiable pay grade. Within each grade, there’s a very rigidly defined, non-negotiable conversion from years of experience to percentile within that pay range. Benefits and PTO are 100% standard across all jobs. Your offer is your offer, take it or leave it.

I have to say, it did take quite a lot of the stress out of the process! But then if I was strongly motivated by money, I’d have stayed in the private sector, so YMMV :)

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Anony May 8, 2014 at 12:31 pm

I worked for the State Assembly when I was fresh out of college, and after I had been working there for a few months, I found out that I was being paid $3,000/year below the published range (I was young and didn’t know any better). I called up the appropriate office at the state capitol and when I asked them to adjust it, they just did it – no big deal. It lowered my opinion of the chief of staff who set my salary in the first place. I don’t think it’s likely that he didn’t know the salary ranges, and I feel that he took advantage of my naïveté. Later, I discovered many other reasons to revise my opinion of him even lower, but that’s another story.

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Feed Fido May 7, 2014 at 9:25 pm

I think you can always ask, or should be able to ask. Negotiating a salary is such a normal step, I would I question any employer who balked at it. They may have offered their best, but they should never penalize the candidate for asking. If they do…..will you ever get a raise? Huge red flag if they are bothered by mere negotiation.

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KCS May 7, 2014 at 9:58 pm

Let’s say you agree to a salary range with a recruiter before you interview with the company.

Then, after speaking with several interviewers at the company, it becomes apparent that the role is much more demanding that what was in the original job description.

Would it still look like you weren’t “operating in good faith” if you attempt to negotiate a higher salary after the fact?

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PEBCAK May 8, 2014 at 1:49 am

No. I said the same thing upthread, but you can absolutely ask for more, you just have to explain the reason why, i.e. “Now that I know the job involves X and Y instead of just X, I think $KKKKK would a more reasonable salary.”

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KCS May 8, 2014 at 9:09 am

Thanks, PEBCAK. Have you ever gone through this specific experience? (Or heard of others going through this?) If so, how did the employer respond?

Thanks again.

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Anne 3 May 8, 2014 at 3:15 am

This post is helpful! I was asking myself this question yesterday and I think I kind of flubbed the answer…

My situation:
- 3 years into my career, same company the whole time but I’ve had different roles
- A former manager who has since relocated to our HQ in a different country asked me to come work for him

They offered me a slight raise, BUT the cost of living in the HQ city is much higher than where I live now, so I’m a little worried about that. On the other hand, it’s a great opportunity and working there will likely help my career at this company a lot. And this manager is kind of taking a chance on me (I’m 25 and this is a pretty prestigious position).

So I was going back and forth on this yesterday – should I ask for more money considering they’re asking me to relocate to a city with higher CoL? Or should I consider the ‘opportunity value’ as compensation (this will likely open a path to better jobs later vs. if I stayed in my current position)?

I ended up replying to their email offer, asking if they could give me some insight into how the offered salary was calculated (they said it’s based on function level + CoL), giving my current salary as context and that I wanted to make sure I’m well informed before making a decision. -> I didn’t want to come across as ‘greedy’ by asking for more but I did want to open up the possibility of them offering me more? I probably accomplished exactly none of that. This stuff is hard!

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TotesMaGoats May 8, 2014 at 9:49 am

What if you can’t negotiate, in the sense that the employer isn’t allowed or is unable to change salary or benefits? The job I hire for I have no wiggle room at all on salary or benefits. Everyone gets the same benefits and salary is predefined by position/range/budget.

I’m applying for jobs in my field and I know, unless I was going for a VP type position, negotiating isn’t gonna happen.

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anonyMOOSE May 8, 2014 at 11:24 am

If the job posting has the salary listed, is that the same situation as the second bullet point in Alison’s response?

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Anonymous Educator May 9, 2014 at 12:48 pm

If you see the job posting says $45-55k, you aren’t necessarily agreeing to $55k by applying for the job, but you are agreeing that that range is generally agreeable to you. So if you get the job, it might be reasonable to negotiate up to $57k or $58k if you can make a solid case for being well above market value. Really, though, if you can’t live with 55k or around there, no, you shouldn’t be applying for that job.

In my experience, potential employers offering well below market rate will be up front about it before interviews get under way, because they don’t want to waste their time either “We can’t really offer more then $36k for this position. Is that okay with you?”

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