can I ask for a higher salary if I agreed to a lower range at the start of the interview process?

A reader writes:

I was wondering if it is okay to negotiate salary on a role that a salary range was provided during the course of the interview. For example, if during the initial phone interview I was provided a range of $60K to $70K, is it acceptable to try to negotiate more once an offer is made? Obviously the recruiter asked if that range was okay, and I stated that it was a good place to start and that I wanted to hear more. Now that I’ve had an in-person interview with the hiring manager, I am wondering if I can negotiate more (if I get an offer at all) or if I agreed to the salary range to begin with and am stuck.

You can attempt to negotiate more!

In this case, it doesn’t even sound like you agreed to the range they gave — you said it was a reasonable starting place but you wanted to learn more. So you left the door open for the possibility that you might ask for more.

But even if you’d said a more firm yes to that range, it’s not out of the question that, upon learning more about the job and its responsibilities and having time to reflect, you might think a higher salary was warranted and decide to ask for one.

However, because they already gave a range, you do need to acknowledge that when you do it. You can do that by saying something like, “After learning more about the job, and particularly about the size team this position manages, I’m hoping you can do $X instead.” Ideally, like in that example, you’d put something specific in there about what you learned that makes you think more money is warranted.

The other thing is, now that you know their range, you can’t really go way, way over it. If they told you their range was $60-70K, it’s unrealistic for you to then come back with $110K. You want to stay in their general ballpark. If their general ballpark is totally mismatched with the job, ideally the time to address that is when they first gave you that range — so in that case, you wouldn’t have said “that sounds like a good place to start” and instead would have said, “Ah, I think we may be pretty far apart on salary” or otherwise addressed it in the moment or soon after.

The basic principle, though, is that you never need to be irrevocably pinned down on salary before you’ve had a chance to learn all of what the job entails.

{ 64 comments… read them below or add one }

  1. Madeleine Matilda

    Alison, how far over the range could the OP try to negotiate? I know it may depend on the company but is there some general rule you would follow?

    Reply
    1. Gene Parmesan

      I’m curious about this too, because if all goes well for an application I recently submitted (fingers crossed!), I may be in a similar boat.

      Reply
    2. Brandon

      This is just my opinion, but the percentage to negotiate over what was offered is dependent on the offer. In most cases I think you could probably ask for up to 10% more, although I did once negotiate a $13k counteroffer and double my bonus from 10% to 20%. That said, the best place to start on determining what you SHOULD counteroffer is on the websites I mentioned below: Payscale, Glassdoor and Salary.com. If you find the offer is out of line with those websites, then I would use those in my counteroffer discussion.

      Reply
  2. willow

    I did this. At my interview it became obvious that my position would involve more than I was originally told, and once I had an offer I negotiated about 5K more.

    Reply
    1. MM

      I did too. When my now-boss was hiring for my role, he was envisioning it as pretty strictly admin and coordination. After we’d talked a few times, he decided to expand the role to include more content design, decision-making, and other kinds of input and research. So then later when he made me the offer, I asked for $10k more based on a) the change in the design of the role and b) some assessment of what my qualifications ought to be worth in the field. He gave it to me no problem.

      Reply
    2. Jackers

      I have successfully done this as well. I was told during the interview process what their budget salary was, and that is exactly what the offer came through at. I asked for and received 6% more with zero push back on their part. Obviously this is going to vary by company, but you can certainly ask. I phrased it by saying “Do you have any flexibility to stretch that to $X?”

      Reply
  3. Anon to me

    Not to mention many times benefit details aren’t discussed when the salary range is provided. If the benefits aren’t that great, I think it’s reasonable to use that also as a reason to ask for more.

    Reply
    1. Llama Wrangler

      I was curious about this! In this case, would you say “After learning more about the benefits package, I’m hoping you can do $X instead.”?

      Reply
      1. Brandon

        I think this totally works. I read an article once that said to leave it “open-ended”, i.e. not specify an amount and let them figure it out on their end. I don’t know if it was my “open-ended” request to revisit the compensation or the followup questions I asked for an offer I had a month ago, but the company rescinded the offer. It wasn’t the worst thing in the world though. I didn’t want to move again anyway. But I think most employers are expecting you to counter, and when you don’t, they either think you are stupid or that they were able to trick you into accepting.

        Reply
      2. T3k

        I’m in the middle of an interview with one company, and the first part asked general questions (would I be willing to relocate to where they are, my salary expectations, etc.) and as it was open ended, I put down an amount I’d be ok with but also stated it could change depending on the benefits of the agency. Didn’t appear to turn them off as they moved me on to the next part of the interview process.

        Reply
  4. Wannabe Disney Princess

    Very timely for me.

    I’m in a similar-ish position. I threw out my range, they said it might be too high but it could be close so was there some flexibility? Knowing they pay 100% of health and dental insurance, I am definitely a little flexible. Benefits can make a HUGE difference.

    Reply
    1. Brandon

      There’s a chance we were interviewing for the same role! I have never heard of a company paying 100% of my (and my dependent’s) health insurance. A company will not negotiate the coverage, but the other perks are fair game.

      Reply
      1. Bea

        My dad had full coverage insurance for all of us without any extra cost to him. It’s how things were before the economy and insurance exploded in the recession. The trend for making employees start paying started trending when I started working, along with companies ceasing profit sharing and contributing to retirement funds.

        Imagine the shock to my system it was when my laborer dad had more benefits and security than I did going into accounting.

        I’m happy to hear companies are championing back with better benefits frigging finally.

        Reply
      2. T3k

        Is this really that uncommon? :( I mean sure, I’ve worked for and seen lots of companies that didn’t pay any coverage, but since switching fields, I’ve noticed a lot of the big names will pay 100% on health/dental insurance. The offset is that they tend to not be long term positions (unless the company has a cash cow and can then afford to keep people for years).

        Reply
    2. Eye of Sauron

      My only caution is that benefits can change where generally your salary won’t go down. So I would definitely be open to being flexible, but wary of trading salary for benefits.

      Reply
        1. Former Usher

          Yep. I had to accept a 30% pay cut to avoid being laid off. Fortunately I was able to find a much better job within six months.

          Reply
        2. Eye of Sauron

          I said ‘generally’. Yes they can go down, but it’s more common for benefits to be reduced or eliminated before salary cuts.

          Reply
        3. Bea

          Some airlines did this and I’m still livid ever since hearing that it’s a thing. I couldn’t survive on a 30% cut, just lay my ass off and I’ll get about 70% plus full time to beat the pavement for a job.

          Reply
          1. Eliza

            A large enough pay cut can sometimes qualify as constructive dismissal, so quitting under those circumstances might not disqualify you for unemployment, at least. Unfortunately, there’s no clear-cut universal line as to how large is large enough for that purpose.

            Reply
        4. Anon to me

          While I didn’t get a paycut during the recession, several of our competitors instituted paycuts ranging from 5-15% depending on their salary. They avoided layoffs, but it was painful (and they had a hiring freeze).

          Reply
      1. DivineMissL

        NJ government worker here. When I started in this job 12 years ago, my health benefits were paid 100%; even though the salary was not great, having the medical coverage for free was a huge benefit. Cue Governor Christie’s decision to have all government workers pay a portion of their health benefits (scaled to salary). I now pay several thousand dollars per year for my medical benefits. It’s still a bargain compared to what other people pay in the private sector, but it is still money out of my pocket each year that I didn’t expect to be paying when I started (and the premiums keep going up). Last year I got a small raise, but it threw me over the next “% of premium” level; so I ended up with less in my paycheck than I had started with.

        Reply
    3. Christmas Carol

      I know I’ve mentioned this before, but, while you cannot negotiate the qualification period for health insurance, remember to ask for $ to cover your continuation costs for your old policy until your new one kicks in.

      Reply
        1. Christmas Carol

          Confession time: One time when I tried this, OldJob asked if it was ok to just add the $ into my paycheck over the rest of the year, saying that it would be easier than cutting me a separate check. Since I had enough of a savings cushion that it didn’t matter, I said sure. My prorated yearly salary for the rest of that year was bumped by the total of my estimated COBRA payments, plus a little more to cover taxes & FICA. At year end, no body thought to adjust my base salary back down…………..and future raises/bonuses were also figured on that same inflated base…………Too bad it was such a toxic workplace otherwise.

          Reply
          1. Sal

            Something similar happened to a friend of mine, they asked for relocation money (a few grand) and was told no, but they could bump up her salary by the same amount each year (not sure if they figured in extra to cover taxes). But it was offered explicitly with the fact that they would continue receiving that even after the first year. I think maybe the manager that hired her would have had to do a ton of extra paperwork/approvals etc for the relocation but had more wiggle room on the salary.

            Reply
      1. Sunshine on a Cloudy Day

        This is such a good idea! I really hope to not be job hunting for awhile, but I’m absolutely going to keep this one in my back pocket.

        Reply
        1. Christmas Carol

          I been turned down asking for this when I would be leaving a current employer. One NewJob just asked me for my insurance information, and paid my premiums directly to OldJob for me.

          Reply
      2. Former Usher

        Similarly, you can also ask for money to cover things from like an unvested 401k match from your current employer that you’d be giving up. Just be prepared that they might ask for documentation.

        Reply
  5. Brandon

    As the original poster to the question, I would say that I typically research the going rate for the role on websites like Glassdoor, Payscale or Salary.com, usually before I apply to the role. But sometimes there is a wide range of salaries for a role (or none at all), so in those cases I will apply if it’s a good match for my experience, and have the range discussion once I get a call. My range shifts depending on the role, but I agree with the post. Once you learn more about the role, have done the research, and know the offer is low, you can definitely initiate the conversation, but it’s tough to overcome a $40k difference versus a $10k one. Once you have “agreed” to an initial range, you can probably negotiate up to 10% more depending on the offer. In this instance, I was going through a recruiter who is at the mercy of their client. While the salary was low, the company had other great perks to make up the difference that I didn’t know about at the time. Nonetheless, I think every hiring manager expects you to negotiate.

    Reply
  6. it_guy

    If there was a disparity on benefits from what they were actually going to offer and what you are expecting, you could use that as a reason as well.

    Often the non-monetary benefits can make a HUGE difference in salary expectations.

    Reply
    1. Brandon

      Great point, and I absolutely agree. I have negotiated paid time off when none was offered for the first two years of employment. I don’t typically take them, but it’s nice to know they are there when you need/want them.

      Reply
      1. Atalanta0jess

        There are jobs that offer no PTO for TWO YEARS? That is inhumane. (I mean, I know there are jobs with no PTO at all, which is also inhumane. But I didn’t know there were jobs where the waiting period was that long.)

        Reply
        1. Charlie Bradbury's Girlfriend

          Yeah, even at my part time retail job, I started accruing PTO after my three month probation period. No PTO for two years seems…a bit not good.

          Reply
        2. Bea

          Right? I was salty enough after dealing with a 3 month waiting period for insurance and A YEAR before getting the “privilege” to open an IRA that had no employer contributions. Oh what a darling perk, you submit my payments at payroll, woorah *barf*

          Reply
        3. Frank Doyle

          Agreed. I went six months without a vacation last year and it DEFINITELY affected my mental health. Two years is too long. I think three months is fair.

          Reply
    2. Cordoba

      Specific benefits are also a great place to stick a lever when you’re negotiating salary regardless of whether or not you actually care about those benefits.

      “My current employer reimburses 100% for tuition and I see now that you only reimburse 50%, so we’re going to need to make up for that in the salary offer” is a valid negotiating position even if you have no intentions of ever going back to school.

      Reply
  7. Uncle T

    Getting hired is like buying a used car. Always negotiate. Even if your car is currently on fire or in a river.

    Reply
  8. lnelson1218

    I will admit that I might be willing to take a slightly lower salary (in the US) if there is a really hefty benefits package, e.g. health insurance covered at 100% or start off with 4 weeks vacation. To me both of those would be worth a few thousand less in salary.

    I have done my homework on the sites above mentioned on salary ranges. I might joke in an interview when asked desired salary that $1 million would be cool, knowing full well that it is outrageous. then I will answer with my actual desired amount. I won’t be willing to go below a certain amount if the benefits package is bad.

    Reply
    1. Cordoba

      I would recommend both skipping the million dollar bit and asking for ~20% more than your actual desired amount.

      Reply
    2. Bea

      I took a small cut for 100% insurance and an IRA match. When I’m not paying 20% of a garbage insurance plan anymore, I’m able to physically live the same style on ~3k less a year liquid.

      Imagine my delight getting a 2k jump after my initial review and still having these benefits.

      I came from paying for healthcare through the marketplace without any premiums credits so I’m steadily amused by my love for insurance that doesn’t continue to crush me financially.

      Reply
    3. BRR

      Yeah my first job had a 2% retirement match while my current job gives 11% unmatched. Total compensation can make a huge difference.

      Reply
  9. Veronica01

    I’m waiting to potentially receive an offer and agreed to what I thought was a salary range that sounded great. A knowledgeable internal source told me that this particular company always includes the value of benefits in the range– that it’s not salary, but salary and the value of benefits. It was positioned to me as “this position receives a range of $100-120k in compensation.” Since I didn’t know to ask the value of the benefits, I now have no idea what the actual salary range is.

    How would you guys approach the negotiation process– isn’t that a weird way to provide a range?

    Reply
    1. Rusty Shackelford

      Yeah, that’s weird. My employer does provide the total compensation, but they also give you a separate salary number. I’d start the negotiation by asking how much of that total compensation is salary and how much is benefits.

      Reply
    2. rldk

      I think it’s more than fine to be able to ask higher now, including the “after receiving more detailed information on the breakdown of salary and benefits, would $X salary be possible?”

      Reply
    3. Cordoba

      Not sure if it was intentional, but that seems weird, misleading, and largely useless. I can’t pay my rent or buy food with”other compensation” – only money.

      How can an applicant budget without knowing what portion of that number is cash?

      Also, some of those benefits may actually be worth $0 to many people. For example, it’s great if they give child care benefits but since I don’t have children that benefit sure shouldn’t count as part of the value of my compensation.

      Reply
      1. Popcorn Lover

        Agree! I was recently in negotiations with a place that raved in the phone interview about their wonderful benefits. Come to find out that what they were talking about was college tuition reimbursement for your kids. Which is legitimately a wonderful benefit, except if, like me, you don’t have kids — even if I did have a baby in the next few years, I wouldn’t be able to take advantage for nearly two decades! Can’t make next month’s mortgage payment with theoretical future tuition refunds!

        Reply
    4. Bea

      That sounds slimy. We’ve heard stories of places who break out mandatory things like SS, Medicare and workers comp into a “benefits” kind of map for how much an employee essentially costs. Also medical can be upwards of 10k a year per person with their math despite mandatory contributions.

      I would ask them to break out the benefits from the salary so that you can properly see what you’ll be getting in cash money not in what they allude to as benefits.

      Reply
    5. mediumofballpoint

      I was hired by a company that offered contracts raging from 6-12 months, but always provided the salary for a 12 month contract when discussing the topic. Given that they hired a lot of early professionals right out of school, who wouldn’t know this is A Thing, it was incredibly frustrating. Don’t tell people they’re going to making $12x when you know they’re only going to be making $8x. It felt deliberately misleading.

      Reply
    6. Brandon

      If they didn’t include this in part of the initial salary conversation, I would most certainly go back for clarification. I would start with why you like the job, how you know you’d be able to add value from day one, and then say, “Can you break down the compensation for me? I have read about some compensation packages and offers that now include the other peripheral benefits added into the salary range, so I want to make sure I understand the complete package being offered for the role.”

      I think most employers will want to divulge this info before you get too far into the interviewing process. I am surprised that a company would do this though, as it seems sneaky. Going forward though I will keep this in mind for future reference.

      Reply
  10. The New Wanderer

    Ugh, I just did the opposite of this in a preliminary contact from a company recruiter. I gave my salary expectation (which I hate doing, for obvious reasons) with multiple caveats – I said the expectation was based on the job description/apparent responsibilities but negotiable based on benefits etc. (I think) I also left it vague whether I was talking about total compensation or base salary. Except in a fit of confidence, I think I may have aimed too high. Glassdoor didn’t have anything useful for this specific position as it appears to be newly created, but does have lots of comparables for other senior-level jobs at this company, which is what I used as a basis.

    Unfortunately, if I did aim unreasonably high and they don’t respond, that sucks because I’d still consider the position (which sounds really, really cool) at a lower salary to get in the door, and also to have a job. It’s too bad there’s no way to say that without basically risking leaving money on the table. Is there?

    Reply
    1. Brandon

      I try to steer clear of the phrase “get my foot in the door” for a few reasons. First, to the interviewer, it may sound like you think you are overqualified for the role and would quickly be looking for something else. Second, to a hiring manager, they may take this as you wanting to take their job from them (as insecure as that sounds).
      Lastly, I have experienced companies making an initial offer with the caveat that “we can talk about an increase to your compensation when we (you) garner more business” – which really just means that they won’t offer you anything unless you can show them you are worth it, and even if you can, that guarantees nothing. In fact, I have worked for one employer that looked for every reason NOT to give me a raise, and every time i thought I should ask for one, they came up with one more reason that discouraged even having the conversation.
      I overcome this obstacle by stating a very wide salary range, say $70k to $125k depending on the role. If it’s within my industry, then it ought to be on the high end of that range; if it’s a new industry, the low is still acceptable to “prove my worth”. That’s just my thought process.

      Reply
  11. Jelle

    I told a recruiter that I’m looking at a 10% increase of my current salary, however, during the course of the application process – my employer released our performance evaluation results which automatically entitled me to almost the same amount. The recruiter knows my base pay, can I suddenly tell her that I’m still looking at the 10% increase but from a new (higher) base pay?

    Reply
    1. Cordoba

      Absolutely. New information has arrived and changed the circumstances of your job search, there is no reason not to share this with the recruiter.

      Reply
    2. Chirpy

      Hi Jelle,

      Wait until they decide if they want you before you mention it!

      Something similar happened to me….
      I was interviewed for a job and provisionally offered the role at certain salary which was a bit more than I was earning at the time which I was fine with. Then the manager discovered that she couldn’t make me a formal offer because the internal move of the person currently in the role had been delayed. She said they defiinately wanted me but had to wait.

      A month passed and I was given a 10% increase on my salary at the job I was in. So when the company came back to say they were ready to formally make an offer I fed back to the recruiter that I’d had a pay rise and the original offer was now below my current salary. I said I would only take the role if the offer was increased. The recruiter had an absolute fit!! He shouted at me down the phone about how I was so unprofessional to change the goalposts at this late stage. I didn’t get wound up – just said that my situation had changed and didn’t back down.

      The company raised their offer – I moved over. The recruiter got his bonus and sent me a bottle of wine :)

      Hope things work out just as well for you Jelle!!

      Reply
      1. Cordoba

        I don’t think I’d wait, unless you would also be willing to take the new job at the original +10% value without accounting for the recent raise. If +10% of the new value is a must-have it’s a different story.

        If you would only change companies for another 10% over your new current salary there is no advantage in waiting to find out of they’re willing to pay that much. If they’re not and you go through the whole application/offer phase to learn this then you just wasted a bunch of people’s time including your own.

        May as well lead with “my new required salary is X, let me know if you’re still interested” and get a firm answer to that as quickly as possible so you can either move on or proceed with the application.

        Reply
        1. Jelle

          Thank you Cordoba & Chirpy! Was initially hesitant to raise it because I didn’t want to sound too greedy but at the same time applying elsewhere doesn’t make much sense if I would not negotiate for a better package. Thanks again and fingers crossed my application goes well!

          Reply
  12. RedinSC

    I’d like to also caution anyone negotiating for a higher salary. If you’re applying to a non profit, the position is probably grant and/or donation funded. Currently, when I post a range I really need to stay in that range. If you come back, after we’ve talked about this range and I spent my time and the team’s time interviewing you and you want more, I will probably have to rescind your offer. Just saying, know your industry and the organization. I think the strategy to ask for more can work, but it might also backfire on you.

    Reply
    1. S

      I was here to say the same thing. We have ranges based on title (all directors make within the same range, all assistant directors make within the same range). I wouldnt necessarily rescind the offer, but I couldnt make that adjustment. Also, I am usually very clear in the interview stage that there is no room for negotiation. If they still try to negotiate after clearly telling them that they cannot, it does make me consider whether it is a good fit.

      Reply
  13. CanCan

    Personal experience.
    – I moved back to my hometown after having a baby. Started to look for a new job when the baby was around 1. My professional experience was just under 3 years, so the job search wasn’t going all that well. (Everybody wants at least 3 years in this field.)
    – Finally, had an interview. They asked what my previous salary was. I told them ($60k). They asked what I expected from this job. I wasn’t prepared for the question (Hey, I just want any decent job, in the right field, that pays a salary! – i.e. not profit-sharing) and mumbled that around the same thing would be fine.
    – When they made an offer, they offered $60k. I thought about it, and asked for $70k. They said: we’ll consider raising it to $70k after a 3-month trial period. That was also written into the offer.
    – After 3 months, they did raise it to $70k. Negotiation successful!

    Reply

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