I think I completely messed up this salary negotiation

A reader writes:

I had an first-round interview for a job yesterday that went very well until they asked, “So, are you willing to be flexible on salary? Because we have to be honest, your desired salary is significantly higher than what we’ve budgeted for.”

I’ve since done my research (which, admittedly, I should’ve done before the interview) and realized I broke rule #1, which is don’t tell them your desired salary.

But it gets worse.

I **answered** this question, which I have learned is mistake #2.

I said, “Well, I can be flexible, yes… I mean, what kind of significant difference are we talking here?”

This, of course, was mistake #3. Because now I’m negotiating against myself.

They explained that their high-water mark for the position was $25k below my desired salary. They also stressed that their high-water mark was basically for a perfect candidate.

When I heard their salary range, I winced. But I repeated that I could be flexible. Mistake #4. I want this job and I’m on my way to a second interview, in person. In fact, I’m flying out for this second interview, so they know I want this job. (Mistake #5)

It wasn’t until after I had a day or two to step back and think everything over that I realized the following:
– I negotiated against myself before an offer was even made and significantly devalued my experience.
– I was too eager about the job.
– I risk looking unprofessional / like I wasted their time with the second interview if I go back on my willingness to be flexible.

But not all is lost:
– Based on the salary range and what they said in the interview (that I have the most experience of anyone they’re interviewing), I think this position was initially designed for someone who is more junior than me. So they want my experience level; they just don’t want to pay for it.
– They repeated several times that they are excited by my candidacy and asked if I could interview a second time right away.
– I absolutely am willing to walk away from the opportunity if it means I have to significantly devalue my experience and qualifications.

I’m willing to meet them in the middle and come down if they’re willing to come up. I just don’t know how to say that after digging such a big hole for myself and giving away wayyyy to much information they can use to their negotiating advantage.

I have another interview (this time in-person) coming up. Here’s what I need to know: Can I broach that, now that I’ve had time to really think everything over, I am very concerned about the salary range that was previously discussed, and that I would need them to also be flexible? If so, how do I do that in a manner that is professional and compelling?

You think you made way more mistakes than you actually made, so the first thing to do is to stop beating yourself up.

Yes, there’s lots of advice out there that says that you shouldn’t name a salary figure. There’s also advice (from me, for example) that says that there can be a real advantage to naming your desired salary, especially in a case like this where you need to figure out if you’re just too far apart on numbers.

Salary negotiation doesn’t have to be a game. Sometimes it makes sense to be straightforward about what you’re looking for. That’s not inherently a mistake, and you shouldn’t automatically assume that you’re dealing with hard-negotiating adversaries who are looking for weaknesses to take advantage of. That’s really not how most employers negotiate salary. Good employers want people to be happy with their salaries; they’re not looking for the absolute bare minimum they can pay a good candidate, because they don’t want good people leaving for higher paying jobs in a year.

The only mistake you really made was by saying that you could be flexible after they told you their range — because that conveyed that you were okay with the number they named, even though you weren’t.

But you shouldn’t beat yourself up for that either, because it’s so, so common to do that. Most people aren’t professional salary negotiators; this stuff is nerve-wracking, and it’s normal to mess it up.

The good news is that you can correct it. You can wait for the next interview if you want to, but I’d recommend sending them an email right now that says something like, “I wanted to follow up with you about salary. I’ve had a chance to think over the numbers that you named, and I want to make sure that we’re on the same page. While I can be flexible about salary for a position I’m excited about, I can’t go below $X. If that’s prohibitive, I understand, but otherwise I’d love to keeping talking.”

Obviously, if you say this, you need to be prepared for them to say it’s a deal-breaker on their side and for that to end things. That’s why you need to pick X carefully. People also worry that once you say $X, they’re unlikely to offer you much more than that. But given that you’re already $25,000 apart, I don’t think there’s real risk that you’d be leaving money on the table by taking this approach.

One last thing: It’s interesting that you think that you’ll look unprofessional and like you’re wasting their time if you go back on your willingness to be flexible, even though they brought you in for an interview when they already knew that they were way below your desired salary, and they didn’t bother to tell you that until you were already there. Don’t give them a pass on something you’re kicking yourself for. This stuff goes both ways.

{ 115 comments… read them below }

  1. TootsNYC*

    OP, I think you have nothing to lose here.
    You almost can’t make a mistake.

    I think you should just say this: “I’m willing to meet them in the middle and come down if they’re willing to come up.” And this sounds good too: ”

    “I just don’t know how to say that after digging such a big hole for myself and giving away wayyyy to much information they can use to their negotiating advantage.”

    They don’t have any negotiating advantage. They can’t make you take this job if you decide the pay is too low. It’s not necessarily an adversarial relationship. Can they make you an offer that you will accept? If not, oh well.

    Now, if you’re unemployed and about to lose your house, and you feel that you must take this job…
    Well, you still won’t lose, because they’re excited about your skills. They’ll offer you the job.
    And, if they’re so excited about your skills, maybe you should hold out a little bit.

    and yes, you don’t need to worry about looking unprofessional here. You didn’t start this.

    1. BRR*

      “I think you have nothing to lose here.”

      Well put. I wrote down below the LW doesn’t have to accept an offer. I think it’s nerves since we’re not used to negotiating salary and it’s easy to read way too much information out there which is often times wrong and then you get all in your head with everything.

    2. neverjaunty*

      Excellent point that cannot be stressed enough. They have no leverage. They can bargain, and you can say yes or no. That’s it.

    3. Been There*

      If they want you, they may pay more to get you. Twice I have interviewed for jobs where my current salary was above the target the company had set, and the company wound up offering me my current salary or better, even though I told them I was willing to be flexible.

      Companies usually don’t want you to come in with a bad feeling about the pay right from the start, they want you to be committed to your new job and not looking for other opportunities that might pay more.

  2. Leatherwings*

    “– Based on the salary range and what they said in the interview (that I have the most experience of anyone they’re interviewing), I think this position was initially designed for someone who is more junior than me. So they want my experience level; they just don’t want to pay for it.”

    This seems like a bit of a red flag to me. This isn’t a topic I have a ton of experience in, but I would really proceed with caution based on this assessment.

    1. K.*

      Me too. It may be that they’re shocked that someone with the OP’s experience applied if the rest of the talent pool is more junior and are kind of trying to have their cake and eat it too, but compensation should rise as experience does.

    2. TootsNYC*

      Also–this should tell you not to feel bad if you turn this job down. They’re stretching, reaching for something more than they’d planned or budgeted for. If they go to all that effort and expense, and it doesn’t pan out (i.e., you tell them it’s not enough money, no matter -when- you tell them that), that will be data that shapes their decisions later. (like, maybe they won’t jerk the next person around)

      And they have other candidates, so don’t feel like you’re leaving them in the lurch! You’re the dream they’re trying to attain.

    3. AnotherAlison*

      Are you in a position where the extra expenditure in your salary is made up by your productivity compared to a junior person? Sounds like the company may not “get it” anyway, but if you can hit the ground running or otherwise do twice the work in half the time, you’re bringing more value than your salary costs them. However, with a company that doesn’t recognize that, I would walk away.

      1. N.T.*

        Yes. I would absolutely save them time and money in what they don’t have to train me, as well as be able to directly increase their revenue. But ultimately maybe adhering to their budget is more important and they’d rather train someone who can grow into the role. That’s a completely understandable decision too.

        1. TootsNYC*

          So if you can directly increase their revenue, can they use that to pay you more next year–like, a lot more?

          If not, then it’s particularly off-putting that they want to make money on your back while paying you a lot less.

          1. Zahra*

            I wouldn’t accept a salary I would be unhappy with right now, even if it came with a promise of an unspecified raise X months later, unless there are clear and achievable targets that would guarantee a minimum raise. And even then. Bird in the hand and all that.

    4. BRR*

      I’m not sure I agree with this (although definitely a possibility). They might just under pay. And without knowing how the LW’s experience compares with what they are asking for, we can’t really tell if it was initially designed for someone more junior.

      1. Leatherwings*

        Totally fair. I don’t think this has to be a deal breaker if they can meet in the middle somewhere on salary. But if OPs assessment is correct about them not wanting to pay for the skills they really want, I think I would pump the brakes a little bit and see if this kind of attitude pops up in other areas. How are the benefits, flexibility, manager, etc.

        I just think I would be looking for other indicators of outsized expectations of people.

        1. BRR*

          Definitely agree to pump the breaks if they don’t want to pay for what they want. In my last job hunt I interviewed for another position almost identical to what I accepted but it would have paid $10K less.

    5. INTP*

      This is annoying but pretty common in my experience. Upper management or HR approve a salary that fits an experience level that’s probably workable for the position. The position’s immediate supervisor and coworkers are already busy with their own work and don’t want to train anyone, so they reject everyone that can’t come in and start doing the job right away. They keep looking for a unicorn candidate instead of trying to meet in the middle.

    6. Stranger than fiction*

      That caught my eye too. In addition to what Alison said, I wonder if there’s a tactful way to leverage this as well?

    7. Koko*

      This caught my eye too and made me think that perhaps OP has actually applied for a job that is intended actually just straight-up beneath his level. If the org is looking for an Associate they are looking for Associate – having Manager-level experience doesn’t mean they’ll rewrite the position and pay you more. They likely already have someone in the Manager-level role.

      1. TempestuousTeapot*

        Except for the fact that in the interview they stated that OP has the experience they want (and that OP is ahead of the other candidates in consideration). So, even if they are ‘looking for an Associate’, they want him. One does get what one pays for.

        And if this doesn’t work out then OP has still gained better experience in handling a salary negotiation. The truth is that many employers don’t budget appropriately for the work they need and really do want philanthropic employees. Unfortunately, most of us don’t work for giggles, even if we do hope to find the work we love to do.

  3. TootsNYC*

    You know, this reminds me of an online convo recently–Captain Awkward, I think it was, but it may have surfaced here as well.

    It’s totally OK to change your boundaries, to change your mind. Or to enforce your boundaries when you hadn’t before.

    Just because you didn’t object to something in the past doesn’t mean you have to put up with it forever.

    Just because you indicated you’d be OK with a salary doesn’t mean you’re required–by etiquette, the law, professionalism, ANYthing–to accept it.

    1. LBK*

      Yep, it’s from the Captain Awkward comments section. A screencap of it was making the rounds on Twitter recently (I just saw it yesterday) so maybe that’s where it came up?

      At any rate, I totally agree. I don’t think it necessarily hurts to frame it even more than Alison did and say something like “I was caught off guard when you brought up the salary range for the position in our discussion the other day since it was so different from the range I had been thinking, so I’m sorry for not bringing this up at the time. Now that I’ve had some time to think about it further…” and then go from there. I think that might help assuage your concern that you look like you’re flip-flopping or going back on your word; most people can relate to fumbling when they’re put on the spot, especially with something as sensitive as a salary negotiation.

      1. TootsNYC*

        It applies to SO very many spheres!

        Work, as demonstrated here.
        Social life.
        Romantic and sex life.

        Politics–people act as though politicians are horrible! evil! flip-floppers! if they change their stance on something. Didn’t support gay marriage in the past, but do now? Why is that proof that you aren’t a supporter of gay rights? Used to drink a lot but don’t anymore? Why is that proof of your debauchery?
        (flip-flopping requires two moves, not one. And even then, aren’t people supposed to feel free to evaluate even MORE new information?)

        1. LBK*

          Ugh, this drives me crazy about politics. It’s baffling to me that holding the exact same views in eternity is considered a valued trait for a politician – the world is a very different place than it was 40 years ago! Or even 10 years ago! Sure, holding the same views at a very high level might be admirable, but you should still be gaining nuance and recalibrating your proposed solutions as our culture and the manifestations of its many issues shift around. I don’t believe many of the same things I did 10 years ago and I don’t expect anyone else to either.

          1. Kate M*

            OMG exactly. When I think about the way my opinions/how strong I feel about some opinions have changed since I was in college, I can’t imagine someone believing the exact same thing without changing at all for 40+ years (or however long the usual political career is). Changing positions based on new information is a GOOD thing.

        2. neverjaunty*

          Why is that proof that you aren’t a supporter of gay rights?

          Because they claimed to have strongly-held convictions in the past, but quickly discarded those convictions when they became unpopular? Or because they were all for something when it was them doing it?

          I don’t think politicians are the best example of the totally appropriate precept ‘you get to set your own boundaries whenever you want’. (And of course it’s right and appropriate for a politician to decide, well, they believed X before, and based on new information, they’ve determined they were wrong. But that’s not normally what people are criticizing.)

          1. JB (not in Houston)*

            I guess it depends on what you mean by “quickly.” When the Defense of Marriage Act was passed, I was very, very, very in favor of it. By the time it was struck down, I was very, very, very against it. If someone had not come back and asked me about my views in the last 10 years or so, they would think I had suddenly changed my mind because everyone else seemed to have.

            And sometimes people do change their minds suddenly rather than as a slow process, but that doesn’t mean the change isn’t real.

            1. neverjaunty*

              I’m assuming you’re not a politician (rather, an elected official), and therefore don’t have an ongoing record of your votes and of public statements about various bills and issues. It would be very odd for there to be a ten-year silence in an elected official’s position on various issue.

              And yes, certainly, people do change their views and sometimes do so quickly. But it’s also true that people (especially elected officials) change their views for opportunistic or selfish reasons, and that, to answer TootsNYC’s question, is why people are often suspicious of people – particularly elected officials – who have sudden changes of heart.

              I mean, if I were applying at your company which had a strong commitment to diversity, and which had a lot of pro-LGBT clients, if you found that I was posting very socially conservative essays last week, wouldn’t that make you question the sincerity of my “of course I am in favor of gay rights” assertions in my interview? Would it really be unfair for you to suspect anything other than a genuine change of heart?

        3. Sue Wilson*

          Because politicians are expected to have good judgment the first time, and usually never admit they had the first position in the first place. And if they’re changing their minds based on emotional appeals, that’s not a good sign of how they make judgments to begin with.

    2. Rahera*

      (That’s from the comments under question 877 on the Captain Awkward site if anyone wants to look it up.)

  4. Francis J. Dillon*

    Alison’s last point is very important to remember. These people were cool with offering you $25k (!!!) less than what your desired salary is. You didn’t really do anything wrong. In fact, if their budget is under $25k than the typical salary for your area, they should’ve made that known.

    Honestly, unless the benefits, commute and work projects are amazing I’d probably pass. That’s a lot (lot)

      1. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

        Eh, I’ve done that. In my most recent job change, I took a $29,000 pay cut (and my salary is and was in the five-figure range, so that was not a small percentage). We all make choices. I chose a job and a lifestyle that makes me happier, even with all the things I can’t afford as a result of the lower salary.

        1. my two cents*

          I’m actually drafting a rejection email to a company who had originally cold-linkedin’d me about a role. They really liked me and basically said they’d make whatever salary I asked for work (!). It’s certainly work I like doing and would do well, and before I left OldJob over a year ago I would have been champing at the bit for such an opportunity. But the truth is, the proverbial grass is reeeeeally green (like, Fergully-green with 24 days of pto and 17 paid holidays) with my current employer. I definitely had to think long and hard about it, but really no amount of salary would get me to leave my current role. I am glad I had talked to them, though, because it really cemented my feelings and appreciation for my current role and employer.

          1. TootsNYC*

            In a similar situation, I took that info–“interviewing with someone else really solidified for me how much I like working here. It’s nice to feel in demand, and to realize that other companies would value my skills, but I really am happy here”–and got a one-time bonus (2%) out of it!

        2. neverjaunty*

          Whether it is or isn’t a good choice for the OP doesn’t change the fact that $25K is still a lot.

  5. K.*

    I’m way more irked by them than by you, OP, precisely by what you say: they want your experience but they don’t want to pay for it. It’s a waste of everyone’s time for them to bring you in when they know they’re at least $25K below your desired salary. Thats a big gap to make up; it’s very unlikely that you’re going to get close to what you’re worth out of them. I’d follow Alison’s advice give them a hard number that you absolutely cannot go below, and if they can’t meet it (not “come close to it” but meet it), I’d walk. Politely, but still. If this $25K gap means a $25K pay cut (or more) … I really can’t see it being worth it, unless you’re relocating to a place with a MUCH lower COL so you wouldn’t feel the loss.

    1. AFT123*

      This. Plus, this all but guarantees that you can expect very little, if any, raises in the future. You may even run into the problem of being treated differently because the employer feels they’re overpaying you. Step carefully.

    2. RVA Cat*

      Think of it as if you were selling your house, and somebody makes a low-ball offer that is $25,000 below your list price – maybe even below the tax assessment. Whether or not you accept depends on a lot of things – how much you owe on the mortgage (i.e. your living expenses) and how quickly you need to sell (i.e. your current job stability).

      1. Three Thousand*

        And what the market is like in your area, so you know how likely you are to receive better offers.

    3. AnotherAnon*

      yep. I talked myself into a low-paying job, and regretted it – two of my friends had *internships* that paid better. the company was stingy in other ways, too, some of which may not have been quite legal. It wasn’t a horrible job (apart from one incident… or two) but I wish I’d known about this blog back then, because I missed soooo many red flags.

  6. LuvzALaugh*

    I feel for you OP. Yesterday during an initial phone screen for a job the recruiter only gave me a vague description of…no company name. Got him to at least tell me the industry, he asked what my salary range was. I told him that not knowing the company, not having met the team I would work with and not fully having the complete details of the position and details of other benefits (bonus?) This as unsuccessful. He forced me to give him a range and I ded so begrudgingly. Ruled myself out he said I went to high……uuuggghh. Stop weeding people out like this.

    1. TootsNYC*

      except–aren’t you GLAD to be weeded out?

      If they can’t meet a salary range you want, then you don’t really want to work there.

      1. elle j.*

        No, because I would be willing to be flexible for things like a great team, amazing benefits, or an exciting project. Having to name a salary range on the spot means I don’t have enough information to know how much I actually would accept to work there — and may end up being removed from consideration or low-balling myself as a result.

        1. neverjaunty*

          But ‘a lower salary range that comes with amazing benefits’ is still a salary range you want, yes? The issue here is the recruiter telling LuvzALaugh that only the hard salary numbers matter, and refusing to believe her when she said the salary range she wanted depends on a bunch of other factors.

          1. lurker*

            Yup – most people in my field would be offended by my salary also knowing it’s a travel heavy position…but it doesn’t include the fact that we get comp time, have a company car on which only taxes on personal use are deducted, have a large average annual bonus, and get a decent chunk of our salary put in a retirement fund every year (plus profit sharing that goes into there).

            It’d be ridiculous not to take that into account, but most companies don’t offer those kinds of things, let alone all of the above!

            I understand the reason why bonus compensation is less valued, first hand of course, but the retirement contributions are seriously huge.

      2. BRR*

        I would tell myself that I’m glad but a recruiter is not necessarily a sign of the company, department, or manager. Now if the company said to not be disclosed then definitely a bullet dodged in my opinion but recruiters, like all people, sometimes do weird things.

        And I totally agree with LuvzALaugh, stop weeding people out like this. Post a range! Let me select out. I don’t want to have to write a cover letter and work on my resume to find out this job pays 50% less than what it should pay.

    2. Slippy*

      I wouldn’t take what the recruiter said about having too high a salary. If they couldn’t cough up a name, job responsibilities or much in the way of details then it is likely that the recruiter was doing a fishing expedition.

  7. Journalist Wife*

    The reader does say they’re flying out to the interview, which indicates it is in a place far from OP’s current city. I wonder if there is a significant cost of living difference between the two places that out also be taken into account. I’m not saying it’s ever a plus to accept a salary $25K lower than what you’re currently used to (if that is the case), but it is possible that a difference in real estate, gas prices, grocery bills could cumulatively be drastically different between the two locations (think moving from Silicon Valley to the Midwest, or whatever), so it might soften the blow if they do come up some and the OP lowers some to meet somewhere in the middle. Obviously, we always want the highest salary possible on our record and don’t want a drop in pay, but we don’t know what OP is currently earning so it might not even be that big of a deal on that front, in terms of listing previous salaries with future applications or recruiters. Just my $0.02 worth.

    1. Journalist Wife*

      Oh, I just noticed others posted similar comments to mine about the same time that I was writing them. So…several curious minds want to know about that aspect, I guess!

  8. Audiophile*

    25k IS a big difference. It’s great that they’re excited about your skills, but it does sound like this was a more junior role and you’re in a more senior position. I know this can be hard to tell from the application side, certainly I’ve seen jobs titled as director or manager level looking for less than 10 years experience.
    Personally, I would have bowed out at this point. I can’t imagine that they would be able to come up enough to make up the 25k.

    1. RVA Cat*

      Exactly, though we do need some context. I’m guessing with that huge difference even being considered the OP makes over $ 100,000 (if not, run!), but if it’s a difference between say $ 225,000 versus $ 250,000 – but even that’s still a 10% cut.

  9. LBK*

    Ack. $25k is a *lot* of money. OP, I’d just make sure you have clear eyes about how much money you’re actually willing to accept for this job. You mention a few times that you negotiated with yourself; don’t let that self-negotiation continue to the point that you convince yourself you’re okay with taking less than you’re worth or less than you need just because you feel badly about how the conversation went. It might feel easier to just smooth things over and avoid the confrontation now by taking whatever they offer, but you’ll be kicking yourself for a very long time if you end up taking an offer that’s too low.

    Admittedly I don’t know what your financial situation is or what percentage of your salary $25k would represent, but I sure as hell wouldn’t and couldn’t take a pay cut that big; as uncomfortable as it might be to go back and say no now, it will be worth pushing through it in the long run.

    1. Old Admin*

      “Admittedly I don’t know what your financial situation is or what percentage of your salary $25k would represent, but I sure as hell wouldn’t and couldn’t take a pay cut that big;”

      The OP said her cureent pay still was 5 figures – so even if she were earning $99,000 , it would b a 25% cut, which is pretty harsh. And I have an inkling it’s probably much worse.

      1. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

        I don’t believe the OP has discussed her salary at all (aside from the $25,000 difference). Am I missing something?

        (I said I took a pay cut of this size, with a five-figure salary, but I am not the OP.)

  10. TootsNYC*

    Other points about negotiating a big pay drop:
    -there are other benefits that might make it up to you–company car, or promise of a fast rise in salary, retirement savings, insurance premiums, commissions, sorts of things.
    I can’t think of any of those that would make up $25,000 to me, though.

    And one last thought: Let’s say you follow Alison’s advice and tell them, “I can take a drop of $10,000,” and they say OK. And you go to the interview.
    You can still turn down the job once you have the offer. There may be other things about the offer that make you say, “Oh, never mind.” It would be best if it weren’t the salary, but you can also get there and say, “ooh, the salary won’t be enough now that I’ve seen the area and realize how much gas I’m going to have to buy to get around here!” (in which case, it’s not the sheer money, but it’s what bad things about it make the price drop less palatable)

    1. KR*

      Also, if you’re flying out for the interview there’s a chance that the actual job might be in an area with a significantly less cost of living. Not that your experience warrants earning that little but if you really like the company, less money might be okay for you.

  11. Snarkus Aurelius*

    “I think this position was initially designed for someone who is more junior than me. So they want my experience level; they just don’t want to pay for it.”

    AAM is right that good employers don’t want to pay people the bare minimum, but the key word here is “good.”  I can’t tell if your potential employer falls under that category, and I’m not sure you can either because you don’t know each other well enough.

    Regardless, if your hunch is the case, and unfortunately I think it is, you should walk away.  Good employers will pay for your relevant, valuable experience level as they should.  It’s disingenuous and dishonest to do it any other way unless there are extenuating circumstances.  I won’t go as far as it say it’s theft, but it’s definitely taking advantage of someone’s enthusiasm and dedication to the job.  Just because you said you could be flexible, doesn’t give them the right to offer you considerably less than you’re worth.  

    Best case scenario, you’re at a job where you’re underpaid and they benefit from what you have to offer.  Worst case scenario, you end up bored and unchallenged, always looking for something more.

    Plus if the position is more junior, I’m concerned as to why you’d want it?  Can you expand on that?

  12. the_scientist*

    A $25K difference is so substantial that they are either 1) located in a different area with a much lower COL (possible, since the OP mentioned flying out for an interview), 2) the job is for a much lower level of experience/seniority than the OP thought, or 3) the company habitually and substantially underpays. I’m inclined to think it’s a combination of 1 and 2- like the OP said, they are excited by OP’s experience but had intended this to be a much less senior role and therefore have a much lower salary budget. But honestly, the fault is primarily with the company here. $25K is SUCH a big difference that they really should have said something to the OP as soon as they realized. No way would I take a $25K pay cut unless I was moving to Podunk Nowheresville where COL is dirt cheap…..and even then, I probably wouldn’t do it. I am angry on OP’s behalf with how the company has handled this so far.

    1. TootsNYC*

      well, I think they *have* said something pretty early on.

      i’m not absolving them, and they could have said something earlier, but they’ve said something before anybody spends that much time and money on the interview process.

    2. Joseph*

      The first phone interview is very early on in the process.

      And for the record, there are potential reasons for at least doing a phone interview even with that difference in pay – Maybe they thought the candidate intentionally named a high number for negotiating purposes, maybe they hoped the candidate would floor them enough that they’d find the budget and/or put him in a more senior role, maybe they just thought it was worth seeing if there’s any potential before worrying about the money.

      A phone interview is a pretty low commitment. So maybe they could have mentioned in the initial email “just FYI, our salary ranges don’t match”, but it’s not like anybody wasted tons of time/money on the process.

      1. the_scientist*

        Ahhh, I obviously didn’t read closely enough and thought the first interview was in-person. Fair enough, a phone interview is quite low commitment. I still think a $25K paycut is too much, though.

  13. Government Worker*

    Given that you’re flying out for the interview, I think you need to have the conversation that Alison suggests before you get on the plane. I don’t think anything you’ve done so far is unprofessional, and I don’t think being clear about salary now would be, either. I do think you risk looking a little unprofessional or coming across badly if you know now that you wouldn’t take the salary that they’ve told you is their max, and you still let them fly you out to the interview (if you’re paying for the flight, you’ll come across as naive rather than unprofessional – still not great).

    They’ve told you their max. Don’t fly out for an interview based on some vague hope that they’ll be willing and able to go above that. It would be one thing if it were local, but the distance really adds an extra layer of urgency around making sure that there’s some possibility of being able to meet in the middle before continuing with the process.

    1. Old Admin*

      If they have told you their max, and know you are not even close with your figure, then flying there is useless. It shows they are desperate for people (probably because they lowball *all the time*), and will try to pressure you once you are there.

      How do I know? My company does that.
      (Lots of people are leaving / talking about it.)

    2. Stranger than fiction*

      But have they said it’s their max and its firm? Maybe the Op can’t get an exact figure, but if they at least say they can look into going up, perhaps still go to the interview and learn more about them? But yeah, don’t go if they won’t budge.

  14. TootsNYC*

    Another argument about the idea that you’re entitled to change or tweak your answer to a question like this–especially a BIG question (and this was one)

    “now that I’ve had time to really think everything over,”

    Everybody should consider themselves entitled to have time to think everything over. Don’t feel in the least apologetic for that, or for making a different decision once you have information and time.

    Smart managers say, “Here’s my salary constraint. I’d like to know what your reaction is, think about it and let me know.” We might say, “Give me an indicator now, if you can.” But smart people know that you are not going to feel confident about your decision when you’re on the spot like that.
    And if the manager thinks you should feel bound by that immediate reaction, then you don’t want to work for them.

  15. BRR*

    LW, you’re being way too hard on yourself. You did not mess up.

    As Alison said,”Salary negotiation doesn’t have to be a game.” A former colleague reached out to me about a position two weeks ago and while I’m unhappy in my current job I wouldn’t leave for less than $X. She asked my salary expectations and I gave them to her because I wouldn’t be interested if they weren’t met and I knew what I was asking for was fair for the position and my experience.

    In fact this company seems to be not too terrible with salary. They liked you but couldn’t meet your desired salary. Often times candidates are willing to take a cut or less than their desired salary if other conditions are met but companies pass them up. This company had a conversation with you instead and asked if you were ok with that. They were transparent with what they could pay and what that candidate would have to have to be paid that amount.

    #1 I’m not sure if your desired salary is appropriate as you say you did research after naming it but if it is a reasonable amount for the duties and experience they’re asking for then it’s not a mistake at all. If you guessed or just named a number that you would like to get paid, that would be a mistake but it doesn’t sound like that.

    #2, 3, and 4 It’s not a mistake to say you’re flexible. Most people are flexible. You have to be flexible because you most likely will not get everything you want. Now, are you $25K flexible? But you didn’t mes up especially because you don’t have an offer and you haven’t accepted an offer.

    #5 I’m not sure I’m following this. Are you saying you shouldn’t fly out because you shouldn’t express too much enthusiasm? You should show you’re eager for the job you’re applying for an hopefully you actually are eager (I know we can’t always be eager). If you hide that you’re interested (don’t go overboard in being eager though) they might just think you’re not interested about the job. Employers like candidates who are interested in the job they’re applying for.

    If salary is a deal breaker, email now. At the end of the day, unless you are 100% sure you wouldn’t take this job you should still interview. You can always reject an offer.

    1. TempestuousTeapot*

      Op’s research was on negotiating salary, not the salary for the industry. Since OP works in the industry, I’m fairly certain we can bank on OP knowing professional worth for the skills requested.

      Also, a lessening of enthusiasm is precisely what’s needed, especially if the offer is so low for the sills requested. The interviewer might be over-asking for skills on a role that is more junior. That doesn’t mean the OP is wrong for higher salary expectations. Interested but not eager at this stage demonstrates the importance of having one’s skills valued. Low-balled pay offers for a higher value skill set tend to cool the interest of the experienced qualified. It’s hard to have a successful negotiation when one appears eager for the position.

  16. Workfromhome*

    Since its not in the OP post I will make 2 assumptions for giving my advice:
    1.You are no in a desperate situation where you need to have an income to survive and can turn down the job if you need to.
    2. There is nothing really substantial that we don’t know about in terms of non $ compensation that would offset the pay cut ( when I say substantial I mean free company Ferrari or company paid apartment etc).

    I’d walk away. 25k is just a crazy gap to overcome. Heck that’s almost the salary of getting you an assistant! There are just all kinds of red flags that you would have major regrets taking this job. They think they have a shot at getting a bargain (a person they never had a shot at). While they were honest enough to tell you there was a big gap they probably perceived some desperation and a chance for a bargain when you didn’t simply shut things down after the 25 K gap conversation. They figure wow this guy is much better than anyone we dreamed of he still wants the job at 25 K under what he wanted…must really need the job.
    As mentioned above coming in at the very top limit of their budget means no raises if they tell you you are already at the top of the pay band.

    If you leave that job after a year or 2 how will you explain your low salary when you negotiate for your next job?

    I went through a similar experience. Interviewed I was interested they loved my experience (experience no one else in their company had) . Then they tell me that they just hired someone in a same role for 15 K less than what I was already making and how they couldn’t possibly pay someone they hired a month later more (despite my experience). They want these talented people (more talented than what they have) but they are only willing to pay the same rate than the less talented person?

    I’d be saying (in a nice way) it looks like you went out looking at Hondas ,stumbled across a Ferrari thought it was WAYYYY better than a Honda so you want the salesman to drop the price of the Ferrari to the same as the Honda so you can get it.

    I’d just put this out of my mind and not give it another thought. You won’t be happy there with a huge pay gap.

    1. Joseph*

      Here’s one more point – If they’re looking at a $25k gap now, when they’re at the most interesting in getting you (rather than starting their process over with a new candidate), there’s no way you can expect to make that up when you’re actually at the job.

      OP didn’t state the range, but even if you’re making $250k, we’re still talking about 10% of your annual salary. If you’re currently employed, how would you feel if your boss walked in and said “sorry, but budgets are tight, so we’re doing an across-the-board 10% pay cut”? You’d probably be irritated and immediately find a new job, right?

    2. Rusty Shackelford*

      Then they tell me that they just hired someone in a same role for 15 K less than what I was already making and how they couldn’t possibly pay someone they hired a month later more (despite my experience).

      “The fact that you may be underpaying your other employees doesn’t have anything to do with my salary, other than the way it makes me wonder if you’re cheap about other things too.” (laughs as she salts and burns that bridge)

  17. Trout 'Waver*

    I disagree with Allison’s approach to salary negotiation in general. I’ve been on the receiving end of a company that pays below market rates and relies on lying and opacity to keep people from finding out that they’re underpaid. I’ve been significantly underpaid because I assumed I’d be treated fairly, and I’ve watched coworkers be treated the same way. I also firmly believe that nobody is ever going to care about my money more than me. I’m not adversarial or overly aggressive, but I do assume that the company is trying to hire me for as cheap as possible until they indicate otherwise. For example, if they acknowledge what Allison says about compensation being a retention issue, that’s a very positive sign. If they treat payroll as a burdensome expense, that’s a red flag.


    It’s really hard to know what to do in this situation without knowing more about the offer. I believe it’s best to negotiate in total compensation not strictly in salary. Also, has the OP done the research on what a good salary for the position would be or not? And finally, what’s the cost of living in the city with the job? I live and work in the rural south and a $25k pay raise coupled with a move to a big east or west coast city would actually be a substantial reduction in quality of life.

    But, assuming the OP’s number is reasonable, the OP is either dealing with an unreasonable company or a hard-negotiating adversary. Honestly, I would assume the other party in this case is a hard-negotiating adversary until they show otherwise. And they haven’t given any indication they aren’t.

    1. LBK*

      I’m not really sure how anything you said conflicts with Alison’s salary negotiation advice – can you clarify what tactics you’ve seen her suggest that contradict wanting to be paid market rate or “assuming you’ll be treated fairly”? My impression has always been that her main advice is to do your own research beforehand and come armed with the knowledge of what your skills are worth so that you can have a good gauge on whether you’re getting a fair offer. I haven’t seen anything about just assuming whatever they offer you is good, which is what it seems like you’re implying?

      1. Trout 'Waver*

        Alison says it’s OK to name salary first as an applicant. Because of the disparity in knowledge and power, the company should be putting out the first number. Even if in some cases it might be OK to throw out the first number as the applicant, I believe a reasonable company or hiring manager would recognize the imbalance and be willing to throw out a first number. I’ve rarely heard of a candidate being forced to name a number first and then being happy with the outcome of the negotiation.

        I also don’t agree with the advice to assume the other party is reasonable until proven otherwise. Given the stakes, I advocate the opposite. A good manager knows that there are a lot of bad managers out there and will take steps to show she’s reasonable.

        I think the differences may be attributable to the fact that Alison’s advice appears to be tailored to people who are already well into their careers who know their field well. I think it would apply less to entry-level job-seekers who are weaker at negotiation and lack the ability to accurately assess the value of their own labor.

        I’m not saying Alison’s advice is wrong or bad. Just that I disagree with it given my experiences. She’s got a website that’s helped a great many people, while I’m just an anonymous guy on the internet.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          I totally agree that the employer should name a number first (and have ranted about it often here). But the reality is that many absolutely won’t, so the question is about the most effective way to proceed when that’s the case.

          1. AMT*

            Would you advise highballing in these cases? I tend to answer the salary question with a number at the top of the range for my title and location. There’s a risk to it, since it’s possible that certain employers might assume that I’m inflexible on that number, but my reasoning has been that it’s better than the risk of shooting too low and getting thousands less than I could. It seems to work for getting employers to give up their range (e.g. “Well, we can’t go quite that high, but we could work with $X–$Y). It worked for the job I got this month—I was told by the HR person that I’m making the most in my department, though the other candidates seem to have a similar amount of experience.

        2. LBK*

          I see what you’re saying, but I think the focus on this site in general is on pragmatism rather than ideal situations. She’s often suggested phrases to use to get around being asked about your salary expectation first before they give you a range/offer, but the reality is that if the company doesn’t back down from requesting a specific number after you dance around it a few times, the power dynamic of the hiring process dictates that you have to be the one to give in. I’ve always read her advice as being about how to handle that situation when it (frequently) presents itself – definitely not suggesting that the candidate should offer up their salary expectation first without prompting or trying to avoid it.

          As far as being reasonable goes, I think you stand to lose more if you start out by treat a good manager as unreasonable than if you treat a bad manager as reasonable. If you assume a bad manager is reasonable at first and then they prove themselves not to be through the course of the hiring process, the worst that happens is you opt out/don’t accept the offer and everyone moves on. If you assume a good manager is going to be unreasonable, you could unconsciously present yourself as too wary, too confrontational, and/or too aggressive (particularly if you’re a woman, whose behaviors often gets the worst possible reading in these situations). You don’t want to end up disqualifying yourself because the hiring manager is put off by your aloofness; yes, good managers will take steps to prove themselves reasonable, but they also tend to be very sharp judges of body language and attitude and they won’t put up with someone who seems like they’re putting up their guard.

          As for entry-level people, I don’t think negotiation advice in general really applies because when you’re entry-level, you don’t have many chips to bargain with. The power balance for those easily fillable roles tips heavily in the employer’s favor and it’s going to be very hard to argue that you’re worth more than they want to offer when you don’t have the experience to back that statement up (and they could probably just as easily find 10 other people who’d do the job competently and wouldn’t cost as much).

          1. Trout 'Waver*

            I’ve struggled to articulate exactly what I’m trying to convey because it can be tricky to describe social awareness and social skills in general in concrete terms on the internet.

            But I’d have to say that in general when there’s a power and knowledge disparity between two individuals it is the social norm for the advantaged party to show they are reasonable first. To do otherwise is a red flag (but not deal-breaker) to me that requires further digging. I would think that if someone were socially aware enough to read the mood of a candidate, they’d be socially aware enough to know and acknowledge the implicit power and knowledge imbalance.

            Also, I in no way advocate for coming across as guarded or aloof.

            1. LBK*

              Huh, I have a completely opposite view in terms of social norms. I think when you’re the disadvantaged party, it’s in your best interest to put forward your most accommodating, most positive foot first because you’re the one who has something to prove, and I think it’s generally assumed that the advantaged party has more flexibility in how the act throughout the interaction because they have the thing that the other party needs. That’s not to say an interviewer can get away with whatever they want – obviously it’s a partially two-way street and the candidate is also evaluating the interviewer throughout.

              But for example, think about attire: it’s expected that pretty much no matter what, a job candidate will show up in a suit, even if the company’s dress code is more casual (I know this is no longer universal especially in the tech/start-up world, but it’s still true the majority of the time). The interviewer can get away with it because in their position as the advantaged party, they have an inherently lower bar than the candidate, and they generally get to set where that bar is. Another example is timing – if a candidate shows up 15 minutes early, they’re not in the position to ask the interviewer to start 15 minutes early, and moreover it’s understood that that doesn’t reflect poorly on the interviewer if they aren’t ready to start early because they’re the ones making the rules in this situation.

              That all being said, I generally approach life with the attitude that everyone gets the benefit of the doubt until they give me a reason not to, regardless of power dynamics or which side of the table I’m on, so I think we’re just on fundamentally different planes here. Also, I’m not taking your comments to mean that you should intentionally be guarded or aloof, but if you go into a discussion with the mindset that the person is most likely going to try to screw you over and put the onus on them to prove otherwise, it’s almost definitely going to come through in your body language, word choice, demeanor, etc. I’ll reiterate that I think putting on a positive attitude for someone who turns out to suck costs you basically nothing, while putting on a skeptical attitude for someone who turns out to be great could cost you the job.

              1. Trout 'Waver*

                I think I’ve identified the source of our disagreement. You’re viewing the interviewee as a supplicant. I’m viewing the interviewee as a business partner.

                Also, I’m not saying to go into the process thinking the other person is going to screw you over. I’m saying don’t assume the other party is reasonable until they show they are. Those are two very different things.

                1. LBK*

                  Oh wow, no, definitely not as a supplicant. Not even close.

                  I think we’re not understanding each other here so I’m just going to leave this.

                2. Trout 'Waver*

                  I do agree that you are misunderstanding me. You’re putting charged words in my mouth, like “aloof, guarded, and screw you over”, that simply aren’t in what I’m communicating. And then you’re responding to the words you’ve put in my mouth rather than the words I have written.

                  An interview has two purposes: To find out if the candidate is a good fit for the job, and to find out if the job is a good fit for the candidate. It seems to me you’re hung up on only the first one and forgetting the second. But your lack of clarification makes this unclear.

                  Let me type this out explicitly now that I’ve had more time to think about it: When two parties are trying to find a solution together, it is reasonable to expect the party with more power and knowledge to put forward the first proposed solution. It is adversarial, not cooperative, to force the party with less knowledge and power to propose the first solution.

          2. Trout 'Waver*

            Also, to address your last paragraph, it depends on industry. In my industry (a STEM field), entry level people can and should negotiate. Entry level people have less leverage, but they do have some leverage. Worst case scenario is status quo.

  18. sjw*

    As a recruiter, I bring up salary range very early in the conversation. We have ranges, and while they are broad, our policy is to seldom hire above midpoint (to allow for salary mobility). The hiring range IS the hiring range, and, although we can be flexible within that range, it is what it is. So I provide salary range info very frankly and very early in the process — often even in initial telephone contact.

    That said, I’m not sure why salary conversations should feel like a game. It’s not. It’s quite serious!

    1. Dan*

      I’m not sure that they “should” feel like a game, but they do feel like a game when the party with superior brgaining position uses it to their advantage.

      I had an interview once where the company was overselling the position, but was able to read between the lines. When they asked me first about $, I told them that it all depended on what position they were actually offering and when this bigger role was likely to materialize.

      They left a bitter taste in my mouth when after overselling the position, the offer was at the very bottom of the range we talked about. I ended up at a competitor who was willing to pay me what I wanted.

    2. Ultraviolet*

      I think salary talk feels game-y in the sense that you are generally advised to obey some rules about what to say and do when it’s “your turn” that don’t apply to regular conversations. (And the turn-based structure applies a little more to negotiation than to regular conversation since one of the rules is to speak relatively little.) But it’s definitely not a, you know, trivial pursuit.

    3. Kate M*

      Unless it’s someplace like government though that HAS to advertise the range of the position/band, I’m not really sure why companies and recruiters advertise a salary range when they’re not willing to go to the top of it though. If you’re upfront about it and literally say “this is the range, but it’s unlikely to go above the midpoint,” then that’s fine. But when companies advertise the range for a POSITION, that’s not the hiring salary range. If you want to allow for mobility once they’re hired, then don’t advertise higher than what you’re actually willing to hire someone at.

      If the range for “Analyst” at your company has to be between $50-75k, but most analysts start at around $60k so that they can get raises as they work longer, don’t advertise a hiring range of $50-75k. That’s not the range you hire at.

      1. Ultraviolet*

        The concern is that really great candidates who they would be willing to hire at $75k will see the $50-60k range and decide they can do much better, not realizing the employer would have gone to $75k for them.

  19. Dan*


    You write this: “The only mistake you really made was by saying that you could be flexible after they told you their range — because that conveyed that you were okay with the number they named, even though you weren’t.”

    Maybe I misread the original post, but if I understand the timeline correctly, OP says that they could be flexible only after the company says that OP’s number was “significantly higher” than what was budgeted. While the word “significant” certainly is a clue, I don’t see that a number was given before the OP allowed for some “flexibility.” Given that, I don’t see a mistake — of course most of us are going to say that there is some flexibility if asked up front without seeing a hard $ offered.

  20. N.T.*

    Hello, OP, here.

    Thanks very much for letting me know not to beat myself up. I feel a lot better (and better informed) after reading this, and many of the comments.

    I had the second interview a week ago today so I wasn’t able to utilize Alison’s advice to call before going out there, but I’m also originally from where I had to fly to so I was able to schedule other meetings, see friends, and make the best of the cost of the ticket, regardless of the outcome. Also, honestly I’ve had two more interviews since and I am soooo much better prepared to handle the salary question now. So if nothing else, this was a fantastic learning experience. Anyway:

    At the end of the in-person interview, the last question they asked me was if I had any “concerns” so I took that and ran with it. I explained that I did have some concerns about fit; that maybe the role is more junior than how it was described in the job posting and I questioned the fit given my level of experience. The hiring manager reassured me that the role was very senior and it was very difficult to find the right person for the role and there are a lot of these types of jobs available because it’s so hard to fill them with people who have the right experience.

    So now I’m a little confused, but since the HM has said very clearly that a.) it’s a hard role to fill and b.) they need someone experienced, I said something like, “I’ve really appreciated the opportunity to learn more about the role and I hope my willingness to fly out for this interview conveys my enthusiasm. After having a week or so to think over our first conversation – specifically some of the finer points about compensation – I do have a significant concern around salary. You asked me on the phone if I were willing to be flexible, and I am, and it is my hope that if I’m the right person for this position, you are also willing to be flexible.” I kept it to that because they know my number, I know theirs. There was no need to negotiate dollars and cents in that moment, but there was a need to say, “I’m looking for you to meet me in the middle.”

    They seemed to take that well, if a little surprised. I tried to do it in a way that did not catch them of guard, but I also felt like she really threw me off on the initial call. Why ask me to interview at all if we’re “wayyyy” far apart? And at the very *end* of that first call to boot?

    They are finishing up interviews this week and I anticipate I’ll hear back today or tomorrow. Will keep you all posted.

    1. Dan*

      Hey wait. Did you have to pay for your own plane ticket? If so, that’s asinine. I understand that when the competition is full of locals, you might have to do what you have to do. But if the company is having a hard time filling the position, they need to eat the cost of the interview travel expenses.

      I work in a field that brings in interviewees from all over the country, and I’ve never paid for my own interview travel expenses.

      1. Mental Health Day*

        Yes, I was wondering this as well. Sounds like this company is still very accustomed to having its cake and eating it too.

    2. animaniactoo*

      If they’re finding it hard to fill with people with the right experience it sounds like either they are not describing the job well in their advertisements, OR they are way lowballing the salary. If what they’re willing to pay a “perfect” candidate is far below market value, I’m going to guess that most people with the appropriate experience immediately answer the question with “not that flexible” and pull themselves out of the running. Is there any way you can check around about their salary offers in general? That kind of thing usually isn’t limited to one role.

    3. TootsNYC*

      ” it was very difficult to find the right person for the role and there are a lot of these types of jobs available because”

      Which means….they need to pay more. And they need to pay YOU more.

      And you need to value your skills plenty. They’ve just told you to.

      1. the_scientist*

        Yup, this. It’s probably not actually that difficult to fill the role, it’s just difficult to fill the role at the salary they are offering.

      2. neverjaunty*

        Yup, this.

        Also, OP, mad props for “and it is my hope that if I’m the right person for this position, you are also willing to be flexible”. You put it right back on them that this is a two-way street, which they don’t appear to have considered.

    4. LBK*

      I think you handled it really well. Good for you for being direct about your concerns and asking them to be flexible – I think especially after they’ve told you flat out that it’s been a hard role to fill, you’re in one of the rare situations where you have equal or even more power in the negotiation than the company. At this point they need you more than you need them, so you can run with that in terms of being more confident and explicit about what you’d need in order to accept. Good luck!

    5. BRR*

      Way to go! One of the best salary negotiation tips is to not say too much. Just stop talking and that’s what you did a great way. I’m with you that when I hear “hard to fill” I don’t think “cheap out on pay.” I think “might have to cough up something extra.”

      I’m just curious, you said you did your research after naming a number. Is the number you named reasonable?

      Good luck!

      1. Trout 'Waver*

        Totally agree here. Silence in general is a greatly underutilized negotiation technique.

      2. N.T.*

        I should clarify: I researched negotiation tactics after the phone interview because I knew I had I fumbled from a lack of preparedness on that front. (It’s been a while since I’ve had to interview.) But I did research the salary range beforehand so that I would be in the right ballpark when filling out the “salary desired” portion of the application. We should not have been $25k apart.

        1. BRR*

          Ahh. Thanks for answering! I wasn’t clear on that and I apologize for any comments that might sound harsh. ugh I can only imagine what shows up when you search “salary negotiation techniques.”

    6. Althea*

      Cool OP! You did great.

      I also think this is a sign that their planned salary range is too low. “it was very difficult to find the right person for the role and there are a lot of these types of jobs available because it’s so hard to fill them with people who have the right experience”

      They just want senior experience for junior pay. You are educating them that they cannot have it. I hope it isn’t costing you too much time/money/anxiety!

      1. Poohbear McGriddles*

        One way to look at it is that employers rent talent. Some want the penthouse with a view but only want to pay for the efficiency apartment next to the nosy cat lady and the kids with an affinity for loud bass in their music. I guess it’s great if they can find someone willing to work for less than the going rate just for the heck of it, but that is rare.

    7. Stranger than fiction*

      Ha, it sounds like they have a hard time filling the role because they want a Sr person for a Jr salary. Wonder when it will dawn on them.

  21. Dan*

    We’re talking about some really odd numbers here.

    Sure, for senior/executive staff, $25k is “wiggle room”. I mean, a $125k vs a $150k salary is still in the same “range.”

    But I get the feeling that OP isn’t going for those types of jobs. At these lower ranges, someone is really out to lunch. If the OP is making $75k, what is the company thinking by claiming that they will only pay $50k to the “perfect” candidate? (Yes, I’m making up the numbers, but that’s one interpretation of what the OP says.) So that means what, that the OP isn’t perfect so they’re only willing to pay $40k-$45k?

    1. KEM*

      Good point, which means the salary cut may be LESS than the original 25k. Not including any sort of benefits as well.

      This company wants to have their cake and eat it too.

  22. Scaredy Cat*

    I broke rule #1, which is don’t tell them your desired salary.

    Depending on how dire your circumstances are, I wouldn’t necessarily assume that this was a mistake.

    A few years ago I interviewed with a company that I really liked. They were all very nice to me during the interview, and surprisingly enough didn’t ask for my desired salary at all. The “dreaded” question came up during my last interview, after 1 month, And it was there that we realized that we just couldn’t agree. They wanted to hire me as a contractor, while I wanted to be hired as an employee. In this case, it would’ve been so much better to have this discussion during the first interview, and not spend an entire month dragging out the process, only to realize that we just couldn’t agree on the monetary aspect.

    At the time, hiring people as contractors instead of employees was very common in my industry. And when I had started job searching, I knew right away that being a contractor was a deal-breaker for me. Like you, I also read about the rule for not volunteering salary, and they didn’t ask… so I was actually feeling quite well about myself.

    My advice is to take all these “rules” for interviews with a grain of salt. Consider them “nice to have/do”-s rather than “must have/do”-s.

  23. Shaz Wiltowsky*

    Thank you for positing about this topic. This topic is both hard for the interviewee and the interviewer. When I interview I like to be as straight forward as possible on this question, as to not make anyone uncomfortable, yet just making them aware. This way we can both make a good decisions for either ourselves or the company we represent. I agree fully you cannot beat yourself up for negotiating low on salary, it is stressful and there is always pressure felt to comply with their offering. I look forward to reading more on your blog!

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