another salary negotiation success story

A reader writes:

I just wanted to share a my recent success story with you.

I started an admin role about nine months ago, thinking that it would be an in to a field I was interested in. I quickly learned that I not only find admin work mind-numbingly boring, I’m also not very good at it. I can organize one person’s calendar fine, but trying to sync up 20 different ones and my brain starts dribbling out my ears. There are reporting and monitoring aspects to the job and I leaned into those to try and get some useful experience there, but also started looking sort of leisurely for a job.

I applied for an analyst position at a nonprofit that does work with the same populations, got an interview, and received an offer within a couple weeks time. The offer was about a thousand less than I had asked for (though still more than $8k more than I make as an admin). I’ve never really been in a position to ask for more than was offered — in the last couple years I’ve only had positions that have a very strict starting rate either for state government or through a temp agency, but I figured that this time, after having listened to your podcast and now read your website for the last year or so, that I could ask for a little more.

I set up a phone call with HR, talked to them about benefits and a starting date, and then broached the subject of a little more pay. The HR lady went into a summary of the benefits again, letting me know how much they calculate them as worth (and it does sound like their health insurance is very good), and then asked where I felt the offer was lacking. I assured her that I was excited about the opportunity and that I thought the benefits sounded very good, but that I was just wondering if they could come up a little. And then I didn’t say anything else. There was several seconds of pause where I quietly suppressed the urge to iterate that I thought we could meet in the middle or that I was interested in the job regardless.

And then she told me that the most she could offer was [amount exactly what I had initially asked for + $80]. She asked if that was fine. I nearly stumbled over myself enthusiastically agreeing.

I start August 12th :)


Everyone: Ask for more money. Here’s how:

how to negotiate salary after a job offer

what should a salary negotiation sound like?

how to know what salary to ask for

all your questions about negotiating salary, answered

{ 83 comments… read them below }

  1. Elizabeth Proctor*

    I know all the suggestions say to have evidence to back-up your negotiation ask, but if you don’t have any evidence you should still ask. You will probably get an extra thousand or two just for asking for more. My guess is that the HR person probably has an extra amount that they’re allowed to approve without moving up the chain and if you ask you can get it.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Yes! It’s actually fairly rare that you’ll need to present evidence or a case. You should be prepared for that, but you can just ask!

    2. OP*

      Yeah, her exact wording when she gave me the number I accepted was “I’m approved to go up to [number] for this position, will that work?”

      1. Fortitude Jones*

        That’s really cool. Congratulations!

        When I recently went through this, the HR Rep had to go back to my grandboss for approval of my ask, and that was the longest hour or so of my life, lol.

  2. LG*

    Wooo! Way to go, Letter Writer! I love that you used the (well-advised by Alison) pause. Silence is a great negotiating tactic. I’m just thrilled for your new job and your well-negotiated salary. Cheers!

      1. Sally*

        I was just coming here to say that, for me, STOPPING TALKING after I asked for what I wanted was the hardest part about salary negotiations.

        1. Fortitude Jones*

          Same. I rambled for a bit until my brain finally shouted at me, “SHUT. UP.” Lol.

      2. GreenDoor*

        Yes the pause is hard. I think we’re hard wired to assume a pause means things just got awkward or confusing and the tendency is to want to quickly smooth things over, in this case, by backing down or making a concession. But really, she might have been pausing on her end to consult her notes or quickly IM someone above her. We need to get over the idea that pauses are always bad!

  3. ThatGirl*

    It’s a little late now, but here’s a “what would you have done” question –
    I just this week started a new job in the same company I’ve been at for two years.
    I’ve had excellent reviews and am well-liked and I was very qualified for the new job (perhaps moreso than the one I was in, even). When I applied for this job, I did check with HR to make sure it wouldn’t be a decrease in salary; they told me it was in roughly the same band, and since I’d just gotten a raise in February, I wasn’t really expecting one. When I got the offer, it included a 5% or so raise, which I was both surprised and pleased to see.
    Under those circumstances, would you have asked for more, just because? Or been happy with an unexpected increase?

    1. Annonymouse*

      No because you would run the risk of looking out of touch look out of touch since the HR team presumably knows what your current compensation is and history.. I mean I guess it depends on the industry but I’m in HR and I would think it weird and out of touch.. The only exception is if the role isn’t banded correctly or you know that the work is out of line with the comp but in that case you absolutely need to bring your data to back it up..

    2. Emmie*

      If this happens again, ask for more. Internal transfers may be paid less than an outside brand new candidate, so it is okay to ask for it.

    3. OP*

      I think asking “could you come up a little more?” or “could you come up closer to [amount 2% more/next nice round number]?” would have gone over fine (esp because they seem reasonable and you’re well-qualified), but unexpected extra money is unexpected extra money either way :)

    4. LovecraftInDC*

      I think it depends on where your pay is compared to your market value. If you’re currently undercompensated, I would definitely ask for more, but it depends on what your company’s policy is and if they’re willing to go to bat to break that for you. If, on the other hand, the job is paying above market rate. I would probably just be happy with the 5%.

      Don’t forget that you’re being weighed against outside candidates. Even if they offer you the same salary they’d offer an outsider, there would be an extended period where they would be learning the ropes that you won’t have to deal with, AND the outside candidate always comes with unknowns. They know you’re a great worker, they’ve got access to years of reviews and can honestly discuss you with your manager. So you’re inherently more valuable than an outside candidate with similar skills and qualifications.

      1. ThatGirl*

        I hadn’t really looked at area market rate before but I’m right around the average for the area, apparently. Which is good to know.

  4. Free Meerkats*

    And that’s the way you do it. Say what you want, then shut up.

    Negotiating 101.

  5. Kimmy Schmidt*

    Congratulations LW!

    Also, I am going to steal the phrase “my brain starts dribbling out my ears”.

  6. Alice*

    Here’s what I wish I’d known: at my current org, the ONLY time you can negotiate effectively is while you are considering the offer. Afterwards, raises are distributed very evenly.
    I am really peeved at this now that I know. I didn’t negotiate my initial offer because it was very fair for a person with my level of experience. But I am significantly more experienced now, and my salary can’t go up to reflect it (given the policies of the organization, where I plan to stay for other reasons).

    1. Alice*

      So, be like OP and ask at the beginning, even if they start off with an offer that’s acceptable at that moment!

      1. The bad guy*

        It’s not always that easy, especially in a person’s first or second job. The offer is often fair for someone with little to no experience. This is the steepest learning curve of a person’s career potentially only rivaled by people who are new to people management. From personal experience, I can say that I am worth double now in the marketplace what I was when I started just 3 short years ago. My company’s hr policy of 5% a year max (without promotions of which you’re only allowed 1 every 4 years) does not allow for growth of that magnitude so we have very high turnover. I am lucky that I love my job and manager and can live comfortably being paid way below market value. Asking to be hired at what I’m worth now -15% would have lost me all job offers when I was just starting out. This is the world we live in now, hr creates these crazy policies and people like me are to lazy (or happy with direct management) to make them lose money about it.

      2. OP*

        Have you been there long enough that moving on wouldn’t look like job-hopping? Because it might be time if you feel you’re underpaid now.

    2. Kiki*

      This is a practice that bugs me because it de-incentivizes long-term growth at a company. Unless you offer frequent promotions with larger jumps in pay-grade, it just means people who stay at the company end up being paid less than people who jobhop. I agree that most people should negotiate, but I think it’s also true that there are times, like early in your career, where you don’t have much leverage to negotiate. That ends up cumulatively punishing employees quite a bit over time.

      1. LovecraftInDC*

        It also encourages the employees you just spent a lot of time bringing into the business world to leave. I started my career at Big Investment Bank. I learned a lot of critical skills and I made mistakes that I learned from. After a couple of years, they wouldn’t raise my pay more than a paltry amount , so I looked elsewhere and ended up at Small Community Bank. The people at Big Bank put a lot of time and effort and emotional stamina into helping me learn the ropes of the corporate world, yet Small Bank reaped the rewards of that because they were willing to pay me closer to my actual market value. (Interesting story, Small Bank also gave me a significant raise after a year because they realized I was still well below my market value; I didn’t ask for it or expect it, but it kept me from looking elsewhere.)

    3. That Girl From Quinn's House*

      I briefly worked at an org (there were so many reasons why it was brief) that told me the salary was X rate, non-negotiable because of the budget. Fine and what I expected, based on my experience in the field.

      After I accept, I find out the org does not give raises. Period. They had people there 10 years who’d never seen a raise.

      1. LovecraftInDC*

        That’s ridiculous. I’ve never understood places like this. All you do is lose your best employees and keep the ones who either can’t or don’t want to find other jobs.

        If you want to keep wages low and the job doesn’t require significant skills, offer it to college kids or high school grads, and make it clear from the outset that raises won’t be available.

        1. Ferris*

          How raises work is something I’ve learned to always ask about in interviews because of a similar situation.

  7. just a small town girl*

    There is a good chance I will be offered an internal job that would be a step up and come with a not-insignificant raise (although it’s still not too much money for the COL). I’d take the job for the lowest pay listed in the posting, but I’d like to ask if they would be willing to round it up (currently $29,500 is the lowest pay on the scale) to an even $30k because of my extensive experience with the company and the work I’d be doing. How do you go about doing that for a job where you’re already employed by the company. I already work closely with one of the hiring managers and I know the other has a really high opinion of me also, but I’m not sure if they will have the authority to make that decision on the spot.

    1. OP*

      If you already have a solid amount of related, even if not 100% exact, experience (which you do, because you’re internal), I personally would try to give number at least $2k from the bottom of the range (or see if you can give a range you’d be happy in (say $30k-33k) rather than putting yourself at the bottom of the pay scale. The will likely offer at the low end of the range or a little less than you’ve asked for, and that way you’ll still be happy with it!

      I would have totally been happy at the bottom of the range they put in the listing (40k-45k) but when I asked the number I gave was 42.5k

    2. Kyrielle*

      If you can avoid it, I’d avoid naming a number until they do. They may surprise you and give you more than you’d have asked for. And “I will bring my existing experience with the company and X Y and Z to this job” is absolutely a reason to ask for it to go up if they do offer the bottom of the band. You may or may not get it, but it’s a good reason to ask. (But wait and see what they do first…if they want to offer you more, let them!)

    3. Bree*

      Is practice for new entries into the job to automatically start at the bottom of the pay band? Would they follow the same policy if they were bringing in someone external? I don’t see any reason you can’t ask for the middle of the band, if you have the skills and experience.

    4. Fortitude Jones*

      Ask for the middle of the range. They will most likely try to negotiate you down, so you may end up right at the $30k you want. And if they don’t try to negotiate and just give you what you ask for, then it’s a win for you!

  8. CR*

    Here’s a tricky situation: I am a huge advocate for asking for more money. But I recently got a new job, and they offered me a number slightly above the top of the range I had asked for in the interview, which makes me think I didn’t ask for enough. But I didn’t feel I could negotiate because they were already going beyond my range. So now I feel like I left money on the table, which hurts.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      No, you just had the salary discussion a little earlier! Asking for more after they already topped that would be bad faith. (But it does mean you probably could have named a higher range originally, so look at that for next time.)

      1. CR*

        Yes, that’s what I thought and I did follow your advice in that regard. It’s a nonprofit job, I’ve been in the industry for years and I felt like the range I asked for was normal for the job. But a lesson learned for next time!

    2. Bree*

      I has this happen too, recently. I asked for a fairly ambitious number, expecting it to be a starting point for negotiation. I was all keyed up to argue my case and then the offer came in – significantly above what I’d asked for. I just took it before they could reconsider! (I am worth what they’re paying me – I’d been chronically underpaid for years before. Nonprofit life.)

      1. Just Another Techie*

        I had a similar experience! I asked for 30% more than I was currently making, based on looking at glassdoor salaries for the job I had and for jobs similar to the ones I was applying for. I knew I was underpaid — both within my company I was making far less the glassdoor reports for my exact title and location and within our industry my last employer paid at the bottom of the range. I thought I was swinging for the fences by asking for what I did, as what I asked for was at the tippy top of the ranges I found on glassdoor. But their offer was exactly what I asked for, and now I’m wondering if I could have asked for more. But as Alison said, going back and asking for more than my original request would be bad faith.

    3. fhqwhgads*

      I had this happen once and considered briefly asking for more anyway – because while they came in above the salary range I’d indicated I wanted, once we got into the details of the benefits, the health insurance (and vision and dental) were all going to cost me something like 5x as much as what I’d been paying previously. I knew it might be different or more, but I was not expecting that huge a difference when I gave a range in the first place. So it effectively wasn’t really in my range once I did the rest of the math. I think it probably would’ve been reasonable to ask given that extra context, but at the time I decided against it because I was desperate to get out of my current-at-the-time job.

      If there weren’t extra context like that, you probably made the right choice leaving it alone. Don’t beat yourself up about it. (I still kind of do.)

    4. MB*

      I also had this happen; however, they offered $15,000 over the top of my range (I researched salaries carefully and would have felt like a lunatic asking for what I was eventually offered). No way was I coming back with anything other than “I graciously accept.”

  9. SunnyD*

    Awesome! Well done. Especially on saying your bit then closing your mouth, even in the awkward silence.

    1. OP*

      She offered initially about 1k less than I had mentioned as my desired salary. I asked if she could come up. She then offered my desired salary + $80.

      1. Cat H (UK)*

        So she ended up offering you $1080 more? I was a bit confused too I’ll admit!

        Congratulations though!

      2. OP*

        Here, actually, numbers. I don’t know why I’m being coy lol

        Initial Offer: $41,580
        Desired Salary, which I had given her before the conversation: $42,500
        Amount she offered after I asked if she could come up: $42,580

        1. Cat H (UK)*

          Thank you for clearing that up! Really happy for you! I could imagine trying so hard to not say anything during that pause!

        2. nonnynon*

          Ahh okay, my brain was reading it as +$80,000 (i.e. over $80,000).

          This is awesome and congratulations. Where I work they will only negotiate with new hires for 6% over base, everything else has to go through board approval, which is not happening unless it is a EXTREME circumstance (I’ve seen it once in 10 years). Current employees get merit that’s capped at 5%.

          1. CM*

            Ha! This OP is a good negotiator (silence is golden!) but going up $80K would require some Jedi mind tricks.

            1. Quitting Soon*

              I was JUST telling my aunt that I got an offer that was 7.5k less than I’d accept, so I told them that and they gave me what I wanted and she was like “I’m bad with numbers, did you get 7500 or 75000 more?”
              I WISH I got 75000 more…

              Also, the “full” story is: Offer came in at X (below my current salary and what I had talked about with someone during my phone screen). I say thanks, but this is lower than I expected, how’d they arrive at that number? They offer X+2500 and say more would need HR approval. I provide a short report to support X+7500, the number I was told in the interview was the bottom of the range and say if they come up to that, I’ll accept the offer. HR reviewed and approved, so I accepted!

        3. Just wondering (pronouns: she/her)*

          Thanks for clearing this up. I thought the amount you negotiated up was $80/year and I am happy to hear it’s actually $1000/year!

          1. OP*

            This is what I get for typing my letters to Alison in bed T_______T no proofreading for clarity!

  10. MommyMD*

    Nice. Sometimes you don’t receive without asking and keeping quiet for a response very often works.

  11. Brian*

    I recently helped a friend using your advice – she got an offer for an out of state job at $80k, and was freaking out about moving costs, etc. and wanted to negotiate for more but didn’t know how. The offer exchange had been over email, and she wanted to write back, but asked me to do it for her because she was afraid they would pull the offer if she tried to negotiate. She said “they’ll think i am greedy and ungrateful!”

    I wrote back to them for her and said “Oh, I am so excited to see the offer! Thanks you so much! I was wondering, is there any flexibility around the salary? I was hoping for something closer to $86k. If there’s any option for some relocation expenses, that would be really helpful too – let me know your thoughts, and thanks again! I’d be so excited for us to agree on the details! – Warmly, Arya”. and the response came back in thirty minutes: $85k, and $5k in relocation help. She was so excited because she’d never negotiated before – she bought me a REALLY nice dinner as a thank you.

  12. Phouka*

    The Kindly Brontosaurus method works — not just at airport gate counters, but everywhere else, too. Nice, clear, reasonable request…and then just wait, quietly, sort of looming but not threatening, while projecting the attitude of “I know you can help me/do what Ineed”.

    Of course, now I”m thinking that I saw it here on AskaManager…hmmmm.

  13. Susana*

    OP, congratulations! And it’s so hard (for me, anyway) to *not* think that somehow they’ll like me more if I accept less. Nope, they won’t.
    Many years ago, I was offered a newspaper job. I had been reporting in war zones as a freelancer (not for the faint of heart), but when they offered me a salary, I was actually frightened to ask for more! Mind you, I’d had a gun held to my head and been shelled in previous months. I took a breath, said, “I’d like to be making more.” They called the next day with 15 percent more! Never hurts to ask…

  14. Lana Kane*

    I got ants in my pants just reading about The Pause ™ lol Good for you for resisting the temptation to fill in the silence!

  15. Boba Feta*

    This is so inspiring: congratulations, OP!

    This is also quite timely for me as I wrestle with whether or not to risk inquiring over salary in my current situation. I’ve been contracting at one institution for ~ 4 years and this year they are so strongly in need of coverage (and my expertise) that my supervisor wrangled a one-year FT visiting post (with hopes it can lead to a permanent posting next year). I feel strongly I should be prepared to ask if the offered salary is firm, along with asking whether I could opt-out of the insurance or something and get that compensation in another form. (No sense switching my current insurance for what is absolutely a one-year-only post)

    My spouse is also in academia and has seen things play out badly from the other side: people perceived badly by the PTB for “daring” to ask for more money (specially in contract situations), and he has STRONGLY advised that I not risk alienating the higher administration by negotiating the salary part of it and instead wait until next year’s permanent-line conversations. But it goes against almost everything Alison and others here have always advised! GAH!

    Can anyone out there in academia speak to how differently things can play out in our wack-a-doo field, especially for contract (visiting) positions?

    1. anon today!*

      I can’t help much — just offer a lot of sympathy — it depends so much on department culture. Some might say yah sure another $1k whatever. Others might make the insurance-for-money swap. Others truly will be so offended that you are not simply overcome with gratitude to work with Their Eminences that you may experience adverse consequences. Others (like my bosses right now) will say vaguely oh we’ll see what we can do interesting idea… and expect you to show up for work without a clear offer & hope you’ll forget about it.

      Which is why I interviewed somewhere else today :)

      1. Boba Feta*

        I get the sense my direct supervisor is like your last example- I suspect he’d be very happy not to have to deal with the nitty gritty details if he could help it! Not out of malice but perhaps just to avoid the burden of it all. I’m hoping he can at least forward some details so I’m not caught by surprise when the paperwork does come through.

    2. Clementine*

      I think your husband with his inside knowledge might know best here. I have heard similar tales of academia. It’s just a different world than business or non-profits. But I hope people with more direct knowledge will weigh in.

      1. Boba Feta*

        Yea, I’ve started to come around to his POV over the last few days. It all really depends on what the actual numbers end up being. I feel like I know what an insulting number would be, but I need better info on what an accurate number is and that’s hard to parse because salaries are not public at this institution and the aggregate data published by the specialty boards don’t factor contractor salaries and average across all tenures and disciplines.

    3. Quitting Soon*

      Oh I just told my story upthread, but I didn’t specify that I was negotiating within academia… which probably makes it more impressive.

      Basically, they sent me an offer for 82.5k, which is less than I’m making now and less than I thought the position would pay (even accounting for it being academic). So I said “That’s a bit lower than I was thinking, could you tell me how you/HR got to that number?” and they said “85k is as high as I can go without going back to HR because all of our salaries are public record.” I said “I’m really hoping we can come to an agreement. What about reclassifying the position to more precisely what I’ll be doing?” And then I included a report that took about an hour of googling that justified 90k. New manager passed that on to HR, they agreed, and we’re all happy with the agreement. As a bonus, I feel so much more confident that this manager will advocate for me and work with me!

      1. Boba Feta*

        This extra context is really helpful, thank you! I’m glad to know folks have negotiated so successfully, but it sounds like yours was a permanent position? If the permanent post ever materializes next year, I will certainly keep your story/ mindset in mind!

  16. MommyMD*

    I’m glad it worked out for you but you could have softened the mindnumbing and boring commentary a bit. Many good people, including some here, are great at this work and enjoy it. I may not enjoy something but that doesn’t make it mind-numbingly boring. It means it’s not for me.

    1. Stephen!*

       “I quickly learned that I not only find admin work mind-numbingly boring, I’m also not very good at it.”

      The OP basically said what you suggested they should say. I think you’re looking for a fight that’s not there.

      1. Who Plays Backgammon?*

        I disagree with Stephen and agree with MommyMD. Wonder if OP will be working with admin staff in new position? I hope their brains aren’t numb.

      2. OP*

        Yes, this. I very much meant that while my initial idea of the admin work was neutral to positive, after not very long at all I found that I couldn’t swing it. I have tons of respect for those who do admin work well long-term. I apologize if that wasn’t clear.

  17. angrytreespirit*

    So… how does one ask for more money when one is in a union-controlled workplace? Everyone with the same job classification makes the same rate starting and advances, in tiny amounts, up to a maximum with a few years’ experience.

    1. Asenath*

      Join the union negotiating committee, and participate in negotiating the next union contract!

    1. OP*

      Apparently it’s going to be more or less all the reporting and monitoring aspects of my job now, but for different states than I work with now, and then add in some job duties around figuring out what technical changes might need to be made. I’m excited!

  18. Always Ask*

    Thank you, Alison! I followed your advice and ended up increasing my base salary by 42% in a new job. When the HR person asked what salary I was looking for, I gently countered by asking if they were able to share the range, and they did. The bottom of the range was about $20k above than my target salary, which I’d come to by looking at Glassdoor. I can’t believe I almost undersold myself by so much. Once I got the offer, I asked for slightly more within the range they provided. I got it. The salary is legitimately lifechanging for me and means I will eventually see the light at the end of the very long student loan tunnel. Lesson: always, always ask for the range.

  19. Amy*

    This is very inspiring!

    Per my contract I have a salary negotiation coming up in August and I’m not really sure how to go about it. I finished my masters degree a couple of years ago and have already had a couple of jobs before the one I have now (got fired 2 times and quit a third), since my jobs have all been in start-ups (read: no structure, no guidance and way too much responsibility). My journey has been very rocky and ultimately I have accepted a salary that is way under what should be acceptable. But I just needed the job and my rent is very low, so I knew I would not be in any financial trouble.

    This negotiation is after a 3 month probation/adaptation period and I can not negotiate again before August 2020. So I’m really unsure about how much more I can ask for. The way they see it, is that I (of course) need to be a bonus to them – so basically I need to handle enough clients for my own salary and more to go in to the company. And I’m not sure I’m there yet, but I have been taken on more responsibility and more clients over the last 3 months.

    Anyone have any idea of how to go about this?

  20. Adlib*

    Love these stories! At my new job, I managed to request and get an extra week of PTO due to not having some other benefits that I got at my last place. Reading AAM has definitely helped me be more confident in asking for things!

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