when asked about salary, I say “I’ll start for $X and earn the rest through merit”

A reader writes:

Here’s what I’ve been doing when it comes to salary negotiation: When asked what I want, I’ll say something like, “I’ll start for $120k/year and earn the rest through merit.” How does that sound to you?

First, I don’t care if they secretly budgeted $150k. Their budget doesn’t determine my value. I used to play the “you blink first” game, but it’s ultimately unproductive. The only winning move is not to play. I do give a great deal of thought about the price tag I place upon myself, and I back it up with facts about what the local market bears (just in case) and usually stand firm. When I say, “…and earn the rest through merit,” I hope it signals that I’m giving them a bargain up-front, and then I’ll prove that I’m worth more with my actions. I think it also indicates that I’ll be expecting a raise in the future. If they intend never to give me a raise, this statement should trigger them to react or pull back. After all, inflation is 2.3%/year, and that’s important to take that into account.

I get where you’re coming from, but I wouldn’t use that approach. First and foremost, it’s generally much easier to get more money before you’ve accepted an offer than after you’re already working there. Once you’re on staff, you’re likely going to be constrained by however the company handles raises overall, which means you might be locked into much smaller increases than you want. If you’re coming on for $X while thinking you’ll earn $Y in a year once you prove yourself, there’s a very strong chance that won’t happen — even if you could have gotten $Y if you’d negotiated for it from the start.

Second, you saying “I’ll earn the rest through merit” is going to make good hiring managers nervous, because it’s not clear what “the rest” means. Speaking from the employer’s side, I don’t know if you’re envisioning $5,000 more or $25,000 more, and I’m not going to move forward without hashing that out because I don’t want you coming on board with unrealistic expectations and being disappointed or resentful later. I’m willing to consider something like “we’ll pay $X now and consider $Y after six months if you’ve shown A, B, and C” … but we’re going to be talking about specific figures, not leaving it vague.

You said you’re hoping your approach signals that you’re giving the employer a bargain up-front, and then you’ll prove that you’re worth more once you’re in the job. But good employers aren’t that invested in getting a bargain up-front. They want to hire the best person for the job and pay that person a salary that makes sense within their broader salary structure, taking into account equity along race and gender lines. They usually want to negotiate that number at the start so that everyone is on the same page.

I’m not saying your approach won’t work for some employers, but it’s likely to turn off more than it will appeal to. I’d do your salary research and just ask for what you think you’re worth; don’t make it any more complicated than that.

{ 209 comments… read them below }

  1. The Original K.*

    My first thought when I read this was “what is ‘the rest?'” so I’m glad Alison mentioned that. Is “the rest” more money? How much? More time off? How much more? Perks? Which perks? It just feels vaguer than need be, particularly since OP says she puts a lot of thought into fair market value for her skills and experience. Why not just ask directly for what you want up front? If you’re concerned about regular raises/COL increases, why not ask specifically about those during the hiring process?

    1. Malarkey01*

      Honestly as a hiring manager I would be so confused by that statement. Like you said, what’s the rest? and are you asking for bonus money or insinuating a future raise? I would need to immediately ask a whole bunch of questions just to understand what was even being communicated.
      It would cause me to reassess the whole hiring since it seems like such an odd statement and somehow over the top.

      I’m really curious how hiring managers have handled LWs approach.

      1. KHB*

        Yeah, my first thought was that LW was pitching a scheme where $120 would be the base salary and he’d get a big bonus at the end of the year based on “merit.” And for a position whose compensation isn’t already structured that way, they’re unlikely to make an exception for just one person.

        If their budget is $150K and they hire you at $120K, it’s not like that extra $30K sits there earmarked for you in case they think you deserve it later. They’re going to spend it on something else.

      2. Willis*

        Exactly this. It’s so vague, and why would I want an employee relationship where we don’t know what the other expects in terms of salary, raises, bonus, time off, etc.?

        My guess is that hiring managers who don’t balk at this approach are hearing the “I’ll start for $120K/year” part, and if that seems acceptable to them, ignoring the rest. But how does that work out down the line when the OP asks for a raise or bonus? Would something like a 2-3% COL raise be enough to satisfy the OP? Trying to tack on another $30K (using the OP’s example) is going to look like trying to renegotiate their salary after a relatively short tenure. And why not get what you’re worth from the start?

        And like Alison noted, good employers aren’t usually bargain hunting when they put a job ad out. And those that are are probably not going to be the ones giving out sizeable bonuses and raises.

        1. MassMatt*

          This, there ARE employers that look for bargains when they hire, but they tend to be terrible employers.

          There are so many jobs where employers don’t allow much flexibility with raises and promotions I think this would be a really tough strategy to make work in the long run. Maybe in sales with a large commission base, but such jobs tend to not pay much (or any ) salary.

          I would be really curious to hear OPs track record with this, how long have they used it, has it worked, do they get good offers/raises?

      3. Rose*

        Esp if you’re saying $120, assuming I might have $150 budgeted, but you don’t know I have $120 budgeted. It’s like telling me you’ll accept a salary but you’ll be unhappy w it soon. Puts me in a very awkward position of having to tell you you’re only getting what I’m offering. You’re basically declaring up front you’ll expect a raise soon.

      4. Probably Taking This Too Seriously*

        I would see it as a sign that the candidate likes to do their own thing vs. convention, and doesn’t like following business norms. For most positions I’ve hired for, that would be an issue.

      5. JSPA*

        I’m sympathetic to someone who has a trick to game themselves into doing their best work.

        I can see phrasing it as, “I expect to be worth $145,000 a year to you in this job. That salary is in line with my experience and skills. However, having run the numbers, I’d be comfortable deferring $25,000 of that salary for 12 months.”

        That is, your base salary is $145K. But if they don’t think you are worth it, they can fire you after 11 months. So there’s your self-inflicted, made-to-measure pressure cooker.

    2. HungryLawyer*

      Exactly. It feels like OP is trying to play mind games with the hiring manager, even though they say “the only winning move is not to play.” Just seems pretty unnecessary to try and “win” a job as though you’re on a game show.

      1. PollyQ*

        “The only winning move is not to play” is a line from the 80’s movie WarGames, which is about brinksmanship in the face of mutually assured destruction due to nuclear weapons. I would hope a salary negotiation would have very little in common with that situation.

      2. GradBoss*

        Exactly. I’d be weirded out by the phrasing and would think this is someone who may not fit in with the organization because they don’t understand business conventions and would cause a headache in less than a year when their raise/bonus expectations aren’t in line with the company’s pay conventions. As a manager it’s annoyingr to have to go back to HR on behalf of a recently hired employee because there was some misunderstanding up front.

    3. Yorick*

      I would also wonder what exactly he means by “through merit?” Are you gonna start at $120k and then do 25% more work to earn $150k?

    4. Kisses*

      I felt pretty dumb reading that since I just don’t understand what is being asked for. It kinda left a bad taste, it seemed odd.
      But I’ve only ever worked hourly jobs and never have made more than $10/hr, so it might just be outside of my paygrade ;)

  2. AmosBurton*

    As a hiring manager in technology? I would be put off by this approach. It comes across as tone-deaf and a bit arrogant. If I’m hiring somebody for a position that pays $120k a year? ANY candidate will have great merit. Every single person who makes it to the interview will be educated, experienced, intelligent and capable, and I would expect ANY of them to ALREADY be displaying the merit required for the position.

    Secondly, as Allison said, I have no idea what “the rest” is. If I have this role budgeted at $120k, and “the rest” implies that that you’re expecting $150k next year after you have “proved yourself”, that’s a non-starter.

    As Allison noted, this approach would definitely put me off, and would signal to me an arrogance and a lack of emotional intelligence that would push your resume to the bottom of the pile of equally-qualified candidates.

    1. Qwerty*

      I agree so much with this. The title made me cringe – if someone said that during an interview or offer negotiation, I’d take a closer look at their communication and team work skills.

      There are also huge equality concerns with this approach! Everyone in the same role should be paid within the same pay band – offering me a deal won’t fly because I need to pay you the same rate for that position. At salaries of $120-150k, that means you are a senior team member who will be conducting interviews, mentoring junior team members, etc, and this approach on salary would make me concerned about how you would act in an interview and what kind of advice you’d be teaching to the junior devs.

      I’d really encourage the OP to distance themselves from seeing salary negotiation as a game with a winner. Focusing on winning can close us off to the bigger picture. A “win” in hiring is when we find the right person for the job, who feels like this is the right job for them, and everyone is being fairly compensated. The goal is productivity and a positive work environment.

      1. Archaeopteryx*

        Besides, even if this worked, you end up with less money overall than if you’d earned the higher salary at the start! This would just signal that you have a weird view of how things work.

        1. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd (ENTP)*

          I can sort of see it in their mind as the same kind of tactic as the one used in selling you a tangible product or service: we’ll offer you this X at a discount rate for 6 months and at the end of the 6 months you’ll go onto the standard tariff or you can cancel it/send it back… but we’re so confident that you’ll love the X that you’ll be willing to pay the full price!

          They’d have less money overall but I inferred that this was a tactic/strategy to actually get the offer ahead of another candidate.

          Where that tactic falls down though, is that (unlike with buying a product where presumably you have a contract in writing somewhere saying that the ‘discount’ is for 6 months after which you can either cancel or pay the market rate that an X typically goes for) there isn’t anything holding the company to paying the “real” rate once OP has earned it…

    2. Smithy*

      Another part of this that I’m finding a little confusing is how this practically applies to a workplace’s budgets for salary. If I’m correct in understanding that this statement means “You’ve budgeted $150k for the role – but you can get me at a discount of $120k in the first year, and by year 2 you’ll see my worth for $150k and have saved $30k in year 1” – how that savings impacts an employer or hiring manager may really varry.

      I know a lot of teams where spending $X in a given year is critical when assessing what their budget will be for the next fiscal year. So even if it was a workplace where it was possible to give someone a $30k raise after 12 months – that might mean a task of having to find something extra to spend $30k on. So it becomes a task to figure out how to replace/upgrade team members’ equipment, relevant subscriptions, team building exercises, etc.

      I’m sure there are small firms or individuals who hire private staff who might be charmed by this, where such a savings is more concretely felt. But for a larger organization, I think this prospect also fails in providing a hiring manager with “savings”.

      1. MCMonkeybean*

        That’s a good point too–the company as a whole probably wants to save money but individual teams usually want to use their entire budget so that they don’t get less the next year. This runs the risk of someone in the company saying “oh great, you didn’t need that extra $30k for salaries so we’re going to reallocate that amount to this other team next year so they can do something else we haven’t been able to afford.”

    3. Derjungerludendorff*

      Yeah, jobs that pay 100k+ don’t take gambles on unproven candidates. That’s what entry level jobs are for.

      It also sounds like you’re very overconfident on something that is outside your control. The employees don’t get to decide who gets raises or how much. Its the hiring manager currently interviewing you who decides that.

    4. Gan Ainm*

      Agree, my first instinct was to feel taken aback, it struck me as abrasive or aggressive. I can’t quite put my finger on why (I think it’s the implication that “the rest” is quite a large sum?) but it doesn’t really matter, that’s just not the reaction you want to inspire in a hiring manager.

      1. NotJane*

        It struck me as abrasive and aggressive, as well, and I think that was because it’s so outside of the well established norms and expectations of how these conversations/negotiations are conducted. I’d guess that many, if not most, people on the employer/hiring manager side of the table would at least momentarily be taken aback by this approach.

        It also strikes me as rather gimmicky, like OP is deploying this strategy as a way to stand out. And I’m sure it will make him stand out, just perhaps not in the way she had envisioned. The word “gumption” comes to mind. To me, it would be a flag – maybe not a bright red one, maybe an orange or yellow flag, but a flag nonetheless.

        1. Courtney*

          I agree that the phrasing is really off-putting but I think it’s because of the word choice, specifically. “I’ll earn the rest through merit” is such an independent, controlling phrase for what is not really in the employee’s control. LW is basically informing the hiring manager that this will happen and they will get whatever “the rest” is. There’s no sense of working within the company’s established system for bonuses or raises, no sense of collaboration or conversation, just a statement that this will happen. I’d be super concerned that hiring this person meant hiring someone who thought they could dictate policy single-handedly, or that the rules didn’t apply to them.

    5. Keymaster of Gozer*

      Techie hiring manager here too and yeah, I’d be seriously concerned as to what ‘the rest’ means. I dunno, my gut feeling is that this is like an interview equivalent of the ‘pick up artist tactics’ (for the love of kittens don’t google pick up artist forums, you’ll be throwing up for days) where it’s all about ‘this one neat trick’.

      Basically it’s like telling me you’d have my job in 6 months.

      1. V*

        My thoughts exactly. If someone said this to me in an interview / salary negotiation I would be massively put off and immediately assume you were playing weird mind games.

    6. Anonymity*

      It does immediately come off as arrogant. Truthfully I’d move to the next candidate. You have to earn every dollar paid you, not just future dollars.

    7. Roci*

      “I would expect ANY of them to ALREADY be displaying the merit required for the position.”
      Excellent point. The hiring manager is unlikely to be swayed by “I will prove my worth to you later and at that point you’ll pay me for it.”

      Some people might be convinced by that, but you’re not that guy.

  3. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

    The only line of work where I could see that working any more than as a fluke is Sales. Even there, I wouldn’t want to be associated with the impression it leaves…

    1. Momma Bear*

      Agreed. Definitely not something that would fly in any kind of firm fixed price contracting scenario. LW might do better to ask about the raise/bonus structure upfront and then give a salary based on that.

      1. KayDeeAye*

        It’s the first word I thought of, too! I mean, it’s not the worst type of gumption (e.g., “I am going to sit in your reception area until you agree to interview me” – or, even worse, that person who sent chocolate bars to the hiring manager because the ladies just love chocolate after lunch). But it’s very gumption-y.

        OP, it’s just that there’s an off-putting salesmanship element to this approach that will put a lot of people off. Not everyone, of course, but a lot. Plus, I don’t think it will serve you well, either. I mean, why would you want to work for someone who would agree to underpay you?

    2. Ginger*

      Disagree, a good sales person is not going to leave $$ on the table. Plus, a good sales person also does not do side letters, which the whole “rest of it” could read as.

      If I were hiring a sales person that sold themselves as a bargain with an ambiguous expectation for more down the line, I would assume that’s how they’d treat my customers. Hard pass.

    3. Here we go again*

      A lot of salespeople earn 100% commission. The only real bargaining chip is schedule or pto, maybe other benefits like 401k.

      1. TechWorker*

        Ooi (having never worked in sales or a commission based role) is there any negotiating room on the terms of the commission itself? Getting 5% of sales you make vs 7% (numbers made up) presumably makes a difference? Or some kind of extra bonus after a certain point?

        1. RC Rascal*

          Usually not. However some companies have kickers once you exceed a volume level. For example once a salesperson achieves $1M in sales volume they get an additional point payout on commission.

          I have also seen a commission kicker based on a quantity achieved. ( Sell 4 Super Widgets and we will increase your commission .5% back to dollar one on Super Widget sales).

    4. Colleague’s Dog’s Viking Funeral*

      I’m getting the “Lee Iacocca paid himself $1 for the year and the rest is history.”
      Which is great for him, but not so much for the rest of us.
      The job pays $120-150k. You get hired in at $120. OK. You will make $150. Eventually. I was not thinking that the company would pay you more than their normal highest annual raise. And after only one year, who is going to get that? Even if you exceeded expectations, you’ve been there a year. So you get 3% to 8%, not 30%.
      I think the terminology “earn the rest” is along the lines of “I’ll learn while I earn” or something that is really meaningless in culture with no contracts.

      1. EmmaPoet*

        Iacocca’s salary jumped to $868,000 the next year, about two million today. And I’m betting he got some very nice perks and stock options along with that dollar.

        So, this might have worked in 1979, when you’re Lee Iacocca and they’re desperate to hire you to save Chrystler from going under. The rest of us should probably rethink it.

      1. pcake*

        I thought of that too, but…

        We bought a car a few months ago, all done by phone. The guy who ended up selling is the car was helpful, nice and didn’t use any sales tactics. The ones who tried sales tactics on me, I politely got off the phone and tried again till we found the guy who was willing to help and not push.

        A friend of mine used to sell a very well known brand of luxury car in a wealthy area. Year after year he was their top salesman because he never tried to sell anyone anything. He wanted people to by comfortable dealing with him and satisfied by their eventual choices, so he let them take their time, calling him back if they had more questions. He made millions in sales a year doing this while the rest of the sales force their tried to pressure people into buying the same day, and none of them were ever the high seller while he was there.

    5. Antilles*

      Even in sales though, it’d be weird phrasing. You may earn most of your pay via commission, but that’s not some vaguely defined “the rest”, there’s a detailed structure around the base pay, commission percentages, etc….and the structure is usually known and defined in advance by the company.

  4. Brett*

    It is entirely possible for circumstances to change significantly after you sign on too.

    At old job, when I signed on people were routinely getting 5% raises and top performers were getting 8-10%. Even the lowest performers got a cost of living adjustment. The hiring managers had every reason to believe that I would get regular raises above market rate as long as I performed well. They would not have been triggered by or pulled back from this statement, because they would have had every confidence that their hiring situation was perfect for someone to “earn the rest through merit”.

    One year after I joined, the great recession hit. The organization instituted a freeze on all raises, merit, cola, step, everything. The merit raise freeze still exists today, 14 years later, and there are no plans to bring them back! I lasted 8 years, by which point my salary was literally bottom of the national market. They had to eliminate my position after I left because they were no longer able to pay anywhere close to a competitive salary for it.

    1. Sled dog mama*

      Yes this! I started a new job in December of 2019, company does a “profit sharing bonus” each year, I’m told while negotiating. COVID hit us hard, not our core business thankfully and we’ve not had to lay anyone off (lost a few contracts and some people decided it was time to move on) but the small segment of the business that made paying a bonus to the whole staff possible was and is hurting. My boss (owner) completely owned it in my review. Said the company was doing cola for everyone and bonuses when possible. We are all “highly paid” professionals and paid at or slightly above market.
      Here’s hoping we rebound this year.

      1. Torvill and Dean*

        Had this image of your company sending you a case of Coca Cola before I realized you weren’t talking about soda! Whoops!

        1. Sled dog mama*

          That would have been hilarious!
          Sorry the pandemic hit us so hard we can’t give you a raise this year, here’s a case of soda instead!

          1. Lyudie*

            There was a soda shortage at one point early on (at least for diet sodas) so that would have been a great perk in my eyes hahaha.

        2. PT*

          Coca Cola would LOVE this, they’re struggling hard. Between COVID shutting restaurants, people discovering that soda is unhealthy, and some IRS debt, they’re in a very bad place. They’d love it if companies were handing out cases of their product in lieu of raises.

  5. designbot*

    Also, you’re earning it all through merit! Don’t sell yourself short that you don’t merit the base amount. I’m sure that’s not your intention, but my first thought was, “so is this part NOT merited then?”
    That said though, the price you’re setting for the “pre-merit” or “unmerited” amount is nothing to sneeze at. So in totality the statement seems to add up to, “I’ll take this amount that I’m admitting I haven’t done anything to earn, and then I’ll expect even more.”
    There’s just a lot of potential to strike the wrong tone on a number of levels here.

    1. Not a Real Giraffe*

      This is where my brain went too! And of course you’re going to get more over the years through merit. That’s how raises typically work (excepting COL). It really struck a wrong tone with me.

  6. animaniactoo*

    I think this sounds like a great way to end up with an employer who has no problem committing to more than the intend to do. It leaves you wide open to being taken advantage of – that employer is not going to “pull back” when they hear that you expect a raise. They’re going to roll their eyes and say “yeah, sure.” and proceed with hiring you for the bargain they’re going to get on your salary and keep as long as they can.

    Don’t do that to yourself. Their reward is getting an excellent employee who does the job well. THAT’s the benefit that you want them to be focused on. The only one.

    1. Batgirl*

      Yep. I was very concerned when OP said that employers who don’t intend to give raises will back off. Nope…they’ll hire you at bargain rate and keep you at bargain rate. Then, when you give up on them and want to move on, other employers will want to know your previous salary to base their offer on …(aka what’s the minimum anyone ever talked you into accepting; aka bargain!). Of course there are good employers who do neither of those things. Those employers want the best employees and will pay well from day one because they aren’t interested in bargains.

      1. Librarian of SHIELD*

        Absolutely this. Every year at evaluation time they will come up with another reason why they can’t afford a raise this year and you’ll keep making less than you intended to for a VERY long time.

    2. Parenthesis Dude*

      I get the impression that this person does that when they’re applying for a position that would be a promotion. So, maybe they might be making $110k, they want a raise to a minimum of $120k and this role is worth $140k. They’re thinking that if the employer gives me a chance I’ll show I’m worth $140k, but if I ask for $140k I won’t get a chance.

      If that’s the case, this person isn’t necessarily getting taken advantage of. They’re agreeing to work below market rate, in order to get experience at a higher level position. After a year, they can see whether they earned their raise based on merit, whether they’ll get the raise they want, or apply to new jobs at the same level with a stronger resume.

      1. Paulina*

        That’s assuming that the hiring decision is “who’s the cheapest person we can get who meets basic requirements,” not “who’s the best person we can get that’s within the allocated salary.” If the hiring manager can’t keep the savings for their unit or earmark a potential future raise for the OP, they’re far more likely to be thinking the latter than the former, so selling yourself as a bargain can backfire.

      2. comityoferrors*

        That still seems like they’re being taken advantage of, to me! If they have the qualifications for the job, they should be paid market value for the job. If they don’t but their past work convinces the hiring manager they could do the job, they should be paid market value for the job. If they got the job in whatever fashion, they should be paid market value for the job. Surely they will have the same expectations and same consequences for failure as anyone else in the role, which warrants the same pay.

        This kind of posturing is not just bad for the negotiating employee, but for anyone else after them. Don’t reinforce the idea that companies can find someone for $30k less than market value if that person is inexperienced and timid enough about negotiating! You deserve market value for the job you’re doing; the person after you deserves market value for the job they’re doing; the person after *that* deserves market value for the job they’re doing…

    3. hbc*

      Yeah, I can definitely think of a few former bosses/coworkers who would find this intriguing, and you will never, ever do enough to “merit” whatever it is that you think you would get. Without quantifying what it is you’ll do and what you’ll earn, they will be expecting you to blow them out of the water for pocket change.

      1. Archaeopteryx*

        Yeah I’m trying to picture the great bosses I’ve had going for this and I can’t. When I picture the scummy bosses? Yeah, I can see them being into this.

      2. Jen in Oregon*

        Yup. My first thought was that this was some one in their very early 20’s, possibly still in college, that hasn’t actually done this, but was either A.) planning on doing this when getting their first professional job offer because they have watch too many Wolf of Wall Street type movies, which is also why they think they’re going to get a six figure job right off the bat, or B.) they’re getting stunningly bad career advice from Gumption Grandpa and they sent this to Alison so they can they show the responses to GG and say “See?? I told you that it doesn’t work like that anymore.”

        Holy crap, that might be the longest sentence I’ve ever typed.

    4. Antilles*

      It wouldn’t even need to be an intentional strategy to underpay you either. Even department managers usually have someone above them taking a general look at the overall budget. So if your salary costs jump dramatically from one month to the next (due to giving OP “the rest”), the very first questions are going to be what exactly OP did to deserve a 25% raise.
      Yes, it’s a Manager’s Department to run…but the VP or whoever is still going to raise some eyebrows at seeing the salary costs jump dramatically from December to January because somebody was given a massive raise.

  7. Czhorat*

    Absent anything else, this makes you sound somewhat insufferable; it feels like an attempt to reverse the kind of game-playing that we hate when it comes from hiring managers. As the candidate, you usually aren’t the one in power so you can’t afford to be making them play games.

    “I’ll earn the rest through merit” implies that you think more highly of yourself than they think of you, and that you’ll be able to out-perform the rest of the team to “deserve” a bigger raise. It feels SO MUCH like a red flag to me.

    Also, Allison has a very practical point: a BIG raise is hard to come by. Most bigger employers have some kind of structure with a limited pool to hand out amongst various groups. You’re not likely to get enough to make up for low-balling up front.

    1. Van Wilder*

      Yes, if I heard this exact wording, perhaps depending on the intonation, I would most likely have to pull the offer. It sounds self-aggrandizing. I imagine this person is not a team player and is always trying to compete where cooperation would serve better.

    2. Bee*

      Yes, if you don’t want to play negotiation games…just don’t play negotiation games! Name the number that would make you happy regardless of whether they’ve budgeted more.

    3. Triplestep*

      Not only does it imply that you think very highly of yourself, but that you know how things work at this organization that hasn’t even hired you yet. BIG turn off.

    4. Persephone Mongoose*

      Well said. I don’t want to come down too hard on the OP; they did write in to get a gut check and I respect that…but I cringed so hard reading that line and I’m very curious as to how well it has actually worked. I can’t imagine it going over any better than a lead balloon.

  8. anon here*

    The problem that I see is that as a lower middle manager, I’m pretty constrained on raises as I have a pot of money to divide between all the people I manage. Initial salaries comes out of a different budget. It would be way more advantageous to you to get the initial high salary than fight with my other employees for the $5,000 I have available this year across the positions.

  9. KayEss*

    Sounds like it’s out of the same gumption playbook as “I’ll work for free for a week and you’ll see I’m so great that you’ll hire me.”

      1. Czhorat*

        It’s like every other bit of bad hiring advice — all based on a clever workaround rather than letting your qualifications speak for themselves.

    1. Joielle*

      YES it’s a total gumption/gimmick thing and any hiring manager who would be impressed by that is not someone I’d want to work for.

    2. Nanani*

      YES, gumption is it!

      “I’ll start at X” sounds a lot like the people who call saying “I’ll be there on thursday for an interview” without having actually been selected for an interview.

      Where this sort of thing works, its a red flag for that workplace.

  10. Naomi*

    The part that really seems to me like a flaw in OP’s logic is here: “If they intend never to give me a raise, this statement should trigger them to react or pull back.” Yes, it does signal that you’re expecting a raise… but expectations are not contracts, and a company that doesn’t intend to give you a raise can still hire you in bad faith.

    1. Escapee from Corporate Management*

      This is so accurate. OP joins the company, achieves, and then gets…nothing or a minimal raise. The company got one year of high performance at a bargain. OP got less than market value.

    2. HungryLawyer*

      Good point. And the expectation that only bad employers who never intend to give raises will “react” to this kind of vague, mind game-y is illogical. As Alison and many commenters have pointed out, a good hiring manager will also react by continuing to discuss with OP what their full expectations are.

    3. Marthooh*

      Yes. Alison mentions that a good employer isn’t looking for a bargain up front; it’s wise to remember also that bad employers love to feel like they’re getting a bargain.

    4. iliketoknit*

      Yes, it seems much more reasonable to me to ask directly about compensation structures and how that employer handles raises (once you have an offer, that is), than to try to “trick” them into revealing that they don’t give raises? Someplace that’s operating in good faith will be open about this stuff, someplace that isn’t won’t be regardless of how the LW tries to present it. (I also think places that *intend* to *never* give raises are rare, though that may be naive; I think you’re more likely to find a place that thinks it will give out raises but, when push comes to shove, keeps finding reasons not to. That’s still sucky, but the jedi mind trick of signaling you expect a raise won’t work. And frankly, I think most employers would assume people taking a job would want raises in the future? I don’t know, I find the LW’s whole approach confusing!)

  11. KatAlyst*

    I’m currently trying to negotiate an offer through a recruiter (my first time in that position) and am trying to figure out if it’s fair to calculate the unexpected financial downsides (210% current insurance premiums & 11 month delay for 401k eligibility) or if it makes more sense to counter-offer straight additional (offer+5-10%)
    I short-schrifted my prior offer so I’m nervous and second-guessing the change (temporary-WFH, losing my FSA funds & insurance gap)

    1. Cordoba*

      I’d do a hybrid approach where you calculate the actual downside and then let them decide how they want to make good on it.

      Something like “I’ve calculated that the difference in benefits will amount to about $XYZ for me out of pocket every year. Do you prefer to match my current benefits, or increase the salary to reflect this difference?”

    2. lost academic*

      Some of that is temporary, like the longer timeframe for 401k eligibility (maybe that’s fair to ask for a signing bonus that covers your loss of matched income from the current employer) and the increase in the insurance premiums (easy to calculate now, hard to anticipate) but agree that you need to come up with a counter that include those since the overall benefits aren’t what you want. So do a straight counter, but do the math to figure out what it should be – you can always briefly mention what it includes.

    3. Lady Meyneth*

      I’d go with straight up money, no question about it. It’s always easier for employers to pull benefits than it is to cut salary (and that’s already easy enough). Plus, all your raises will be calculated from this starting salary, for as long as you’re in this company, so asking for more money is more lucrative for you in the mid-long term.

    4. OfferApprover*

      As the person who approves offers for my company, I have to admit I get annoyed when someone asks for $X to cover things like “a bonus they’ll miss out on” or “401k matching they’ll miss out on” by changing their job. They’re the ones deciding to change their job.. those are sometimes expenses of that, we’re not responsible for your lost income from changing jobs. I’d much rather they just ask for something ($X, PTO seniority, whatever) than tell me how they calculated that number. I’d say we increase our offer (in some way) at least 75% of the time we’re asked.. without any reason necessary for the asking.

      1. KatAlyst*

        One advantage of working with the recruiter was having someone to discuss the nitty-gritty, especially as the details were divulged after-the-fact, but without burdening the employer too much with details.
        We did end up noting some of the why–their 1/3 of premium sounded good, but, as a cash number, is highest I’ve seen & 200% over the highest I’ve paid, so it was a big change from my expectations. And similar feeling on 401k delay.
        Part of sharing _some_ was wanting them to know that it was specifics (reverse of employees sharing salary, how else will they know if it’s disappointing) and also partly because their offer was “in range” of what the recruiter had led them to expect I’d be happy with–which I was until we got benefits details.

        For me, until I get all the numbers, I don’t really have “the offer”–unknown benefits aren’t any different than hearing “we pay $65-$70….. okay? I need to know the actual number to accept.

        Benefits really have the impact of a range like that–this uncertainty factor literally was hard-dollar-value of $5k to me, so maybe it would help you to reframe as “they didn’t know the specific difference between benefits the same way they did know salary, so now we can address that.” Benefits details are too often an unknown factor of an_offer_which is kinda crazy if you think of the ambiguity–it’s part of the offer just like salary.

    5. KatAlyst*

      Update already: the recruiter suggested a counter offer “range” of 5-10 over the offer, and noted the two points of concern directly but without the detailed numbers. (His thinking was we could ask for a specific number and they might either agree or split the difference, so this was a bit of a hedge between that or looking too far ahead of the offer.)
      As has been suggested the result of a range request is: they did agree to the lower number–so only do this if you’re really okay with that!
      I’m happy, as it offsets 90% of the “real” tax-adjusted impact for this year, but without bumping my bracket–and as everyone noted, more salary has long term ramifications, so I am happy with the counter.

      Now I just need to figure out how to spend my FSA by my separation date…. without risky behavior in a pandemic(?!?)


      1. AskJeeves*

        I had to spend $600 of FSA money in a rush before leaving a job. I bought a crapload of stuff from the FSA
        Store online (I think it’s literally fsastore .com). Now I have a years-long supply of BandAids and similar things, but there’s actually a surprisingly large selection of “wellness” products.

  12. Bernice Clifton*

    “I hope it signals that I’m giving them a bargain up-front, and then I’ll prove that I’m worth more with my actions. I think it also indicates that I’ll be expecting a raise in the future. If they intend never to give me a raise, this statement should trigger them to react or pull back.”

    I think even if this was a good strategy, it relies too much on them understanding exactly what you mean and expecting them to act accordingly.

    1. Allypopx*

      Which is a big gamble since a lot of people’s first reaction (mine certainly) will be “what the heck does that mean?”

    2. EmmaPoet*

      Yes, exactly. This expects the hiring manager to intuit what you’re going for, and then do what you want. When in reality, they’re likely to be confused, or they’re going to think, “This person will work cheap.”

  13. Cordoba*

    I don’t like this overall approach, but I do agree with the basic premise of “I don’t really care what their budget is”.

    If I already have a job I’m OK with that pays $X, it’s going to take at least $X to get me to switch employers. X isn’t going to change just because somebody’s budget is <X. The worst that happens is I don't get the job.

    I can go try to buy a new Tesla and tell dealers that I have a "budget" of $15k, but nobody is going to cut me a deal as a result.

    1. Czhorat*

      THe maddening thing is that it sounds as if the poster IS being thoughtful in some ways here; knowing your value based on industry norms and not trying to base your value on the employer’s budget is sensible. I feel that the one closing phrase about merit ruins what is an otherwise well-reasoned approach.

    2. CareerChanger*

      Also agree with this part. A person can go nuts trying to name a number that is reasonable but won’t “leave money on the table” by guessing at the budget.

    3. Colette*

      Except that in the OP’s case, the budget is X and she’s offering to work for X – 20%. It would be like you went to buy a new Tesla and offered them the usual price +20%.

  14. Raldeme*

    It’s not even the statement – which is off putting enough – that you’ll earn the rest through merit that would give me serious pause. It’s the strong r/iamverysmart vibe.

    1. Mental Lentil*

      Yes, this. It feels very manipulative.

      If a candidate tried this approach during a negotiation, I think we’d pass and go on to the next candidate. There are usually plenty to choose from.

    2. Paulina*

      Yes, it’s a good idea at the interview and negotiation stage to avoid saying anything that suggests to the hiring manager that they will dislike working with you.

    3. Batgirl*

      It’s definitely what an employer is going to think but to be fair to OP, I think they are just giving thought to where the overlap is between what they want and what the employer wants. It’s not like OP is circumventing an obvious and straightforward system for the sake of being clever clever. Often, there isn’t one. Employers don’t post ranges, lots still react pretty weirdly to negotiation; basing salary offers on previous salary is still common. It’s no wonder OP feels they need some extra credit before they can access the negotiation table. I do think they should heed your warning though. This move is going to read as “I’m so smart I came up with something you were too dumb to think of.” If employers want to pay less for a probation period, they would know that already. It’s harder to stick to your guns and find the right employer who knows how to assess salary from the get go, but it’s a much better move than offering yourself up as a bargain.

      1. Emilia Bedelia*

        To me, it comes across as very condescending. “I’m too good to follow hiring conventions, and you’re too stupid to appreciate my value right now, but let me assure you… I’m worth it.”

        In the vein of “hiring is like dating”, this reminds me of people who say “I don’t like talking to people over text/messages, I’d rather meet up in person” right off the bat. If you can’t convince me you’re worth a shot beforehand, then why would I invest time and effort into finding out?

        1. PT*

          “I’d rather meet up in person” = “I may or may not chop you up into tiny bits and shove you in my freezer.”

  15. lost academic*

    I want to know how this is working out since the OP leads with “here’s what I’ve been doing”. Has this resulted in job offers? Actual jobs? Then what?

    Sorry, OP, but you don’t sound like a bargain and just like Alison says, that’s not generally what sane, stable employers want to hire anyway. I could get past this as a hiring manager but then I’ll always be wondering what expectation of yours we wouldn’t be meeting and assume that you’re going to quit on me at a very awkward time. Hiring is a difficult process for everyone, this isn’t a risk I want to take.

    Hiring can look like a game, a lot like a game of bridge, except no one sits down and agrees on which conventions they’re going to employ beforehand, sadly. So the best option is to be honest, clear and up front about your expectations – not add to it with an additional confusing game like this.

    1. HumbleOnion*

      Yeah that’s a really good point. What is the success rate of this approach? And if it did succeed, how happy is the OP at the company that hired them? I can’t imagine myself being happy in an environment where this approach worked.

    2. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd (ENTP)*

      Yeah I was wondering that too. I speculated to myself that it hasn’t generated the wanted result yet, or OP would have mentioned that…

      Interestingly there isn’t a question in the OP (although I suppose there’s an implied question of “Alison / readers, what’s your take on this approach?”); it’s presented as just a statement that stands for itself!

        1. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd (ENTP)*

          :-) I somehow overlooked that the first, second and third time I read the letter!

        2. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd (ENTP)*

          Looking back again — I did read (though the punctuation doesn’t support it, of course): “how does that sound to you?”, as in the context of ““I’ll start for $120k/year and earn the rest through merit. How does that sound to you?”. That’s what it was!!

  16. SomebodyElse*

    Honestly, this really wouldn’t signal anything to me.

    You: “I’ll start for $120k/year and earn the rest through merit.”
    What I hear: “I’ll take $120K”
    What I think: Great that’s in my budget/Crap that’s too high for my budget/Woah, that’s way under my budget let’s look at experience (for all but ‘too high’)

    1. Lacey*

      Yeah, I mean, we’re all earning any performance based raises through merit so… this is a big song and dance about nothing.

    2. The New Wanderer*

      What I think is really odd is that the OP is putting a lot of thought into how the words will be interpreted and what it means in terms of future raises or whatever, but the exchange that SomebodyElse wrote is likely exactly what happens nearly every time.

      The whole approach is off-putting though because it still is a game, but one that no one is really playing except OP. If the OP has done all the legwork on establishing market rate and an appropriate salary, just … say that? No need to make yourself seem like a bargain by asking for less, no hoping that the “merit” phrasing will weed out non-raise giving places, and no hoping that you’ll get those raises to bring your salary up to what you might have asked for in the first place. Just ask for what you’re worth. *That* is how you don’t play the game.

    3. Anonymous Educator*

      If the budget for the position is $150K, that doesn’t mean that hiring someone for $120K reserves $30K for the new hire to get if they “earn it.” They agreed to work for $120K. That’s what they’re going to get, and HR or the business office or whatever will allocate that $30K to elsewhere.

  17. Flora*

    “Merit” some places is like, 1% every couple of years. I am not kidding. I once went for a bit over 8 years with excellent reviews and only a tiny COLA every 2 years; in EIGHT YEARS my total increase was about 4.5% because the merit process was hosed. OP, what would you do then? Or what if you and all eight of your peers are all very meritorious, but there’s a total pool of 10K for merit increases?

    1. Oranges*

      I was going to say that the recruiter has MUCH more leverage to determine your initial salary than your future boss. The recruiter can swing thousands of dollars based on what they’ve been authorized to offer. Your eventual boss will not likely have that level of latitude. Especially in a large company. My boss can only swing fractions of a percent beyond the department approved COLA increase each year. He fights for me, but those constraints on what we can offer are made many levels above him.

    2. Colette*

      And if I’m a manager in that kind of company (which is really common for big companies!), I don’t want to hire someone who will be dissatisfied in a year because they’re expecting a raise I can’t give.

    3. Miss Muffet*

      totally. I laughed out loud at the cola increases, as if that’s a sure thing. Maybe they don’t live in the US? But I’ve never worked somewhere where you def got cola and then some $ as merit. Mostly you just get your 2-3% merit raise if you’re lucky, and cola isn’t even considered.

    4. MCMonkeybean*

      Yeah, at my company there is a very specific formula that determines your bonus and your “merit” increase each year. They take into account how well the company as a whole is doing, how your team is performing, and your annual rating from 1-5. There is really no room for negotiating anything different.

  18. Cat Tree*

    “Their budget doesn’t determine my value. I used to play the “you blink first” game, but it’s ultimately unproductive.”

    I don’t think most negotiators view it as a “you blink first” game. I think it’s a little unusual that you view negotiations as adversarial, although certainly not rare.

    Negotiation doesn’t have to be a hardball approach to get every last penny, and it certainly doesn’t have to wait until an official offer is made. The best companies I’ve worked for have initiated a specific conversation to discuss salary before they even make an offer, and I have always ended up getting what I wanted in this cases. It’s still a negotiation even if it’s a polite conversation.

    Does anyone really give the advice that you should care about the company’s budget? It certainly wouldn’t matter the other way around. If they are budgeted for less than I’m worth, I won’t accept that offer. So if they make the right offer, of course I don’t care if they were budgeted for more and nobody has advised that I should care.

    It sounds like you got the advice to negotiate just for the sake of doing it. But that’s not really useful advice.

    1. Tech worker*

      At my company, the salary you come in at pretty much follows you forever because raises are fairly fixed. My coworkers and I are pretty transparent about pay, and I’ve figured out that I am the highest paid or at least one of the highest paid on my team, for no other reason than that I negotiated a lot when I first started. My coworker got lowballed when she got her offer and despite both of us having strong performance ratings and our manager trying his best to advocate for her to be paid more, was never able to get the level of raises necessary to catch up to my earnings trajectory. I don’t agree with doing things this way but it happens. So definitely ask for as much as you can reasonably get when you first get the offer, and don’t count on future raises to make up the difference.

      1. Batgirl*

        Which is how you get inequalities in salaries between genders and ethnicity etc because white men feel able to ask for more upfront. If it were common for salaries to be course corrected based on merit those inequalities wouldn’t still exist. Knowing the market rate and how to negotiate up-front is still the driving force for salaries.

      2. PollyQ*

        Even if they’re not that fixed, and higher performers get significantly more, raises are very often done by percentages. So if you’re earning $120k and you get a 10% raise, while your colleague earns $150k and gets no raise at all, you’re still earning less.

    2. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd (ENTP)*

      if they make the right offer, of course I don’t care if they were budgeted for more and nobody has advised that I should care.

      I think there can be a bit of a “left money on the table unnecessarily” sentiment there though? (Perhaps not for you here, I don’t know, but sometimes for people in this type of situation.)

      Depending on the role and whether there are ‘comparators’ in the company – isn’t it possible that they’d budgeted a certain amount based in part on what other people are already paid for the same/similar role in the same company and that you’d be earning less as a result? (Not necessarily tied to gender or any other discriminatory reason, but just e.g. llama groomers are typically paid 45 magic beans per year, the salary range logged with HR is 35-50 so we will offer 40. And the new person is earning 10% less than their colleagues from the outset with no realistic way of making up the difference.)

  19. Johanna*

    Honestly, this approach would make me cringe and question their overall judgement. It just sounds like they’d be short changing yourself. Why wait six months/a year before you start earning what you could have been earning from the start? That’s if you get a raise. Two other things jump out at me. 1) The candidate might also rate themselves hirer than they actually are, and not earn a raise. 2) An employer might be in the position to give a raises to a good workers at the start of the employment, but things may change (i.e. Covid, change in senior leadership, etc.) and that might be off the table. I don’t think I know anyone that actually got a raise that they were informally promised in the hiring phase.

  20. sequined histories*

    I don’t hire people, so take my opinion with a grain of salt. Also, I’m an English teacher, so maybe I’m paying more attention to the exact phrasing than others would.

    The phrase “and earn the rest on merit” really bothers me because it seems to imply that you’d be earning the first $120,000 just for showing up. I’m 100% sure that’s not what you mean, but I’d be irritated by the imprecise language. Like, if someone said this to me, my impulse would be to ask for clarification. I’d also worry about the clarity of any writing you might be produce, although there are plenty of jobs where other skills are much more important.

    I suspect Alison is correct that this is not a great strategy, but if you persist with it, maybe it would better to go into a bit more detail: “I’d be excited to start at $120,000. and I would hope that after a year or so, there would be room in the pay structure for me to earn $130,000 based on my proven contributions to x, y, and z.”

    That feels a little cringe-y to me—being so blunt—which is maybe why you’re keeping it so vague. On the other hand, there are fields where it’s more common to be very blunt about money.

    But honestly, if you keep it vague, it could mean anything or nothing, so I’m not sure it’s actually helping you, and if you’re really low-balling yourself, it’s probably harmful because—after all—you’re the one who suggested $120,000 was appropriate compensation in the first place.

      1. Dee*

        It looks from other commenters there is maybe a meaning of merit that would be better understood as something like “a specific raise or bonus”, but if not all hiring managers understood that, that would be another problem for the LW using this approach.

  21. BRR*

    Well, this is a new one for me so that’s exiting. What would concern me, in addition to what “the rest” was, is wondering if you would always expect large raises/bonuses? A lot of industries just don’t do that.

    I get where you’re coming from, I really do, but it’s just not how things work. Strong candidates don’t take this approach and if a company is only interested in bargains, they’re not just looking for a bargain up front. Plus a company doesn’t have to follow through with a raise. Sure you could then leave; but you’ll have a lost a lot of potential earnings and you then have a short stint on your resume you might have to explain (or the possibility of multiple short stints).

    1. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd (ENTP)*

      if a company is only interested in bargains, they’re not just looking for a bargain up front.

      And this made me think: what if the company takes a similarly short-term / bargain-orientated / ‘whatever you want to call it’ approach elsewhere? Is that someone you’d (generic you, obviously) want to work for?

      Strong candidates don’t take this approach

      I wonder if OP feels she is coming at this ‘negotiation’ from a position of strength, or weakness, actually? On the one hand it’s quite a statement of faith in their abilities (which I’m not doubting!) to say: hire me at a discount rate and I’m confident I’ll prove my true ‘worth’ to you after a short while. On the other… “the only way to win is not to play”, etc: going off-piste outside of the usual ‘playbook’ of negotiations, is it because of a perceived lack of strength in a ‘conventional’ application? I wonder.

      It would be really interesting to hear from OP as to how and why they developed this approach. OP – are you reading?

    2. londonedit*

      Definitely. And, I mean…I don’t want to present myself as ‘a bargain’! I want to present myself as a professional who will do a professional job and be an asset to the company. This kind of thing totally wouldn’t fly in my area of work/my industry – getting any sort of pay rise is like getting blood from a stone, there isn’t much money to go round and salaries are notoriously low, so if someone came in with this sort of aggressive negotiation tactic it would just mark them out as being absolutely clueless about the way the industry works.

  22. Lana Kane*

    Get the most you can at first because merit raises are not always a thing (even when employers tell you they are). Don’t shortchange yourself.

  23. NYC Taxi*

    This comes across as an applicant playing games with me, and this approach would make me give pause. I would probably give you an interview if your resume was particularly strong, but I would nail down exactly what the salary would be, what is expected of you, and there would be no “the rest”. With the amount of competition in my industry I have so many people to chose from that I can easily reject a candidate who’s playing games with me or is acting so extra.

    1. NotAnotherManager!*

      It does come across and game-playing, and I would want more specifics about what “the rest” is and when that would be expected because that is not the way we roll at my organization. We spend a lot of time on keeping pay equitable and at market, so I can’t underpay someone by X amount and then give them an enormous raise. I’m going to start out paying someone market (taking into account their skills and experience), and, if they are not able to do the job well, we’ll look at coaching and termination. If they’re amazing at it, they will get a higher-end raise and bonus and opportunities to advance.

      It’s possible that this is acceptable in other industries or organizations, but this just isn’t something I’ve experienced and HR’s not going to let me hire someone at under market value for some sort of hiring gimmick. We try very hard to be straightforward and fair, and I don’t need someone else trying to game-playing negotiation tactics into our process.

  24. Me*

    Yeah this would come across very weird to me. To the point I would questions whether if I was wrong about you being the right person for the job. If we’re at the point of negotiating salary you don’t have to “sell” me on you any longer and I’m not interested in playing games. Just tell me your number. If for some reason salary has come up before offer stage than that kind of statement comes across as some form of desperation – let me prooooove to you I can do a good job. It doesn’t make me feel like you are a strong capable candidate who is confident in their abilities.

    The only thing I can get on board with is not worrying about their budget and having things to backup your desired salary.

  25. Essess*

    This just seemed so bizarrely uncooperative. As an interviewer, I don’t know if you are expecting to make a bunch of bonuses, or commissions, or expecting merit raises. You say you’ll earn the “rest” which means you do expect base + additional to add up to some other number. I have no idea what you are going to say/do if I don’t give you a ‘merit’ raise in some predetermined amount of time in your head if you’re not reaching your ‘rest’ goal.

    Just be forthright instead of sounding cagey about actual expectations. I would find this very off-putting to have this answer when I’m just trying to identify your actual expectations to see if we can work with them.

    1. KayAay*

      “I have no idea what you are going to say/do if I don’t give you a ‘merit’ raise in some predetermined amount of time in your head if you’re not reaching your ‘rest’ goal.”

      Exactly. If you’re being offered $120K, and you accept it, I assume you plan to show up with all the merit on Day 1 that you’re being paid for. It’s fine to have goals for moving up the ladder by showing what you can do, but that’s your plan where you show what MORE you can do and ask what the company can do for you after that. No hiring manager wants to have a good but angry performer on their hands after just one year if “the rest” doesn’t magically appear.

  26. Paulina*

    My first thought is that the OP would be a headache, though not intentionally. Unless this is a super-small organization, they have a salary structure and policies that they’ve decided to use and would prefer to stick with. There may also be equity issues involved. A potential employee that sounds like they want to have a bespoke salary structure, to be worked out as they go just for them, sounds like they’ll be more trouble than the short-term bargain will gain the company. How much work do they expect the company (eg. the manager, management structure, HR) to do just for the OP to ensure that they’re paid appropriately, when they could have just asked for more in the first place? It sounds like they’re trying to get the salary structure to conform to their unsaid expectations instead of deciding for themselves whether what the company does suits them.

    The wording also sounds like “I’m a rockstar and you’re going to love me so much you’ll volunteer to pay me more,” which is a pretty aggressive attitude to push. Will the OP’s need to earn that raise make them act hypercompetitively at work, or threaten to leave? Any employee could leave, especially if not paid appropriately, but it’s a different matter to deliberately set the situation up that way on entry.

    1. I'm A Little Teapot*

      Even very small companies might have issues with this. I’m dealing with that right now – my negotiation request nearly scuttled the offer because the recruiter phrased the request in a way that was too tough. It’s giving me valuable information about the company which is nice, but I do actually want the job. I think I salvaged the situation, but it wasn’t necessary to get it to the point where I needed to salvage it!

  27. LadyByTheLake*

    This is very tone deaf and displays a lack of understanding about how most companies work. As a boss at large companies, I often had only a very limited budget each year to allocate to raises, so in order to give one person more of a raise, that meant shorting someone else. If someone was particularly deserving of a special raise, I had to make a special request, explaining why they should get more of a raise — usually because their job duties had changed. The expectation was that they came in at the right salary and every change after that was carefully controlled and monitored. There would be zero possibility that someone could go from $120k at start to $150k a year (or two or three) later without a major change in their job.

  28. KHB*

    I’m in the nonprofit world, so things may work differently in the kind of jobs you’re looking for, but to me, this would sound like you’re looking to play games that aren’t consistent with our standard policy for allocating raises. Our board allocates a pool of raise money every year that’s a percentage of the sum of everyone’s salaries, and then that gets divvied up amongst everyone in a way that (supposedly, but that’s another comment for another time) corresponds to merit. But the variance in raises is not large – the top performers may bet 4% in a year when most people get 2.5%. There’s no mechanism to make an exception for someone who deliberately pitched himself as a bargain with the expectation of getting a gigantic raise once he’s wowed us all with his merit. You don’t get a 25% raise unless eight other people get nothing, and any manager is going to find that a hard sell.

    If you want to know what your prospects are for getting raises, you should do that by asking what your prospects are for getting raises – not by pitching your ridiculous scheme and waiting for the employer to flinch.

    1. KHB*

      …and also, this idea that you know you’re going to prove yourself so meritorious that the employer will be falling all over themselves to give you a giant raise is just as misguided as the idea of pitching yourself as by far the best candidate in the applicant pool. Just like you have no idea how good the other applicants for the job are, you have no idea what it will take to wow the bosses at an organization you don’t yet work for – even setting aside the question of how that merit translates into dollar-value raises.

  29. Pumpkin215*

    The LW is also assuming there are significant merit increases. There may not be. I’ve worked at places that had a max of 3% per year- no matter how well you did. You could be a superstar worker and not receive more than 3%. I’ve also worked at companies that had a though year and slashed or eliminated merit increases. I think this is a bad approach. Get the money up front and prove that you earned it.

    1. Anonym*

      “Get the money up front and prove that you earned it.”

      This. This is what most hiring managers expect when they hire someone. We know it’s a risk – it always is, on both sides.

      Between how the organization values the work of the role, and how well I think you’re going to do it (well, if we’re negotiating salary!), I have a not-very-wide range. I’d much rather have a good employee/colleague who will happily stay for a good few years than a worse fit that saves me $30k and is frustrated that we don’t hand out 25% raises. $30k which, by the by, I can’t exactly pocket to redo my kitchen – if I’m lucky I can move it to another budget line (if it’s at JUUUUST the right time of year), but more likely it’s just lost.

      Wishing you well, OP! It doesn’t sound like this method represents the thoughtful, strategic candidate that you are. Oh, and for the love of all that is good and fair, PLEASE try to negotiate. For better or worse, it’s normal. Get everything you can up front – it’s the closest you can get to a guarantee, and nobody gives out back pay for being awesome before you got that raise/promotion. It’s all dollars lost.

      1. Anonym*

        A further thought on negotiation: it’s uncomfortable, but slap on a smile and rip off that band-aid. Negotiation and lack of salary transparency is hugely harmful on a societal level, but letting that fact harm you too isn’t going to help dig us out of this issue. Get those dollars at the negotiating table, take up the fight for equality and transparency everywhere else. ;)

  30. Parenthesis Dude*

    This absolutely could work, but you need to be very familiar with the company’s culture before doing this.

    For example, one of my friends got a programming job at a big insurance firm. Their culture is such that after three months, they assess how you perform and adjust your salary accordingly. He did better then they thought, and got a two grade promotion and a big raise to go with it. In this case, it would make sense to say start me at $120k and I’ll show you what I’m really worth.

    But this only works at a company that’s willing to pay people fairly, and doesn’t like turnover.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      That’s a very specific situation. In general, companies that pay people fairly and don’t like turnover aren’t going to respond well to this strategy for the reasons in the post.

    2. Decidedly Me*

      If they company already operates this way, though, you don’t need to do this. Ask for what you think your time/skills for the job are worth at the beginning and then still get a raise at 3 months. If you wind up in the same place either way, you’d just be making less for the first 3 months by offering an early “discount”.

      1. Parenthesis Dude*

        1) The company presumably had no interest in my friend to start for a position two levels higher. It was either take the job offered and prove yourself or go elsewhere. If you’re working with a company that will do something like this, that’s not an unreasonable gamble to make.

        2) Presumably this person has his minimum for a reason. If they offered $120k, he was willing to take the risk that they’d think he was so valuable he’d get a raise to $140k. If they offered $90k, he wasn’t willing to take that risk.

  31. LizM*

    I tend to prefer candidates who communicate directly, so this type of gamesmanship is really off-putting. There are just too many unspoken assumptions and opportunities for mismatched expectations.

  32. Rich*

    In contracts, generally, ambiguity in an agreement is construed against the person who wrote the agreement. You’re taking a deliberately ambiguous approach to avoid “playing the game”, and that ambiguity is all on you. You’re giving an employer countless outs to being able to satisfy an unclear expectation on “the rest” without giving you what you actually want.

    Negotiate what you want, be clear about it. It will not work in your favor if you don’t.

  33. BabyElephantWalk*

    Oh, no. Everything about this wording puts me off, and if there had been any hesitation in the hiring decision I might be rethinking things. It sounds like something a difficult coworker would say.

    Everyone else is reacting to the “earn the rest later” portion, but you’ve lost me at “I’ll start for X”. It’s a negotiation, not a take it or leave it menu. If your number is off, you’ve come across so firmly on it that either you will end up accepting too little, or asking for too much and stalling negotiation/tanking the offer.

  34. Carno*

    You’re definitely signalling something with this, OP, but I don’t think it’s anything you want to be signalling.

    I’d be grateful to see this, though, if I was hiring, because it’s a very clear and obvious red flag that would let me discard your application without any further issue. I tend to fret over rejecting applicants, but anyone trying to pull this nonsense would be an easy nope.

  35. Tinker*

    Researching salary figures in your area and concluding that 120-150k is a reasonable market price based on this data: yes, good step. I don’t see though a mention of similarly researching how “I’ll earn $120k now and the rest through merit” tends to or is likely to work as a marketing statement in your industry. Has that been done? How did that turn out? What do people who have a view into the positions you’re looking at think about it?

    I can about distantly imagine that there are industries where this or something like it might be a good move — where standard practice is to have a significant portion of pay tied to individual incentives, say, such as sales. Not to say this would work in sales — I don’t know, never having done it.

    For me, while I might make a proposition for basically the same thing, I’d more likely phrase it as “I’m looking for this position now, which goes for about $120k, and I’m aiming to grow in the direction of that position (which we commonly know to be a $150k thing)”. I’ve also had it happen a couple times where employers have either proposed “we’ll hire you as this and look to promote you to that” or “we have hired you as this, and dang son, we’re now promoting you to that”. From weight of personal experience, private discussions with peers, and various industry discussions over the years, I can say what reasonably typical ways to have that conversation are, and these are them.

    If I were to say “I’ll earn the rest through merit”, though, my estimate is that I’d look — accurately — like I didn’t understand how compensation worked in my field at all, which while not a core responsibility is something that it’d be odd if I didn’t know. When I do hear about an unconventional move like that being successful, it’s in the form of “this one time I heard a guy did” rather than “the people I’ve seen on the whole tend to” — hence, it’s not likely a solid strategy in a field that tends to have a more deterministic flavor to career narratives.

    Your data may differ. What does your data say?

    There’s a legitimate give-and-take about how to send appealing signals with your persona — there are multiple paths to the same goal, often times, and also there are some things that should be and sometimes actually are not deeply and harshly read into. But if your idea here is to construct a strategy to produce a desired effect, why not construct it in the same systematic way you hopefully do whatever it is that you’re looking to get hired to do?

    1. Tinker*

      Hmm. Another thing I thought of too:

      A common element in the “$X now and $X+Y” later conversations I’ve seen not be completely unsuccessful is that it’s generally not treating the $X+Y part as a component of the actual salary negotiation, because the $X+Y part is not intended to appear in the offer letter (except in the case of a firmly defined thing like $X+Y after 90-day review, generally for relatively small Y). The talk about what the future may hold and how much money is in it is a conversation that is had, but it’s more of a part of the mutual fit-finding component of the process where you’re finding out if you like the brand of beer in their keg. The negotiation phase is about actually making specific promises that generally roll out in the relatively near term — if they can predict firmly enough to promise it that you will be worth $X+Y in a year, you’re probably worth $X+Y now.

      Mixing up those items is notorious for causing a lot of problems as employees expect one (1) pie to appear in the sky precisely 365 days hence, and employers speak of the delivery of said pie in very definite sounding terms, but oooo yeah that was really meant to be a metaphorical pie in the metaphorical sky not an actual pie that is now due oh yikes today, and who is responsible for last year’s understanding is unclear, but it is clear that everyone is sad now.

      If it’s not in the offer letter then it’s a nice happy thought, and if it’s not meant to go in the offer letter it’s not a material part of the offer negotiation.

      1. No Sleep Till Hippo*

        I just have to say, the phrase “one (1) pie” made me snort – well said. :)

        This does come across as distinctly sales-y, in the same vein as “Never say ‘no problem’ because then you’ll make people think there could have been a problem.” (A sales guy I worked with said that to me over a decade ago and I still have no idea why he thought that was good advice. Particularly for a receptionist.)

        Ultimately all this kind of stuff comes off looking like you’re trying to find some sort of psychological Konami Code – like if you can literally push people’s buttons in just the right way you’ll skip to the part where you win?

      2. WS*

        I’ve seen X now, X+Y later when an applicant is otherwise good and the job is open now, but the applicant but needs extra certification or to finish a nearly-finished qualification to be able to undertake all the job’s duties. But that’s very clearly defined as X now because the company is going to have to have someone else do that extra part of your job for 1/2/3 months, then X+Y because that’s what the full salary for the position would have been for someone as good but fully qualified.

        My brother negotiated his salary this way because he’d previously worked as an in-house lawyer but his predecessor had an extra qualification (which was an unusual one for lawyers to have) that made a lot of sense for this particular company. They knew they were unlikely to get someone with the same combination, and in fact they didn’t, so they were happy to go with “lawyer now, extra qualification in the next six months, full salary then”.

  36. Rusty Shackelford*

    I used to play the “you blink first” game, but it’s ultimately unproductive. The only winning move is not to play.

    Except you are playing. A different game, maybe, but you’re definitely playing a game.

    1. Anonymous Educator*

      Isn’t “you blink first” the candidate naming a desired salary of any kind? Isn’t that the whole ridiculous game? The candidate asks what you pay? You ask the candidate what salary they want? No one names a number?

  37. SheLooksFamiliar*

    Corporate recruiting here. If someone approached salary with me the way the OP did, I wouldn’t be impressed, for all the reasons Alison and others outlined.

    This part stood out to me: ‘I hope it signals that I’m giving them a bargain up-front, and then I’ll prove that I’m worth more with my actions.’ Despite what candidates might think, employers aren’t looking for bargains on salary – they’re looking for performers who know how to bargain appropriately regarding salary.

    OP, please don’t assume the employer sees this topic the way you do. Be clear about your targets, and don’t try wheel and deal. Your approach just doesn’t present you in a positive light.

  38. Intheboondocks*

    I kinda like his strategy. As the hiring manager, I’d know what his number was, and it would open up a conversation into our strategy for raises and promotions, and then gets me thinking about what performance I should be expecting.

    1. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd (ENTP)*

      Any chance you can elaborate? (I’ve replied to you because I think so far you are the only voice I’ve seen expressing this sentiment!) … Given the situation in the OP how would you progress the “conversation into our strategy for raises and promotions”? e.g. would you be clear that raises etc are on a defined ‘tariff’ or would you potentially be open to that $30k raise after the first year? Would you think they had weakened their position by saying something like this? Would you put additional (compared to someone hired in a more “conventional” negotiation) expectations for performance? Would it make you re-think expectations for ‘whoever has this role’ more generally?

      1. Intheboondocks*

        Sure. If a candidate said, “I’ll start for $120k/year and earn the rest through merit.” I’d be happy they immediately named their acceptable salary, and if it was within the range we were offering, I’d say great, or if it was outside of the range, I could respond with our range (of course being outside of our range might be a dealbreaker).

        I’d then say how our pay structure works, and what performances would need to be expected to receive a raise of X next year. We could have a discussion of what that would look like, and I could give a realistic preview of what future raises would look like. “If you’re a real rock star, 10% is just possible.” And if the candidate was expecting to get a 20% raise next year, he’d know that he’ll have to deliver the CEO’s baby in the elevator to score that high.

    2. AnonymousNin*

      Are you, by chance, the OP? There is such an overwhelming opposition to this approach, that I’m genuinely curious.

      1. Intheboondocks*

        lol, no. I was worried I’d get put on blast for disagreeing with the majority of commentators though! glad to see my fear was unfounded

  39. DG*

    I’m cringing really hard at someone positioning themselves as a “bargain.” I’m a person with valuable skills and experiences, not a half-price sweater on clearance in August or a wilted bag of lettuce marked down to sell before it expires.

    Besides, even if an employee DID take the bait on this arrangement, there are so many things that can go wrong before you’d get your first raise. The company could put a freeze on all compensation increases (due to, I don’t know, the prolonged effects of a never-ending pandemic?!), you could get a new manager who won’t honor any previously-promised raises, you could have a steeper learning curve/more demanding manager than expected, you could face a significant personal crisis that prevents you from performing at your best, etc.

    1. irene adler*

      Yeah, lots of things could go wrong.
      Most immediately – what’s the definition of “merit” or “merit pay”?
      Cuz here, we get -maybe- a 1% to 2 % merit pay raise each year. And management acts like they had to scrimp and save to provide this.

    2. Rusty Shackelford*

      “I’m a bargain!” sounds like something your parents would suggest. As others have said, it’s a little too much like “I’ll work a week for free to show you how great I am!”

  40. twocents*

    This makes me glad that negotiating isn’t a thing at my employer. You can look up any job and see what the requirements are and what it pays (with adjustments for high cost of living areas). There’s no “well, you’re kind of a lousy negotiator, so you’re just f–ked.”

  41. Beth*

    This sounds like a ‘gumption’ strategy to me. It hits the same as “I’ll work for a week for free, I guarantee you’ll want to hire me after seeing what I can do” type approaches. This kind of approach makes me think a couple things about the speaker, none of them good: 1) that they have very little concept of professional norms; 2) that they think very highly of themselves and may not be very receptive to criticism or feedback; and 3) that they think pulling stunts is the way to get ahead, and may not do a great job of following policies and guidelines once they’re onboarded.

    I’m not saying this could never work–it might, for example, be a plus in an interview for a role that’s advertised as having a $120k base salary plus the potential for a substantial performance-based bonus. But the situations where it will be read as a positive are few and far between, and the rest of the time, it’s likely to be actively off-putting. In almost all cases, I think you’re better off following standard professional norms than trying to gumption your way into a lucky break.

  42. I Never Comment, But...*

    This approach, and the confidence the OP has in how bad it is, just reeks of privilege…

    1. lost academic*

      I think it’s more about the “don’t be the first to show your hand” ethos of the salary negotiation. The presumption is that everyone wants to “win”, when in reality it’s not usually controlled by this kind of action. If you tell them what you’re considering you might somehow leave money on the table if they were willing to pay more, and they don’t want to tell you a range in case you’d do it for less. There’s going to be times where it’s true of the hiring manager (especially in small companies) but I’m guessing it’s not really that normal. Also – from my perspective – it’s a lot more about agreeing to the fit (back to my bridge analogy). What do my interests and skills and experience support as compared to the role you want to fill? Where do we both want to go professionally? I might be willing to do more for more money, but there’s a limit. Same as, I might at times in my life want to step back and do less and accept less for it, but again, there’s a limit.

  43. D3*

    So….the “only winning move” is to undercut yourself as a “bargain” with no guarantee of earning “the rest”?
    Cool, cool. Sounds legit!

  44. Miss Muffet*

    is anyone else thinking these $100K+ figures the OP posted are not the real salary bands they are considering? Because I have a hard time believing someone making that much (as another commenter said, senior management or higher) would think this arrogant and off-putting approach would actually work. This feels like entry-level, straight outta college (or one job post-college) chutzpah.

    1. Nanani*

      I thought the opposite, and pictured someone who hasn’t had to job search (and presumably wasn’t involved in hiring) since at least before 2008 found themselves job hunting because of covid.

      Or perhaps they never have and never will do this because it’s a fever dream and not how the real work world works.

    2. PollyQ*

      There are non-managerial technical jobs in high COL areas that pay this well. I wouldn’t be suprised to learn that OP has been working a while in a role like that.

    3. Tinker*

      When I got to thinking about it, I was wondering if this was entry-level tech in one of the higher-price markets. It’s not the price I would name off the top of my head for that in my area, but it’s also not one that I would be shocked by for one of the big names or for a particularly in-demand area of focus.

      I also, after getting over the distraction of the particular numbers which were not the ones I was getting starting out, saw that it could be the pattern I remember experiencing of getting out of school, saying “that’s a lot of money though and I wouldn’t pay that much for me, and also I really just want a job”.

      In that case I would say — go on, take the money and run. When I was starting out, I didn’t quite get that while money is important to companies, it’s not important in the same way to a person who is inclined to try to eat nothing but the cheapest pot pies in the grocery store for a month in order to save up for some kind of super expensive thing like a pocket knife with a satisfyingly clever locking mechanism. Make your case that you’re qualified for the job they’re offering, and if the going rate for that is $150k, then if you get it you’re going to be making $150k — presuming that’s a good offer in the context of your available alternatives.

      It’s not a matter of a staredown to see who blinks first, in that case, it’s a matter of taking up the amount of space that is reasonable for you to take up and seeing who out there has a hole in their company that size. Overinflation is a problem too, but shrinking yourself won’t improve your odds except with people who are selecting for that tendency.

      With regard to that sort, while there is a certain extent to which a job is a job, learning and getting your initial trajectory of career accomplishments from people who are not doing right bites back. Learning “work norms” isn’t about learning how to wear weird clothes and not say no to anything — a lot of what I’m saying here is stuff I learned or had reinforced from my first manager, and having a manager who taught me that stuff early on instead of some of the other things I could have learned from less honorable people helped me avoid a lot of trouble and get out of some of the trouble I didn’t end up able to avoid.

    4. fhqwhgads*

      It’s not necessarily senior management. If you’re an exempt software engineer in CA, 98K is bare minimum. That’s just one example.

  45. Sometime HM*

    I agree that as a hiring manager, I’d be put off. As Alison states, once you’re hired, there are often fixed rules that govern raises despite coming in with a lowball starting salary and hoping to “earn” your way up. It signals a lack of awareness of business norms to me.

  46. Anonymity*

    I don’t know. It seems like just another quirky almost flippant interview ploy. Rest on your career and educational laurels, negotiate a salary you think is fair, and skip the gimmicks.

  47. Roquefort*

    My experience is that employers who want a bargain up-front will also want a bargain when it comes time to give raises. Of course, that 0.3% raise they expect you to be grateful for also costs them less if your salary is lower to begin with, so it’s a win-win for an unethical employer.

  48. Lauren*

    To paraphrase the movie Singles: I think you are playing a game, and saying “I’m not playing the game” is your game.

  49. Anonymous Educator*

    I’ve had several jobs that hired me for a certain amount, I did a great job in, and then my boss got me an unsolicited major raise. But I can’t imagine in any of those job interviews saying that I can be a bargain up front, and that I will earn “the rest” because I’m so amazing.

    1. Roquefort*

      I wouldn’t be surprised if it “worked” in the sense that you could get hired this way, but I doubt anyone would actually want to work at a company that responded to this tactic.

  50. Des*

    I would find this negotiating approach unnecessarily adversarial. The one thing the statement conveys is the OP is very certain of themselves. It might work in certain work environments — and clearly if the OP is commanding that rate of pay they’re successful at advocating for themselves — but I would side-eye the rest of the interview for ‘fit’.

  51. Boring username*

    I’d be very reluctant to hire someone who came out with that – it’s very odd, rather combative, and what other odd things are you going to do or say if I hire you?

    Related companies should just publish the salary they want to pay and let people choose if the job works for them. It stops pay inequality and avoids salary guessing chicken.

  52. Frustrated Fitness Professional*

    As a member of the gender frequently underpaid by at least 30%, I have to scratch my head at anyone who thinks it’s a good idea to walk into a job for anything less than market rate for their skills and experience… and if you are being paid what your work is worth, what exactly are you leaving on the table to “earn” with “merit?” Especially when the whole concept of “merit” is highly subjective?

    An awful lot of people never get the chance to expect a fair assessment of their “merit” in the workplace. It could be very risky to assume you’re not one of them.

  53. Smallferret*

    I manage in a unionized government agency. My current pay rate is based on my entry pay rate from when I started with this government, 16 years ago. There are no merit raises; pay is bargained as a part of the union contract.
    So this would fall flat on it’s face in any remotely similar environment, in addition to what so many others have said.

  54. MCMonkeybean*

    This really seems like a lose-lose strategy to me. On the employer’s side it’s not appealing because it seems vague and confusing and out of touch and on your side it’s bad because you are basically asking them to underpay you with no reason to believe they would ever follow through on “the rest.”

  55. learnedthehardway*

    Beyond what everyone else has said about misaligned expectations about what a raise might look like later, and how the approach seems aggressive (all of which I agree with), it also comes off as arrogant and would be a yellow flag to me that the person might not be a very good team member.

    Now, possibly, you’d be thinking that you’d be an awesome team member in addition to being amazing at your actual function, but you’ve just told the manager that your performance will be so outstanding that they will be willing to give you a significant raise after a year. They already have a team of presumably competent and high performing employees, and they probably won’t be giving everyone a huge raise this year. So, you’ve just implied rather strongly that a) you’re better than everyone else, and b) you’re better than the people the manager has already hired (which possibly calls their judgment into question).

    As a manager, I would be wondering whether this statement means you’ll be a cooperative team member or a hyper-competitive one, and given the tone-deafness, I’d be betting on the latter.

  56. Data Bear*

    Other people have already covered the downsides to this general approach in plenty of detail, but I thought I’d mention that there’s something about the specific wording offered that I find off-putting.

    Saying “I’ll start at X” sounds like a command, not a request. It’s a statement that implies that what will happen is in the speaker’s control. And even though it’s a hypothetical, I had a visceral reaction to reading it that was basically: “Oh, you think so, do you? We’ll just see about that.” Which is… not what you want someone considering hiring you to be thinking.

    Now, I think it’s highly likely that OP was not offering that as an exact quote, but as a general paraphrase. And if it were phrased with some give-and-take, I wouldn’t have that reaction. “I was thinking I’d start at X” is just fine, as is “How about this: I’ll start at X” and so on. But along with the advice about not using this approach in general, I would recommend steering clear of that kind of authoritative declaration in a hiring situation, because if it’s not about something that really is under your control, you run the risk of sparking a contrarian impulse in the interviewer.

  57. fhqwhgads*

    This approach says to me, you’re assuming I’m going to attempt to screw you over on salary, and since I don’t do that, now at worst I think you’re sketchy that you think that is so normal you’ll tell me to my face you expect it of me, and at best you’re not sketchy, but you still think I am.
    Now, this technique would also not work with me because at the beginning of the first interview I would’ve told you the range for the position and confirmed it aligned with your expectations. So sticking with the letter’s described strategy would land especially oddly after that type of interaction. I “don’t play the game” by being clear about the range waaaaaaaaaaaaay before we’d be talking offer.
    Everyone’s saying it but I’ll say it again because it’s that true: the type of hiring environment that would be receptive to this approach is probably a crappy place to work.

  58. WS*

    After all, inflation is 2.3%/year, and that’s important to take that into account.

    This struck me as odd – inflation is considerably below that in most developed countries. Maybe the OP is from somewhere with a business culture where this is reasonable, and is checking with Alison to see if it applies in the US as well?

    1. Peter Piper Picked a Peck of Pickled Peppers*

      Good point, and I didn’t pick that up because I live in a country where inflation is much higher!

    2. Roquefort*

      U.S. inflation was 2.3% in 2019, so I wonder if they might be taking that as a baseline without realizing that that doesn’t happen every year.

  59. Peter Piper Picked a Peck of Pickled Peppers*

    “I do give a great deal of thought about the price tag I place upon myself, and I back it up with facts about what the local market bears (just in case) and usually stand firm”

    Is 120K the amount you think is fair, based on your research? In which case, what is the “more” you are expecting?

    Or is 120k the “discounted” amount, and you are hoping to show that you are worth the full market-related salary, maybe 150k?

    Also, WHY are you doing this? Is it to make yourself memorable, or to make yourself a more appealing hire to a manager who wants to save money on salaries?

  60. Ben Marcus Consulting*

    On the flip, I had an employee that held firm at $15k below my ask with the premise that this would be paid to me if I showed A, B, and C. 6 weeks after I started and had already knocked A out of the ballpark, I was informed that the money would never be paid to me because that’s ‘taking money out of his pocket’.

    Salary negotiations are part of the process of identifying red flags.

  61. Greg*

    Agree that the OP’s wording isn’t great. I’ve taken to answering the salary question with something along these lines: “Based on my research, the market rate for this position is around $X. Is that in line with what you’re thinking for this role?” I like that because a) it demonstrates that I’ve done my homework, and b) it centers the conversation around “market rate” rather than what I’m hoping to get, and c) it subtly pressures them to say that they pay it, because who wants to pay below market rate? Of course, it’s hardly foolproof. Most importantly, if you’re going to say something like that you better be damn sure that you’re right. If you say market rate is $X and it’s actually 0.5X, you’re going to look incredibly out of touch. In general, I would say it’s far better suited for a situation where you are already employed and you know what it would take to get you to leave.

  62. Marie*

    Yeah, I don’t like this at all. We hired someone last year who said “it’ll be frank because I really want to work for this company – I need $x amount to start and I’d like performance and salary reviews at 60 days and 6 months.” When it came time for reviews, suddenly there were actually demands for money, which quickly turned into a 20% raise in just over a year, so that this person is now paid higher than 2/3 of the other people who hold their title, despite this person having FAR less experience. This person is good, but not that good. But in the middle of a project, we felt held over the fire, and it’s left a really bad taste in my mouth. At some point soon, we will not be able to meet their demands and will lose them. Be clear about your expectations!

Comments are closed.