Got called for an interview for a job I think will be a huge pay cut.

Of course I’m going to the interview - it would be a great job and it’s not like I don’t need the interview practice. I do have a job that pays well but the institution is doing a lot of things I find personally and professionally repugnant. But the last time I applied for a job at the interview location, I asked how much they were paying for this position and they told me a number that’s about 12K less than I make now. This was a few years ago.

I’m not going to ask now, I’m going to wait to see if I get an offer and then try to negotiate, I guess. If I get it. Now, this job would be a breath of fresh air for me and professionally a step in the right direction, but money is TIGHT right now. My husband isn’t making near what he ought to be making, and he’s had a really hard time getting a better job. Plus we have a toddler.

And yet, it’s pretty bad here and it’s only going to get worse. I can see the future and it is soul crushing.

So… negotiating. With that big a difference, surely it would be a mistake to do what I would normally think you would do and ask for more than you want, right? (This would be at a small private college which doesn’t have one of those giant endowments or anything; it may well be that the figure I was quoted was all the budget can afford, period.) But if I quote my current salary surely they’re only going down?

How exactly would you negotiate this? And by how, I mean “what exactly would you say”? I have never done this before and am pretty uncomfortable with it, which I know is one reason why women don’t negotiate and then get crappy deals. But how can you tell if they really have nothing more to give you, as opposed to they just don’t want to? I mean, I AM in a position where I can just walk away… but this could be the best chance I’ve had in years.

How do I know when to say yes? (Obviously you can’t tell me that.) I mean what if I say no, and then two weeks later my husband does get that better job and I could have taken it?! Ugh, this is killing me and I haven’t even gone to the interview yet.

You have a job so you are in a good bargaining position. Asking for more than you want isn’t a good tactic for salaries, ask them for what you want and make it a good number. If they come in less ask them if they can do better. If they can’t pay you what you want don’t take the job. I think you need a better definition of what you want, you have to balance the money and how much you’d prefer working there to know what that is.

Do your research. Find out if the salary you want is within reason. can help with this.

You need to show your potential employer you are worth what you are asking. “I know this job pays X, but I’ve had Y years experience doing this and that. Is it possible to bump it up to X+?”

The market salary for a position is not one number, it is normally a range. You want to make sure that you are getting the top end of that range. Don’t ask what the salary is at the interview.

Wait til they make you an offer, and then tell them that you need at least 10% more, if that amount would definitely get you to change jobs. If not, then just decline telling them that their offer was far below your expectations. Very seldom will companies come up more than 10%.

I find that a discussion of at least current compensation, if not what you’re looking for from the new job, usually comes up in the first interview. And it sounds like you’re willing to accept a little less to work here, but not $12K less?

So I’d try something like “I am currently making $x. I’d like to find something comparable, but money isn’t the only deciding factor. It also depends on the environment, my role, and opportunities for growth in the next few years.”

Then see what they come back with. They’ll at least know where you’re coming from. And as discussed above, have some idea of what you’d accept as a minimum. If your current salary would be the minimum you’d accept, then change the text above accordingly.

By all means go to the interview. That doesn’t stop you from continuing to find a higher-paying job,

The thing that’s keeping me up at night is that if my husband got the job he applied for and that we have a little pull at, I could take the 12k hit. (Not happily but we’d stay even then.). But I don’t see us knowing that before any potential job offer.

I’m not likely to get anything that pays more than I currently make. Jobs in my field are a known quantity and I’ve been at this place for over a decade - even going up in my current organization wouldn’t really be a raise unless they gave me a courtesy bump, which I’ve heard they do but they don’t have to. So it’s not like there’s this mythical job out there that would double my salary. Of course there are also other factors - this would be a longer commute and fuck my childcare up.

If it were me, I would have enquired about the salary before getting to the interview stage. So I would have said, "I’m really interested in this role but when I enquired a few years ago, the salary offer was lower than my current salary. I wouldn’t want to waste your time with an interview if you can’t meet my current salary.’

Is it possible that you could negotiate a couple days a week telecommuting and/or shorter workdays to compensate for that? If they are eager to get you and can’t shift too much on salary, this would be a good compromise.

It’s quite possible that interviews + negotiating will take weeks, so that gives your husband’s opportunity time to mature. You can always change your mind half way through.

Don’t forget they are asking you to come in for an interview. That is, they want you to come to work for them. The first step is to find out how badly they want you. Not how badly they need to fill the position, but how badly do they want Zsofia to fill that position. At the same time, you also need to determine how much you would like to put up with their brand of BS. Negotiating a salary can shut down communications, particularly if one side has already made assumptions on what the other side is wanting. You have already done that in assuming they will pay you less than you are currently making. That’s a bad assumption. While it may be true, it’s bad because it has you entering negotiations feeling you will have to settle for less. Whether it’s less than you want, less than you need, or less than what you feel you deserve is irrelevant, the fact is that negotiations haven’t even started and you already feel the need to make concessions. This puts you in a bad position, negotiation-wise.

As mentioned, avoid any specific salary requirements until you know more about how serious they are. If they straight out ask you how much you are making, ask them how much they are offering. One rule of thumb is to change jobs, you should expect a 10% increase in salary, so if you really feel that they want you, tell them that is what you were thinking of. If they take it, then you know you were too low and start asking about perks (vacation, parking, etc…). If they say that’s too high, we can only offer what amounts to your current salary, tell them you’ll consider it and need to discuss things with your husband, and be sure to ask them when they need an answer. If their offer is less than what you are currently making, tell them that.

Finally, do not make the mistake of thinking they are just a small college so they aren’t going to be able to match what you are currently making. I don’t know much about academia, but in the commercial business world, I’ve found that the smaller firms actually pay more than the large ones; they have to in order to attract and maintain the top talent.

This book has a number of strategies and is worth its price many times over.

Ha, no, desk librarians don’t generally telecommute. Although I’d love to see the looks on their faces if I asked.

I don’t want to rule them out immediately by asking the salary, because then I don’t have an opportunity to sell them on me. (Plus, I’ve had a very hard time getting interviews; it can’t hurt to have the practice.) If I interview with them and can convince them that they really, really want me, then maybe they’ll negotiate. If I ask beforehand and they’re all “yeah we pay 36k take it or leave it”, I kind of have to leave it rather than interview in bad faith.

ETA - also I don’t know what this means but the job ad used to have an ending date and now it says “open until filled”. That might mean they’re having a hard time finding somebody, but I seriously doubt that because this town is crawling with librarians who can’t get professional work. Maybe everybody’s been refusing to work for peanuts? But they’re also notable for being open to new graduates, who would jump at 36K.

That is the ideal situation. But be prepared to deal with a situation where they have no flexibility in the salary. You can bargain for other things, extra vacation, flex time, benefits, a guaranteed raise after a certain amount of time, etc. But also be prepared to know just how little you will accept also. As I mentioned before, you already have a job, be prepared to say no if you don’t get what you want.

I mean, since it’s a college maybe I can ask for a meal plan? Flex time is probably a no go and parking is free. I doubt there’s too much wiggle room in benefits, I mean, everybody pretty much gets the same thing except maybe vacation time? (At least at my current job vacation time is the same for everybody, it just varies between professional and nonprofessional positions.)

I guess it’s also important to get any concessions in writing?


Zsofia - I think maybe you and I are in the same slice of academia?

I’ve approached it this way in the past - when a prospective employer asks my salary requirements I say “I’m sure that if this is the right fit for both of us we can make it work. What is the salary range you are working with?”

It’s possible that in the years since you last interviewed with this employer they’ve made some salary adjustments and the position might pay more than you are picturing.

What I do is ask for what I want, but have a lower value which I’m willing to accept. Also, I point out that I’m interested in other forms of compensation as well. Many companies here have offers such as “kindergarten offsets” or lunch tickets; I can’t use the kindergarten offsets but I do count their existence as a positive (indicates the company knows people have toddlers).

There’s people who are unable to hear the word “negotiable” (must be too long or something), and others whose idea of “negotiating” appears to consist of them begging “oh no we can’t pay so much, can’t you give me a lower figure?” and repeating it time and again when I ask them to make me a counteroffer. The company I’m currently working for had neither issue.

I mean, personally I think a small college should be paying me MORE than the flagship university would, just because the flagship university also has staff benefits like a deal on their child care center.

Of course I ain’t getting interviews at the flagship university, either. I have the stench of public library associated with me.

What will your total household income be if you take this position? I assume you’ve looked at your expenses carefully to see if you can cut back somewhere. For me personally, I would take the better job even at a pay cut, unless I just couldn’t make the budget work. The school probably does not have a lot of negotiating room WRT salary, but see what you can squeeze out of them.
I did not realize we public librarians smell so bad. I shower every day. Honest I do.

You don’t think so? Try to move to academic libraries and see how easy it is? Trust me, you have a Stain. (It’s okay, we look down our noses at the schoolbrarians.)

The thing is, we are busting our asses to try to pay down debt. Losing income would be a very hard thing to take. On the other hand, I’m right at the top of what I can reasonably expect to make without drastic changes to my career goals and all, but my husband has plenty of room above him if he could just. get. a. better. job.