Teach Salary Negotiation to a Green Graduate

I’m interviewing with a Big Company ™ shortly. My resume contains an assortment of internship-type jobs and small-business-type jobs, and up till now I’ve been like a doggie taking whatever anyone would give me. I wish to be a little more discriminating and I have a specific salary range in mind, especially given that I have a friend who works there and I know his salary–a bit above the starting hiring salaries of other workers there but not ridiculously so, and I don’t think he even has a college degree.

Of course, this is all assuming I actually get offered the job, but preparation’s always a good thing… I know that you should never mention your range unless your employer actually makes the first offer and a salary along with it, but that’s about it.

  1. Any links to salary negotiation tutorials that have good advice?
  2. Should I ever hint that I know the salaries of people there?
  3. Would hinting at special needs make me appear inferior? e.g., I require cochlear implant insurance that costs $5000 for 2 years, amd so forth.
  4. If I get offered, say, stock options that don’t vest for years, would I appear to be “disloyal” if I try to convince them to forego that in exchange for a bit more salary?
  1. Look into www.salary.com , they might have some useful information about salaries for jobs in your field of expertise and your geographic location
  2. Never talk about other people’s salaries. It’s good information to have for you but don’t talk about it to others.
  3. I think you should be honest but cautious here. Tell them about the disability but I don’t know that you want to mention it’s going to cost them money. If there is a medical plan, take it up with HR once you get hired.
  4. You can ask. They can say no. It’s not about loyalty. You’re just negotiating the best deal you can and so are they.

Good luck.

My thoughts as an employer:
2. absolutely not.
4. This is just me. But I figured out over the years that anybody who tells me they want more salary and less options turns out to be someone I don’t want to hire. They’re not there for the company and they’re not there for the long haul. When something important comes up, they won’t be there. As a result, I’ve retracted a few offers to potential employees, based on this.

I don’t know how many employers I speak for on that last one. Maybe not many.

On your general question (“how do I negotiate the best compensation package?”), here’s my quick advice:

  1. The first step is selling yourself as the perfect job candidate. Don’t do anything to imply you’re expensive until after they believe you’re the right candidate. This is probably the most important point.
  2. Make them put the first number out.
  3. Have as much information as possible, including talking to friends, looking at salary.com, polling on message boards, etc. But don’t actually present this information as part of your negotiation. Just know it, so you know where they stand. The fact is, there is some range they have in mind, and there is an upper bound, where if you try to exceed that, they’ll immediately back out.
  4. Whatever they offer, don’t say yes. In fact, if they say it to you in person, don’t say anything. Let there be some uncomfortable silence. Tell them you’ll need to think about it.
  5. Having a history of salary, or another offer is very valuable, validating your price to them.
  6. The most powerful tool that both of you have is the ability to walk away. So, if you need this job bad and they can get anybody to do it, you really have no leverage and shouldn’t push too hard. If instead they really want you, and you have other offers, you are in a much better position to negotiate. So, a) try to have other offers, and b) convince them that they can’ find anyone else who’s as good as you for this role.

You are currently reading a good one. Look at various websites and see what you might be worth.

No. If you cite a figure (based on what your friend is making), and they ask you how you arrived at that figure, tell them “it seems a fair figure, based on what I can do for the company” and then shut up.

Never mention this, no matter what, until after you have accepted a firm offer and agreed on a salary. NEVER.

What Bill H. said. It makes you look like a short-timer.

Salary should be what you talk about last, and never with the HR people if you can avoid it.

Good luck.


I mostly want to respond to No. 2-4.

  1. Never ever do this. You can tell them you are familiar with the range of the salaries for THIS TYPE of job anywhere but never ever say you know what other people at this company make. It doesn’t matter so much what they make anyway. You should be paid what YOU are worth, not what they are worth. What if they were grossly underpaid? Would you expect to be paid the same just because they were dumb or desperate enough to accept low wages? Of course you can use whatever information you have to your advantage but never tell them outright that you know other people’s salaries there. The only exception is federal civil service jobs, where everyone’s exact salary is well known.

  2. Oh my god no. If I am understanding this, you want to know if it’s okay to say something like, “I need to make at least X because I have a medical condition that is very expensive and I need to pay for it.” Never ever ever say this. Never. Not so much because you don’t want to tell them beforehand that you have some kind of unknown medical condition (which you definitely don’t), but because your condition has NOTHING to do, in their eyes, with your worth. It’s no better than saying, “I have a lot of bills so I need to make X,” or “I want to buy a Beemer so I need to make X.” If you are concerned about the benefits of the health plan, you can certainly ask for some information on it, should they make an offer.

  3. Yes, I think you will appear disloyal and in it for the short term. You can be in it for the short-term, but you don’t want to let the company know that at the interview.

OMG PHEW! I’m such an idiot–I’m VERY glad I asked this question on the SDMB. That $15 subscription has very likely turned into the best investment of my life. I’ll definitely take all your advice, not mention company salaries, not mention needs for leverage, not try to turn long-term benefits into salary, and so on.

Seems like the best positive (“do this” as opposed to “don’t do this”) advice is to not to immediately accept the first job offer.

(I’m not disloyal, I just having the money now as opposed to waiting 4 or 6 or whatever years for it…)

dre2xl wrote

From an employers point of view, there are a few important things about options:
a) They are incentives. Even if you’re making a very modest contribution to the bottom line, you do make a difference to the health of your company. When your company does well, your options go up in value. So, options are important because they align your interests with the companies.
b) They require you to be there a while. There is typically a cliff (varies, but 12 months is common). If you leave before the cliff, you get nada.
c) If the company is going good, they are a powerful incentive for you to stick around.

Salary doesn’t give the employer any of those longer-term and loyalty benefits. Salary is rent. Options are more like paying a mortgage on your own home.

I don’t think your questions were idiotic. Lots and lots of people would think the same way you were, only they’d just go ahead to the interview and say, “I know Bob makes $50K and I need to make that too because I have to pay for my stamp collection and alimony.” At least you asked for people’s opinions first.

Good luck with the search.

Bill H., excellent point and one I’d not considered before.

Thank you once again for your understanding & patience.



I prefer an unorthodox approach.

At the negotiation stage, come dressed as Uncle Pennybags, the mustachioed mascot from the “Monopoly” board game. When they ask what salary you expect, produce a portable stereo and crank up “For the Love of Money” by the O’Jays, queued to the chorus, “Money money money money, MOOOONEY” as loud as it can go. Sing along to the chorus. Leap up on the desk and dance around, rubbing your fingers together and making orgasmic faces, as if nearly brought to climax in anticipation of the riches of Croesus that will soon be yours. Don’t actually cite a figure. That’s just rude.

If it’s a big company, there will be very little leeway in negotiation for a starting level position. They certainly will not make an exception for you. Don’t underestimate that big companies are completely different carnivorous animals than what you are used to. If you go in like a green graduate tossing outrageous demands/requests (from the big company point of view), then you’re toast.

Never say anything in an interview that reduces your chances. Medical condition is none of the company’s business. You can ask about the medical plan as that is a standard benefit.

Ask about options but don’t ever even think about replying with anything but “that’s great information, thanks. I’m really excited about the options because this is a great company, and I plan to help drive up the share price” As an employer and someone that works for a big ass multinational, asking for more salary and trying to get more salary/less options would definately be a deal killer for an entry level position.

Why? Because options are designed to lock in employees (and provide motivation to do a good job and help the share price). You asking for cash tells me you’re a mercenary and at even higher risk for jumping ship than most entry level people.

For the same reason, don’t ask about unpaid leave, sabbaticals, etc. There’s plenty of time to find out about this stuff after you’re hired, or spend time on the company web page or asking your friend, but don’t bring this up in an interview or with HR.

The other thing to remember about big companies, is that most anyone in the whole interview to signing the contract chain can torpedo your offer. Don’t give anyone a reason to do so. Heck at my company, the easiest way to torpedo someone is to provide interview feedback that the candidate is a “hire.” This is the kiss of death because the company culture is we only want “outstanding hire.” Sending on the interview feedback with “hire” is like saying “why are you wasting my time with such an asshat candidate.”

hope this helps

Don’t let on that you know what someone else makes. Companies guard this information zealously because they know what it leads to. In fact, I think salary information is considered proprietary by most firms, i.e. they can seek damages from anyone who discloses it. I’m in a union and one of our hard-fought victories is complete disclosure of the salaries our company is paying (broken down by years of experience, position, location, etc., but not identified by employee.) That alone is worth my union dues.

Also, don’t mention the medical condition NO MATTER WHAT. Just be sure you carefully study the insurance they offer to make sure you’ll be covered.

Good advice here. Just one thing to add. If they ask you for a number, start high, and work your way down. You can always come down, you can never go up.
Or as the father of a good friend told me 35 years ago

Good advice for a hooker, or somebody who is job hunting.

Can you really “hide” something like a cochlear implant? My brother has one and, well, it’s pretty obvious. I suppose he could hide it by not wearing his speech processor, but then he would have the problem of, you know, not hearing anything.

You’re right, an entry-level position doesn’t exactly give me anything to bargain with. So the only thing I can really do is be quiet and accept what they give me if it’s not ridiculously low (if they give me anything).

BTW, my CI isn’t a medical condition in the sense that it (theoretically) costs insurance a penny more than any other hearing person… the surgery’s been done 19 years ago; I currently pay for the insurance & mappings & equipment upgrades out-of-pocket. And, no, it’s not something that can be hidden.

I’m not that familiar with CI, but if you’re comfortable with it use it to your advantage. sorry I missed it in the OP. Please excuse my ignorance but CI means hearing handicap, no? Most big companies have incentives to hire people with handicaps.

I would suggest that you ask about insurance for CI. Make sure the interviewer and especially HR understand it is not a deal breaker for you if their insurance plan does not cover what you need.

I work for a “Fortune 10” company, and I completely disagree with this.

It may be true for some large companies, but in mine it’s not. At least in my company, HR has a lot of lattitude in determining what the starting salary is going to be; the official company policy specifies a range, but it’s a very wide range.

My salary negotiation interview was very stereotypical: Scumbag HR motherfucker called me, played hardball, told me that my request was way out of line, “No way”, etc. The offer they made was a bit less then the salary I had has a contractor.

Afterwards, I called my boss (I was a contractor negotiating a full-time position) and implied that the offer I got was completely unacceptable, etc. The next day, HR motherfucker called me back, told me there’d been a mistake, and my offer increased by over $7k/year. I took the offer. :smiley:

That’s a little different situation in that you were a known quantity with a hiring manager who wanted you, and you specifically.

By the way, starting high can hurt you. I hired IT folks in the late 1990s. People would come in with no experience and laughable salary demands. If I heard them I’d say “well, I hope you can find someone who will pay you that, but it won’t be here, thanks for your time.”

With a job where I’d been hoping to pay $40k, have the person ask for $80k, it really wasn’t worth countering at the $48k I was willing to spend.

Even with hires who haven’t been working as contractors, there’s a lot of room for negotiation. I’ve been on the team that interviewed potential hires, and we usually pretty sure about which specific candidate we wanted.

Granted, I don’t know the details, but I do know that the guy who was gonna be picking up the person (my boss) had a lot of influence over the whole process…

Why not just say “$48k, take it or leave it.”?

Because a guy asking for $80k for a job that pays realistically $45k hadn’t done his research. He’d read something about mean salaries for MCSEs from the Microsoft web site, picked the high end of the range, and thinks he is worth that with a fresh seven courses and tests under his belt, no bachelors. I was always interested in hiring people who had a clue. Besides, I’m not going to start a relationship with someone where he begins employment with us believing himself to be terribly underpaid. He won’t be happy, and he won’t stick - or I wouldn’t want them to stick. I had enough of that headache with the people who worked under me that I inherieted with the job.