Negotiating Offers That Meet Your Asking Price

Negotiating job offers is a skill, and many are reluctant to even attempt it. Like interviewing, negotiation is something that most professionals may only do a few times (or less) a decade, so it’s not the type of skill that gets honed through regular use.

One question that I often hear relates to scenarios where a candidate provides a target salary/range on an application or in the interview process, the employer makes an offer at or above that range, and the candidate suddenly doesn’t know what to do. Conventional wisdom (and perhaps ethics) would suggest that one should accept such an offer, but when an employer matches the candidate’s request without hesitation it can make candidates feel their request was too low.

If you list your house for sale on a Friday and receive five full-price offers before the weekend is over, most people will tell you that you set your bar too low in a competitive market.

It could be that the salary request was “at market”, but one natural reaction to having a salary request met without reluctance is that the candidate “left money on the table“. This feeling is often accompanied with some regrets, and some candidates wonder whether or not they can still negotiate even though they got what they wanted.

What to Do?

It is potentially a risky endeavor, but if you choose to negotiate an offer that met your request you’re going to need a reason. A common negotiation mistake inexperienced job seekers make is giving the appearance that they are negotiating just for the sake of negotiating, and employers that met your initial asking price will feel any new requests are not a good faith negotiation.

Did you uncover new information since setting your target number?

The most effective way to negotiate a matched request is to tie a counteroffer to new information learned after you provided the original number. This new information typically needs to be a detail that one couldn’t have reasonably expected to know at the time the desired salary was provided.

Some good examples of this include:

  1. Responsibility – Does the job have more responsibility than you initially would have assumed?
  2. Work/life balance – Are the expectations for hours in the office above what one would expect? Does the position require you to be “on call”?
  3. Benefits and perks – These are usually discussed later in the interview process or even after an offer is made, so it’s reasonable to assume that many job seekers will be asked for desired salary numbers well before they learn the value of the other pieces of the overall compensation package. The major variables impacting overall package value tend to be health insurance contribution, paid time-off, bonus, and stock.
  4. Your own market value – Admitting that you underestimated your own market value it the least attractive option. A job seeker claiming this will be viewed as someone who was unprepared.

I would expect most instances where candidates submit counteroffers above their initial asking price relate to multiple offers from other employers. In highly competitive markets, above average candidates may expect offers that will include some from companies that pay their employees above market rate. Using other offers as a negotiation tool has become rather common in the industry, though some employers may not be willing to engage in renegotation if an initial request was matched.

Conclusion

It’s important to keep data on any salary numbers (historical and requested) provided during the hiring process and to be prepared with numbers handy in case you are asked. Keep in mind that companies traditionally want information on salary expectations before committing to interviews. The process of negotiating an offer above the listed expectation can be complex, but it’s not impossible given the proper circumstances.

3 comments

  1. Mike S.

    From your previous posts, I am nervous about pricing myself out of future employment. If I’m getting $90k today – for example – and I think I can get $125k from the next employer, I have to ask myself whether some or all possible employers past this next one will balk if I have $125k in my salary history.

    It’s no longer, “Get as much as I can”, it’s “Get as much as I can without endangering my long term career prospects.”

    • fecak

      Think of salary like age – when people are young they lie about their age to make themselves older, and when you’re old you are more likely to lie about your age to make yourself younger. It’s playing to your audience to some degree. And what follows isn’t to suggest that anyone should lie about anything.

      There are times in a technologist’s career where they may exaggerate their current salary to get a higher one from another employer. This is usually early and intermediate career level.

      Then there may be other times in a technologist’s career where they may claim their salary is lower than it actually is or try to avoid talking about current salary (and instead talk about salary expectations) because they are afraid they may price themselves out of the market. This tends to happen when someone matures to the top levels of compensation, or works for an employer that overpays their employees.

      I’ve written about how salary plateaus (https://jobtipsforgeeks.com/2015/05/20/moremoney/) at some point in a career, and it may become hard to maintain what you make. That’s why it’s important not to make financial decisions (houses, cars) based on the assumption that compensation will always increase. That happens over the early and mid parts of your career, but at some point salary plateaus and you may even find yourself taking a cut.

      • Mike S.

        Thanks. At least for me, so far I needed the big income most in my 20s and early 30s, because that’s when our own student loans and the daycare costs were killing the budget.

        We could always use more money, but now that the daycare costs are winding down and we plan to push the kids very hard towards state universities, hopefully the month to month costs will be less in our 40s and 50s. But I appreciate the reminder that trading up the Honda for a Mercedes and shopping for a motorized camper, attractive as it might be, is an unwise move right now.

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