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Discussion on: Q: What is your salary expectation? A: I don't have one, make me an offer!

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bloodgain profile image
Cliff

Yes, yes, yes, 100%!

You're going to be afraid that this won't work somehow, but don't be. You might get the occasional recruiter who acts astonished that you won't give them a number, but it's usually an act. For one thing, companies are well aware that we smart enginerding types have clued in on the information disparity inherent in salary negotiations and don't want to share our salary history -- which should be irrelevant, anyway -- and are beginning to expect them to make a "fair" offer first.

I've actually gotten less pushback from this excellent strategy than I did using the "anchoring" strategy of starting with a high number. And I didn't get much pushback on that strategy, either, because the recruiters and HR knew exactly what I was doing and why. The thing is, it doesn't matter that they know, the strategies work even when the other party is aware of them.

Also, I have to ask this question in phone screens, but I'm always hoping the candidate will dodge it. Few do. Some of them have a good idea what the market rate is. Some of them ask a little higher, either to anchor or because they think they are excellent candidates -- and they often are; we get some really good ones. But some ask for way, WAY too little. As in, they should probably be asking for nearly twice as much. Or better yet, keep their mouths shut and be pleasantly surprised! Very often, these turn out to be weaker candidates who were already on the fence. Majorly undervaluing your worth and showing that card can actually hurt your chances, too!

If I haven't lost you yet, let me offer a couple of real-life stories that prove you have a lot more power and room to negotiate than you think:

1) A coworker/friend was interviewing with a company in town that wanted him because he had lots of experience and a great track record. They were known for recruiting high-end talent and paying well. A friend that used to work with us was also interviewing with them. They were both pretty likely to get an offer. My coworker made 2 requests between being told they wanted to make him an offer and getting it in writing: I want -- negotiable -- and you have to hire both of us -- non-negotiable. They agreed immediately to make them both non-competing offers, but said we can't do , but we can do and put you on a fast-track to raise that and add bonuses. The other friend got a similar offer. Both accepted.

2) When I was working with my current company about an offer, I said that I would rather let them to make an offer first. No problem. They came in with an OK number, but it wasn't quite worth leaving my existing position, as I was expecting a promotion with a small boost soonish. So I told them that I had noticed a recent uptick in engineering salaries in our area that I expected to continue and that I was in no hurry to leave my current position, so I needed an offer at least 10% higher. Boom, done, no problem. I accepted, but we ran into some issues between their closing contract negotiations with prime contractors and some personal life things for me, so I ended up pulling out of the offer a couple months later (I was expecting some delay in starting). About 8 months after their original offer, they reached back out again saying they had immediate job openings, no need to reinterview, and they were ready to make an offer that started on my schedule. I requested a $5K sign-on bonus this time and a 2 week gap between the jobs. They gladly met that, and also added another 2.5% to the salary without me asking since it had been over 6 months. I accepted and started in November. In December, I received a small pay bump with everyone else when their rates adjusted, plus a Christmas bonus, and I got a small performance bonus in February. The next year, I got a 7.5% raise, Xmas bonus, and an even better performance bonus since I'd been there longer. So clearly, I had not pushed them hard at all on my salary offer. And this is a small company that had 85 people when I first talked to them. We had 150-160 a little over 2 years later, which we've kind of hovered at (because 2020), and I'm on the interview team. Our turnover is near the bottom of the industry. People want to work for us, and they still negotiated with me.

Now, in the first case, we're talking guys with 15-20 years of experience here with solid histories in my industry. They had all the leverage. In my case, it's a Master's and 10+ years (at the time), but I did not have significantly more leverage than anyone else except they scouted me (through LinkedIn), I have a well-written resume, and the competition for all types of engineering talent in my area had been hot for a couple of years (and remains so). You have slightly less leverage if you're a new grad, but you're going to get a standard offer from most companies. Sometimes I'll just skip the salary question and make the recruiter do it if he insists. But even if you've just got 2-3 years in with even 1 solid contribution on your resume, you have a plenty of room to negotiate!

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jmfayard profile image