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re: What should I be asking for salary? VIEW POST

re: First off, don't be the first to name a number if at all possible. If asked for your requirements up front, the answer is "I'd prefer to negotiate ...

Hi Dian. I have a question regarding,

don't be the first to name a number if at all possible

What if an interviewee didn't give the number
and the interviewer suggests a low amount.

How should one turn it around for a higher salary?


This is an uncertain science. There are a few things to consider:

  • is it simply on the low side of average, or is it insultingly low? This is where sites like Glassdoor etc come in handy: you know how much that title commands in the area (or near the employer/in Silicon Valley if remote) and can react accordingly.
  • how much leverage do you have? If it's a senior position or if you have a particularly specialized and relevant skillset, you have a lot more ability to write your own ticket. If you don't have experience or a portfolio to showcase, don't expect to move mountains.
  • are you excited enough about the role, the company, or the industry & your future career prospects in it to be willing to work at a below-market rate? If the initial offer is really low, negotiation could bring it up to par, but if you negotiate you need to accept that you may not be able to squeeze the entire difference out of them.

There have been entire books written about salary negotiation; more than that, there's a whole industry churning those same books out. What I've found works well is a combination of assertiveness and empathy (if the position's been open for any length of time, the people doing the interviewing are just as sick of the process as you are!). In my job hunt earlier this year, I went into compensation discussions knowing what my skills and experience are worth, and actually turned down my current employer's first offer -- with the understanding that it was strictly about the numbers in play, and that otherwise I'd be excited to work with them. Suffice to say, things have turned out alright :)


There are many ways to negotiate away from an initial low ball offer.

One of the things I like to do - and note that I this is not job offer experience but sales experience - is to let them know that it's "mildy surprisingly" via body language, and act hesitant to mention it, but say that it seems lower than you expected. Then the most important part... pause.

Give them a curious but expectant body signal. Wait to see if they will offer a step up.

Wait until they feel compelled to fill the silence. Most of the time in negotiation, the first offer is thrown out there to see if they can get away with it. The second offer is probably a better gauge of what they want to get you for. The difference between the two tells you how much of a range they have. In most cases, you can take that difference, and get an extra 20-30% of that difference more, if you can prove you're worth it.

But this is a long shot tactic translated from negotiations in sales, not hiring. As always, you risk coming across wrong, given the nature of the setting. In sales, you are seldom being evaluated as a person, you can focus on the product. In an interview, you ARE the product and you have to be careful. There are many ways it can go wrong.

Certainly NOT a guarantee.

I would say if you want to try this, practice the pausing in other areas of life first. Train yourself to be more comfortable with long pauses than those around you. Try to listen more than you talk and watch to see when people start to get uncomfortable. Learn the body signals that tell you if they're going to end the conversation or dig deeper.

Make sure you know what the going rate in the area is and what you're worth first. You should always have a target price, but never be the first to name it. But it's better to be the first to name a price than to end an interview on a bad note. If they're more patient than you, it may be that you'll have to do that. Make sure your request is reasonable, and preface it with the reasons you think you're worth it.

The phases of an interview are similar to sales. The first step is qualification, understanding the needs of the customer, the employer. Once you know their needs, you need to make sure that you can meet those needs, then explain to them how you can and have in the past. Don't get too detailed, but don't avoid specifics, as long as they're short and relevant.

If they don't bring up the topic of salary, I don't either. But make sure you do get a way to contact them if you think of any other questions afterward. This also works as a way to negotiate for salary of HR lowballs you. HR will hide behind people with no authority til the cows come home, but if you can go back directly to the hiring manager and tell them you'd really love to work there, and wondered if they might help you work with HR to find a way to make it work, you might find a way to fight past the HR wall. HR will try to act like a formula determined your offer, and that might be true, but the manager can often make an exception or place more value on a good fit.

But again, YMMV.

& if you aren't especially comfortable staring the hiring manager down in realtime, "I'll have to think about it" is a perfectly legitimate thing to say. Signing on with a new company is a pretty major thing to have happen, so it only makes sense to consider an offer carefully. You can always call or email them back to accept, it doesn't have to happen immediately.

Delaying a response also gives you time to organize your thoughts. Lowballs are a way of gambling on your expectations and your composure, and since the necessity of employment to survival makes the conversation decidedly unequal from the word go, it's important to keep what advantages you can. They don't know the status of your job search unless you tell them (some will ask; only tell them if you stand to gain from it. You can make friends later, but negotiation is an information game), so time you're sitting on an offer is time you might be getting other offers.

In general, keep in mind that the offer stage is the one where the balance of power between you and the company is most in your favor.

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