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Looking for a Higher Starting Salary? Don’t Fall For These Employer Tricks

If you are in the offer negotiation stage, beware. While you want a higher starting salary, your employer wants to get you in at as low a salary as possible. Stay on your guard and watch for these tactics when it's time to talk numbers.

If you are in the offer negotiation stage, beware. While you want a higher starting salary, your employer wants to get you in at as low a salary as possible. Stay on your guard and watch for these tactics when it’s time to talk numbers.

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(Photo Credit: borman818/Flickr)

1. Making you feel that they are the best thing that’s ever happened to you.

Do You Know What You're Worth?

If you are interviewing with a company of choice and have made it clear to your interviewers that this is a “dream come true” opportunity, they are going to play hard ball. They’ll probably come with a number and won’t let you make any suggestions. They extend the offer as if there’s no wiggle room, because, well, they’ve already done a huge favor of taking your candidature this far, right? Don’t feel obligated to accept the offer instantly. Agreeing that the opportunity provided is valuable, but say that you would be thrilled if the salary could be higher. Based on your experience, expectations, and research, mention the dollar amount you were looking for. Be bold. They need you as much as you need them.

2. Telling you that they’ll look at it again during the increment cycle.

Unless the review time is just a couple of months away, this is not a very good idea. Some companies have cut-off dates for being eligible for increments and are heavily performance driven. In a couple of months, you really are not going to be able to hit the ball out of the park.

Don’t fall for this tactic. In fact, use it to your benefit. If you know that the increment cycle is going to be in a couple of months, mention clearly that your colleagues would receive an increase around the time, and you may not be able to qualify for an increment and you’d much rather see that percentage tied to your current salary, so you don’t have to see more than a year of no increments. If they assure you that they will address this and just won’t budge, get it in writing, so you have proof even if your hiring manager moves on from the organization.

3. Getting you to commit on a number.

Typically, before the interview process begins, a recruiter screens you to understand your fit and salary expectations. At the time, don’t be in a rush to give out a number. Be vague, saying you want to explore more about the role and understand the responsibilities a bit more. Ask them instead about the salary range for this job and see if that fits your needs. If, however, you do end up giving a figure, only to realize later that it’s not a fair amount, Alison Green suggests at US News, it is reasonable to say, “Having learned more about the management responsibilities of the role, I’m hoping for a salary closer to $X.”

4. Talking about a few candidates in the pipeline.

Every recruiter will keep a few candidates in the pipeline for any role. The objective is to hire the best, and if they are making an offer to you, then understand that you are the best they could find for the job. Be confident about your contributions and don’t become nervous when they talk about other candidates.

5. Making an offer based on your previous salary.

Employers often ask for your previous salary details. Based on your salary, they may offer you a small increase. Green writes, “Salary offers shouldn’t be tied to your salary history; a new company should offer you a salary based on the contributions you’ll be making in a new job.” If you must share your salary details, she suggests sharing upfront that your past salary was not commensurate with your contributions and that’s one of the reasons you are exploring other opportunities.

6. Giving you very little time to respond.

The recruiter will roll out the offer in the morning and immediately follow up with a call or an email saying that you are short on time to act on your offer. The offer will become void by end of the day. This is particularly true for entry-level positions or positions where there’s a strong backup candidate who is between offers and is waiting to hear from the employer before making her call. Typical offers have a response time from several days to a week. If your recruiter is pushing you to send in your acceptance, let her know clearly that you need time to think it through. Say as much in writing — that you are excited about the opportunity but would appreciate some time to review before acting on the offer. If possible, include the hiring manager as well. Be reasonable and don’t ask for extended number of days. If you are keen on the company, you will have an idea of an acceptable offer in advance.

Tell Us What You Think

Have you ever been pressured to accept a low-ball offer? We want to hear from you! Leave a comment or join the discussion on Twitter.

Padmaja Ganeshan Singh
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1 Comment on "Looking for a Higher Starting Salary? Don’t Fall For These Employer Tricks"

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Gene V
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On my fourth interview with a small company while retiring from a ~$100K/yr military position, the owner and senior leadership was satisfied they wanted me. They said I would be happy – I wasn’t going to lose anything by retiring on half pay – and then offered me $67 (K) for a subject matter expert/program manager role they were billing $150+ an hour for. I immediately realized that anyone who would do this to both their employee and their customer was someone I would not work for. I quickly replied, “An hour?” and the conversation was over. A low ball… Read more »
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