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Salary Negotiation Fail, Fixed: What to Do When You Accidentally Lowball Yourself

Is there any part of the interview process that's more horrifying than answering the dreaded salary requirements question? You can dodge it all you want -- and you probably should -- but if the hiring manager won't budge, you'll probably have to come up with some sort of an answer. Chances are, you'll know right away if you named a number that was lower than you could have requested. The gleam in the HR person's eye will tell you all you need to know. The question is, can you improve the situation, or are you stuck with your range?

Is there any part of the interview process that’s more horrifying than answering the dreaded salary requirements question? You can dodge it all you want — and you probably should — but if the hiring manager won’t budge, you’ll probably have to come up with some sort of an answer. Chances are, you’ll know right away if you named a number that was lower than you could have requested. The gleam in the HR person’s eye will tell you all you need to know. The question is, can you improve the situation, or are you stuck with your range?

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(Photo Credit: danielmoyle/Flickr)

It’s not an easy fix, that’s for sure. One reason so many career experts advise you to avoid naming your salary expectations is that once you do, you’re sort of pigeonholed. However, if you get backed into a wall, and cough up a number that you later realize is lower than it needed to be, all is not lost.

Do You Know What You're Worth?

If possible, you can use new information to your advantage.

Job applicants often forget that their salary request shouldn’t be based entirely on the history of their earnings. Candidates are hired based on their skills and abilities, and what they’ll bring to the job to which they’re applying. That means that your salary should be a reflection of what you’re going to do, not what you’ve already done.

A little research ahead of time can be really useful, here. Even though you don’t want to be forced to name a salary range, if you can help it, you should have an idea in your head of what’s reasonable. PayScale’s Salary Survey can help you evaluate your skills and experience in the context of the role you’re seeking, not just the jobs you’ve already held.

That said, even if you neglected to do this research before your first interview, it’s not too late. Hopefully, in the course of your discussions with HR and the hiring manager, you’ve learned about the job and its responsibilities. When you receive your formal offer, you can focus on the responsibilities that were less apparently part of the job when you first sat down to discuss the position, and possibly negotiate a higher rate based on that.

For example, you might say, “I’m really excited about the possibility of joining the team. Now that I’ve learned more about the role, I feel like my experience with X will be really useful with Y project. Given the job’s responsibilities, I feel like Z would be an appropriate range.”

The goal is the have a plan.

Will it work 100 percent of the time? No. But it doesn’t have to — you might discover that the person you’ve talked to isn’t in charge of determining salary, or that the company offers more than your request as a matter of course.

“Don’t worry about it too much until they give you a formal offer,” suggests Quora user Mark Mahoney, in response to a similar question. “My girlfriend recently went for an interview where she provided a salary range that was extremely low for the position she was applying for. This was the last round, so there was no going back after she found out. They ended up coming back and offering her a salary 30 percent higher than she expected. She is now working there and is very happy.”

Regardless, you can use what you’ve learned this time around to ask more questions before stating your range during the next interview. You might not be able to wriggle out of naming a number, but you can absolutely ask for more information before committing yourself. A good employer should appreciate that kind of thoroughness and caution.

Tell Us What You Think

Have you ever successfully renegotiated your salary? We want to hear from you! Leave a comment or join the discussion on Twitter.

Jen Hubley Luckwaldt
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11 Comments on "Salary Negotiation Fail, Fixed: What to Do When You Accidentally Lowball Yourself"

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Ramon
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How do you call a boss or company who throws a very small monthly paycheck on you, you give your best for three years (during your second year you asked for a raise because you know you aced at everything you were asked to perform/achieve) and they say NO to that raise request, eventually you found a better job, you let them know the news and suddenly they make you not one but TWO offers for better salary…I think they just lost a great employee.

Furkat
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I think you should do your homework before you ask for a specific salary. I found quite a useful resource how you can trade druing your interview: http://lifecareer.com/interview/ .

Anto
Guest
I have just accepted an offer yesterday.The salary question came up. I responded with 20% on top of my current salary. That is went the negotiation started. I provided my previous offer letter and a verbal offer from a competing company. We went back and forth 3 time. I ended with 8% above my current. I did get some increase in equity. At the final stage of the negotiation you have to be firm but polite. I knew I couldn’t move the salary number anymore. Thus, I focus on the other item like equity. I was expecting about 10% but… Read more »
David
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As for renegotiating after having been hired, in the aerospace industry I have seen only one technique that works, and it’s straight out of Dilbert. The big companies reward disloyalty. If you can find a way to be the sole brain trust for a valuable project, i.e., if you can make yourself indispensable in some way, then threatening to leave unless you get a raise and/or promotion can be quite rewarding. Not that I’ve ever done that myself; nor do I condone it. But I’ve seen it work, and it works quite well. On the other hand, working hard and… Read more »
Tony
Guest
I just had a phone interview with HR on the phone. And she said this is harsh, what compensation are you looking for. And this is a third party insurance company. I would be taken inbound calls aanswering benefit questions. So I told her 33,000 a year with dental. I have 5 years in the field line of insurance and 10 years in customer service. Now she wants to bring me in for a face to face interview with the manager or supervisor. I was thinking I should have said what is the position paying. Or I should have said,… Read more »
Andrew
Guest
The article did not provide what the title said. Worse, it is very risky to follow its advice. If during or after the interview you realize you understated the range you provided, the ‘advice’ this article gives is to try to negotiate it in a later interview. Fair enough, but, first, it is not at all uncommon to have only one interview, one 15min of glory or sinking. Usually, if there is a second one, it is just to sign the contract with a number close or within the range you provided before, unless lucky you it is a company… Read more »
Adrian
Guest

I stick to my guns in this matter. You can have at least three attempts to make them confess the salary range. I use this technique. And if they do not disclose the range, I may want to rethink if I really want to work for such a company! There is no excuse for not doing the salary research before the interview though…

Robert
Guest
When the time requires it, I typically name the range with the caveat that my final agreeable value is not based on salary alone. I mention that I recognize salary is merely a part of the package and that consideration will be given to the package as a whole when it comes time for that info to be provided. That way, if the salary number is lower than I like, I can point to shortcomings in the remainder of the package (assuming there are some), then attempt to improve some facet of the package to bring everyone closer to agreement.
Ashok Kurella
Guest

I do agree with the statement made by you….after all said and done.
Candidate should know the role/profile and appropriate salary structure prior to negotiation.
Better is candidate to research about the organization prior to commit the organization. Bcz, “far mountains look plain”.

Tony
Guest
I just had a phone interview with HR on the phone. And she said this is harsh, what compensation are you looking for. And this is a third party insurance company. I would be taken inbound calls aanswering benefit questions. So I told her 33,000 a year with dental. I have 5 years in the field line of insurance and 10 years in customer service. Now she wants to bring me in for a face to face interview with the manager or supervisor. I was thinking I should have said what is the position paying. Or I should have said,… Read more »
Al
Guest
No matter what, a candidate must prepare for the questions that always end up coming. True is that you cannot always prepare for everything but you can research the salary range for the position you are applying for. Recently I decided to take a different position where I would be more hands on, frankly speaking I had it with all the politics and after 6 years playing the “game” I decided to move on. As director I had a nice platform with lots of perks. The adjustment in a management position was something I had to get used to. Before… Read more »
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