A Quick Note on Salary Negotiation

von Felix

During the last two months I have been on the receiving end of the question What are your salary expectations? numerous times.

Much has been written about salary negotiation. Some people, among them Patrick McKenzie, advise you to never give a number first. While I agree with the general notion, I do not think this is universally feasible. At least not in all industries and especially not for entry-level positions such as the ones that I applied for. So you have done your research and you give a number. Confidently, you just state it with a calm voice and a straight face.

That was more or less the final part of your job interview. The interviewers ask you to wait a few minutes and leave the room in order to confer. You look around the room, stretch, drink a glass of water and here they are: We think you are a great fit for our team and would like to make you an offer!

First of all, good job. You got an offer, let us hear it. A salary of €48,000 is offered. Coincidentally, that is the exact number you gave them. Now what? You should be happy, should you not?
No, somehow you have got the feeling that you have not maxed out the room for negotiation. What would have happened, had I asked for €50,000 instead? you ask yourself on your way home. You will probably never know. However, due to the fact that they gave you exactly what you asked for, an additional €2,000 p.a. seems somehow likely. This leaves you with a bit of a sour taste.

To be honest, there is not much you can do this except following the aforementioned advice on never giving a number first. However, this article is not directed at you as a job applicant (ha!), but at the people on the other side of the table among whom you will likely be one day.

If a candidate is a great fit, his expectations are somewhat within your range and you really want him to join your company, exceed his expectations. Actually, this is dead simple: just make your number greater than his or hers.
If €48,000 are asked for, offer €50,000. If that is not feasible, offer €49,000 or €48,500. Hell, even offering a ridiculous amount of €48,231.07 or 48,056.89 would probably be better than parroting the €48,000 the candidate asks for. This signals to the candidate that (a) you are not a cheapskate, (b) you really want to have him and although you are limited by some magical upper ceiling that is beyond your control, you try to give the best deal your company possibly can offer. Does this sound reasonable to you?

Yes? (If not, please tell me in the comments.) So next time you have a great candidate, surprise him and exceed her or his expectations and he will be happier about your offer. Thus, you increase the chances to seal the deal in your favour — great candidates will have more than one offer.