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How I negotiated a $30,000 increase in my job offer

I had initially asked for $100,000 as my bare minimum salary for the job that I would be doing, with the experience I had and my skills. What ended up happening was a bidding war between 4 companies, which essentially bumped my salary offer up to $130,000 with the expectation that I would have $20,000 in bonuses each year.

Note: I don’t really count bonuses as part of any compensation package. If I get it, great. If I don’t, no tears shed. I just focus on base salary, and that’s it.

 How did I manage all of that?

I knew what my bare minimum ($100,000) was, which was below the average market rate of $115,000 for my role, and I knew I would be a candidate that none of the companies would turn down.

When asked what my salary expectations were, instead of playing that game where you try and get the other party to blink by offering a number first and then topping it, I said: My minimum base salary expectation is $100,000. By saying that, companies should have understood the following:

  1. I had a minimum, and trying to lowball me below $100,000 wouldn’t fly
  2. I had done my research, and I knew I was worth more, much more? 🙂
  3. They knew I would be saying the same thing to the other companies
  4. They knew they would have to go over my asking offer to be in the game

Once the companies started bidding against each other, it was easy to get $30,000 more, which incidentally is the maximum for my role and experience at a company.

There is no doubt in my mind that I would NOT have been offered that $130,000 right off the bat. In fact, if I had asked for $130,000 from the start, they probably would have negotiated me down $10,000, or rejected my resume without giving me a chance.

It was like dangling a big, fat, juicy carrot in front of them….. Besides, any more money, and I’d have to be at a higher level with a lot more responsibility. Ick.

Alternatively, I could have also said: I am worth $115,000 (average) and used that tactic instead to go up to at least $125,000. I think it’s safe to say that what I did won’t work for everyone, although I do have to mention that my first job out of college, paid me an additional $15,000 over their initial offer just because I asked. So never say never 🙂 So what would apply as general advice on getting more money?

 Your starting offer is the most important negotiation, EVER

Imagine if I had taken my first job at $50,000 (what they offered) instead of pushing for more money and getting $65,000. In 10 years, with a $2000 raise a year (if I’m lucky), I could have expected to be at $60,000 a year. I’d still be out $5000! Instead, I started at $65,000, and with $2000 raises a year, in 10 years I would have been earning $75,000, rather than $60,000. All of this, adds up in the long run, so take it seriously.

 Companies always have a little $10,000 – $15,000 to spare

Companies have a budget for a position that they also have the authorization to go over for an exceptional candidate if need be. So even if you take the strategy where you make them blink first by offering a number, understand that it is their lower offer.

Who the heck wants to pay more if they don’t have to? Not me, and certainly not any employer I’ve ever come across.

My rule of thumb is: Whatever they start with, they can go up $10,000 – $15,000 more. That has tended to be quite true in my case, because we’re already in the 6-figure range, and they aren’t going to lose a candidate they like for $10,000.

 Know what you are worth so you are prepared

Do your research by understanding what the market demand and supply is like. If there is a glut in the market and you are seeing TONS of job offers for your field, make a note that the demand is high but the supply is low — it means you can ask for more money. Read up as much as you can about the companies hiring you:

  • Glassdoor
  • The Vault
  • The company websites
  • Newspaper articles

Now, figure out an average salary (and salary range) for your job, and your years of experience. You don’t need to find exact job titles, a rough estimate based on the industry and what you know of your role in the industry, is enough.

  • Ask your colleagues
  • Ask your former classmates who are in other companies
  • Payscale
  • Glassdoor

Have as much information as you can. All information is good information that will make you an informed job seeker.

 It doesn’t hurt to ask!!!

Only you can know if that’s true or not depending on your industry, but it never hurts to ask for more money, even if you are grateful and desperate for the job offer in the first place (as I was). If they offered you the job — you know that they want you, so just ask!

 What do you really have to lose?

That they say ‘No’ and you start anyway at a salary you would have been happy with? Or that they say ‘Yes’, and you’re starting out at higher than you had dreamed of? Either option sounds fabulous to me.

As you practice more with negotiations, people will have you on their radar as someone to watch, and when it comes time to negotiate a salary increase or a higher bonus, you’ll be well-prepared and well-versed in asking for more money.

It isn’t shameful, or dirty to let an employer know that making money is an important part of a job — they already KNOW that no one works for fun or for free — but if they can get away with paying you less, they will because it means more money for them in the end. So.. why not take more of the money for yourself? 🙂

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  • SWR

    How much do you think employers pay attention to your salary at your last place of employment?  

    • Mochi & Macarons

      A lot. I think psychologically they see your last salary and bump it by $10-20k.
      This is why you may need another tactic if you’re worth more but wasn’t paid accordingly.
      Go in with a false higher salary number closer to your actual worth.

      • SWR

        So if you’re switching (for example) from non-profit work to a for-profit company, do you think it’s fair to start from the equivalent private sector salary for your old job?

        • Mochi & Macarons

          Yes and No.

          Yes if that is what is fair in the private sector after you’ve done your research.
          No, because private sector is way more competitive and it could work for, or against you

  • Mochi & Macarons

    You’ve said it exactly right.

    But it is even more important to know that you have those skills and to demand your worth.

  • Daisy

    I work in a public organization where they have very set pay grids. It’s not really negotiable – and benefits aren’t either. I’d say work schedule is the only negotiable thing, but public organizations typically enjoy higher wages anyway.. I wish I could have negotiated, though.

    • Mochi & Macarons

      The good thing with the public sector is that you at least know the pay and/or it will never change once you stay and move higher up.
      Private sector is more volatile so there are lows and highs depending on where you work.

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