In the October 28, 2014 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter, two job seekers make one very wrong assumption. One gets burned, the other still might learn. These two readers made the same mistake–they bungled their salary negotiations. Could they have handled it better?
I got an offer from a prestigious company and accepted it two months ago. During my notice period of three months, I got one more good offer. It was higher than the first offer. After careful analysis, I have decided to join the first company, where the salary is lower. This is my first job, and I accepted the offer without negotiating the salary. Now I would like to ask the employer to increase the offer. I still have 15 days before I start work. Could you please suggest how to proceed? Thanks in advance.
Congratulations on your offer, and on having a job with a company you really want to work for. If you’re happy with this new job, don’t try to grab a few more dollars. Rather, earn them in your first promotion and performance review. (Here’s the first thing that I think everyone should learn about this topic: That’s why it’s called compensation.)
Now I will caution you: You said you have already accepted the job offer. That means negotiations are closed, over, finished, done.
If you go back now and ask for more money, there is a chance they will become justifiably upset with you and withdraw the offer. After all, you accepted what they offered. In my opinion, what you are contemplating is inappropriate. I think it will suggest a lack of character to the employer.
(However, if you were to rescind your acceptance so you could take the higher-paying job, I’d have no issue with that. I discuss this in Juggling Job Offers, an article that is now expanded in the PDF book, Fearless Job Hunting, Book 9: Be The Master of Job Offers.)
It is common to have second thoughts about salary, especially when another company offers you more. It is also common to feel we could have negotiated a few more dollars. But consider this: You chose the lower salary job for a reason–apparently it’s a better situation for you. That’s a form of very valuable compensation in itself.
I have a rule: When you negotiate, always leave a few dollars on the table. It makes the other guy feel the negotiation was a success, and it makes him regard you and your new relationship more highly. Those few dollars are worth a lot in good will. To put it another way, never be greedy. Negotiate as best you can during negotiations–but when you’ve agreed to a deal, negotiations are done.
Read on to see what happened to another reader who changed her mind–too late–and tried to ask for more money.
I had an interview last week with a professional office, and I told them my desired salary range. My mistake. I quoted a lower amount than I needed. They checked references and they called to offer me the job. I explained that I had made an error and quoted them a range for a 30-hour work week rather than a 40-hour work week. I did not mention a new salary amount.
The hiring manager told me he was “put back by the lack of communication” and wanted me to come back in and speak with them again. I responded with, “It’s not a problem. I will accept your offer and I’m ready to start work.” He seemed frustrated and said he would call me back after talking to his partner again. He did not call back. I called yesterday and left a message, but he has not called me. I don’t want 25% more. What’s your advice?
I’m a big advocate for negotiating the very best compensation possible. But as I pointed out in the Q&A above, you can’t change a deal after it’s struck. (You can walk away from it, but that’s another story.) The problem is clear: You destroyed your credibility by changing your salary range. I understand you made an error. But when you called to explain it, all they heard is that you want to change the terms. That worries them. Now they don’t trust you to be up front and accurate with them.
You introduced uncertainty. I think that’s what turned them off. I’d send them a short, handwritten letter. I’d apologize for causing confusion, thank them for their time and interest, and tell them you understand why they may have decided to drop the matter. Sign it with best wishes and forget about it. There’s a small chance they’ll consider this a classy action and call you back. But if they don’t, I’d leave them alone, chalk it up to experience, and move on.
This is a hard lesson. I hope it’s one that the person who asked the first question above takes to heart. I don’ t think these are greedy people; I think they are naive negotiators. Never go into a negotiation without knowing exactly what you want. (Here’s some very simple but very powerful help: How to decide how much you want.) Once you state what you want, you kill your credibility if you change your position after the deal is settled–and it’s perfectly understandable if the other party withdraws the deal altogether.
Can you go back and re-negotiate a settled deal? I think there’s a difference between rescinding your acceptance of a job, and re-opening negotiations to get a better deal. What advice would you give these two readers?