In this post we’ll cover different situations you can expect to encounter throughout salary negotiations in a high-tech interview, and ways of conducting yourself throughout them.
Before we talk about different negotiation scenarios, let’s explain what a salary negotiation actually is.
What is a salary negotiation?
Most people think that salary negotiation is just about agreeing on their future salary. This is indeed a part of it, but it is still missing something very important.
Imagine for example getting an exciting salary offer that is higher than what you expected. However, this salary comes with only a few vacation days and no budget for personal development. Would you accept this offer even if it meets your salary expectations?
To make this point clear - don’t fixate on the final salary number. A salary negotiation encompasses many different perks besides the salary itself:
Number of days off
Flexible working hours and possibility to work from home
Subscriptions to popular services such as Spotify, Netflix
Learning budget / days allocated to personal development
Company phone / laptop
To summarize, a salary negotiation involves all perks associated with the job offer.
Now let’s cover some situations that can come up in these interviews.
Situation 1 - What is your current salary?
Many recruiters try to figure out your current salary because this information is valuable for them to optimize their offer based on your previous salary.
Remember that tech recruiters work for a company to save them money during the recruiting process. Imagine your current salary amounts to $45,000. A tech recruiter can ask for this and offer you a 10% increase, which amounts to $49,500. That’s a great offer! However, you might not have known that the tech recruiter had a much larger margin for hiring new employees and had likely received an upper constraint of $60,000, for example.
Therefore, it's beneficial for you not to disclose your current salary. Here are possible answers to this question.
Sorry, I don’t feel comfortable disclosing my current salary.
I can’t disclose my current salary as it’s private information that I can share only with my hiring manager. I hope you can understand this.
Situation 2 - What salary do you expect?
Again, try to avoid answering questions regarding your salary expectations. Recruiters receive salary bands for particular skill levels. Therefore, try to point this question back to them. It’s best to receive a salary offer from your recruiter so you can start the negotiation from this point.
The following replies would work well in this situation.
“Thank you for this question. We’ve already had an extensive interview process in which I’ve shown my skills and cultural fit. I trust you to provide me with a salary offer based on this information that fits the company’s needs. We can start the salary negotiation from this point. How does that sound?”
“I’m sure you are familiar with my skill level and what would be an appropriate salary offer and I trust you to provide me with a fair offer.”
If a recruiter doesn’t want to provide a salary offer before knowing your salary expectations, ask them for the salary bands. This information allows you to confirm that your salary expectations fall within or outside of these bands. It should give tech recruiters a good insight into your expectations.
To summarize, recruiters have interviewed plenty of candidates to provide you with a reasonably accurate estimate of your worth. Make sure to first receive a salary offer before disclosing your salary expectations. If that’s not possible, ask for salary bands.
Situation 3 - Sorry, we can’t offer you the salary you expect.
What if a recruiter or company rejects your requested salary?
Most often it’s not a good sign. Perhaps the company doesn’t have the means to offer you the requested salary.
When negotiating a salary, you should ask for 5 to 10% more than your target salary. This leaves room for negotiation. On top of that, you can opt to negotiate better job perks as a compromise to a lower salary, such as more vacation days or a larger learning budget.
Therefore, not everything is lost when a company rejects your salary request. Send them a counter-offer that is 5 to 10% lower or change some of the job perks in your favour. This shows your willingness to negotiate your salary and interest in the company.
Here’s an example reply to handle this situation.
“Hey, I appreciate your honest reply in regards to my salary expectations. As I would like to join the team, let’s try to negotiate a job offer that works for both of us. Perhaps you can change the offer by including more job perks, such as vacation days or an increased learning budget. How about that? I’m looking forward to your reply.”
Situation 4 - What do you think of a salary of $X?
Lastly, a company offers you a salary of $X, how do you react? Several scenarios are possible depending on your current/target salary.
Your current/target salary is higher than the offered salary
In this situation, it’s important to express your willingness to join the team while asking for their best offer. It’s your final chance to receive a better offer.
“Thank you for this offer. Although I would like to join the team, this offer is lower than my current salary. Is this the highest salary you would like to offer me?”
Your current/target salary is equal to the offered salary
In this situation, you can either ask for a better salary or negotiate job perks such as extra vacation days or more days allocated to personal development. Sometimes it’s worth accepting a job with a similar salary that provides you with more benefits.
“This is a good offer. As it sounds very encouraging, I would say we are close. Is it possible to discuss other benefits, such as receiving 40 vacation days instead of 30 vacation days?”
Your current/target salary is lower than the offered salary
Great! Most people would accept this offer. But remember there’s always a margin for salary offers. In this situation, it’s best to negotiate better perks and agree on the salary.
“Thank you for the offer! I think we are on the same page about the salary. Yet, I would like to discuss the number of vacation days. Is it possible to increase the number of vacation days to 40 days? That would be appreciated!”
Should you ask for a higher salary than your target salary?
Many people feel uncomfortable negotiating their salary. It’s a natural response as you aren’t necessarily trained to negotiate offers.
The answer to the question is simple - yes!
Remember, to provide yourself with more margin for negotiation, ask for a salary that’s 5-10% higher than your target salary.
If you are afraid of applying this strategy as you might miss out on interesting opportunities, keep in mind that most companies know about the salary negotiation game and won’t abort an interview process based on your salary request. On top of that, they’ve already invested time in you and shown their interest in hiring you.
At the end of the day, if a company stops the salary negotiation process, perceive it as a good filter. Don't feel bad about missing out on opportunities that are not worth your time. Most likely, the company can’t offer you the target salary.
To conclude, don’t go blindly into an interview. You should know your ideal outcome, what you are willing to compromise on, and what’s your lowest outcome you are willing to accept. Also, make sure to research the company. A recently funded company will have higher salary bands than a self-supporting startup.