Dear J.T. & Dale: I had an interview two weeks ago for a city recreation position. I was told I was overqualified but “in the running,” with a dozen more applicants to interview. She called today and offered me the job (woo hoo!), but at $23,000, which is the lower side of the pay range. Is it bad business to make a salary counter offer at $24,000? — Kim
J.T.: You can totally negotiate here. Think of it this way: She shopped around and went for the overqualified candidate. It could be a low-ball, and she’s expecting a counter.
Dale: Even when you’re sure you’re going to accept, you have an opening for negotiation. There are two approaches — the “Thank you, but” and the “Yes, but.” I know J.T. likes the former, so let me say something about the latter. You say: “I’m thrilled. Thank you so much. Yes, I accept. But there’s just one thing — I was hoping for a bit more salary. Any chance of that?” Get a “no” and you go back to being delighted anyway. There’s virtually no risk, with a shot at grabbing an extra 5 percent or 10 percent for 60 seconds of negotiation.
J.T.: Yes, I’d open with thanks, and with something about how you’d like to jump in and start helping. But then say: “This next part is hard for me. While I want the job, I have bills to pay and was hoping to get a starting salary that was higher than your offer.”
Dale: Yuck. You say, “bills to pay,” and the hiring manager hears, “Oh great, a solve-my-personal-problems employee.”
J.T.: Hold on. You follow with: “I know that I can bring immediate value, and if you could meet my salary needs, I would be incredibly grateful. I was hoping for $25,000. Is that something you’d be willing to discuss?” If you get a no, say: “I understand. Can you tell me then what would I have to accomplish, and how long it would take to earn a raise so I can review my finances and see if I can make this work?”
Dale: I like the question, “Is this something you’d be willing to discuss?” But the rest is high-risk. If you truly do NOT want the job at their offer, fine. But if you’d be devastated to lose this, don’t risk the “Thanks, but;” go with the “Yes, but” instead.
J.T.: I wouldn’t be as nervous as Dale. You can do this, Kim. Remember, you were their first choice! If you kill them with kindness and explain it politely, it should go smoothly.
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© 2011 by King Features Syndicate, Inc.
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