I interviewed for a job on a Tuesday and then got a call from the recruiter on Thursday that the team was unanimous in their decision to hire me! Awesome!!!
The only catch.. they could not bring me in at the level I had applied for so they were offering me a position one level down.
Unfortunately, the compensation for the new position no longer fit the range that they had quoted me previously. (We has discussed a number before I agreed to fly out for the interview).
They offered me $5k more in base than I made now, a signing bonus equivalent to my current yearly performance bonus, and stock.
This offer looked good on paper but when comparing it to my current compensation and the cost of living increase in the new area, it was actually significantly less.
I decided to negotiate my salary.
I Rejected Their Counter Offer
I politely explained to the recruiter when he initially made the offer that my current compensation, including benefits such as the retirement matching, was currently higher than this offer and that I was hoping for X number.
I shared that I was very excited about the position and could see myself working there. He said he expected my response, that they unfortunately could not bring me in at the higher level role based on the experience of the current team, and that he would see what he could do.
He then came back in email with a counter offer to restructure the compensation with less in stock and more in base and bonus. While this was certainly more attractive to me, it still didn’t make up for the cost of living, the opportunity cost at my current company, etc.
I gambled and rejected their counter offer.
I Didn’t Meet The Criteria for a Successful Negotiation
I have experience in negotiating my salary. In fact, I’ve successfully negotiated my salary many times over the past five years.
When I’ve successfully negotiated my salary in the past, I’ve had at least three of the following four factors working for me.
- How much does the employer want you? (HIGH is good)
- How much do you need the job? (LOW is good)
- How qualified are you for the job? (HIGH is good)
- How much more are you asking for? (LOW is good)
In this situation, I only had about 2/2.5 of these factors working for me (I didn’t need the job, the employer seemed to want me, and I was somewhat qualified). I knew going into negotiations that it was going to be tough.
I believe strongly that the more that the employer wants you, the harder you can negotiate. Despite the recruiter telling me that the decision was unanimous from the 5 people I interviewed with, and the strong connections I felt with two of the interviewers, I could tell by them moving me down a level that they did not feel I was as qualified for the role and that they weren’t worried about losing me.
In addition, I was asking for more than $15k higher than the current offer. This amount would match my current compensation and would not make up for the cost of living increase so I thought it was reasonable but knew it was risky.
The recruiter had admitted to me that he would have to request an exception for that amount given that it was outside of the salary range for the position.
I turned down the first offer and decided to proceed with the negotiation anyways because 1) I wasn’t planning on taking the job at the offered compensation and 2) I had other offers on the table and I could stay in my current job. I would not recommend this approach if the job is your dream job and you need it.
Don’t negotiate if you’re not prepared to walk away or lose the job!
The Employer Withdrew the Offer
48 hours after I negotiated my salary, I saw that a Compensation Consultant from that company viewed my LinkedIn profile (all the more reason to keep my LinkedIn Profile updated in future!)
A few hours later, I received an email from the recruiter telling me that they “Unfortunately couldn’t meet my compensation requirements and had decided to pursue other candidates.”
I have to admit, reading that email was like a punch in the gut. I didn’t expect them to walk away. I had expected that they would either come back with more money or say no, and let me consider the original offer as is.
What upset me most was that this job was close to family and I had pictured myself spending more time with my parents.
In terms of the job itself, I was a bit bummed to have missed out on the experience but I also did not connect with the person who would be my manager. I wasn’t sure I would be happy.
Luckily I still have other offers on the table and a job that I am happy with now.
I’m Not Afraid of Negotiating My Salary Again
This experience has not discouraged me from negotiating my salary. It has just further proven to me that negotiating is strongest when all four factors occur (they want you, you don’t need the job, you meet or exceed qualifications, and you’re not asking for that much more).
Additional tips for salary negotiation:
Harvard Business School has a great article on salary negotiation that discusses everything from timing your offers (which is very important!) to connecting with your recruiter on a personal level to get what you want.
Update 12/16: Nine months after this happened, a recruiter from this company emailed me and said they want to speak with candidates whose offers didn’t work out. We’re speaking next week.
Readers, have you ever had an employer walk away from an offer?
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