When You've Lowballed Yourself in Negotiations

Published: Mar 31, 2009

 Salary & Benefits       
Question: During a second interview, the employer asked my earnings requirements. I gave a range, and he agreed to the top number. Later, I learned companies typically pay more for this job. Can I bring up salary again?

Answer: Before interviewing, candidates should know three numbers. The first is the market rate companies pay for the job. This is typically stated as a minimum, midpoint and maximum salary. At big companies, new hires are usually paid along this spectrum based on their skills and experience. Smaller companies may have less formalized salary structures. The second number is the amount you want to be paid annually. The third is the minimum you will accept.

Companies generally prefer not to reopen pay talks after an offer has been made and accepted, but because you haven't received a concrete job offer, you can still negotiate without being viewed poorly. How you ask is critical, though, says Taren Gray, a recruiter in Boise, Idaho, for Wells Fargo & Co. "If you sound arrogant, it could put a bad taste in the hiring manager's mouth."

When you make your request is also important, says Peter Vergano, senior manager, HR-strategic staffing for Samsung Electronics America Inc. in Ridgefield Park, N.J. If you want the job regardless, wait until after you receive an offer, he says. At that point, it's fine to say you have done more research and were hoping the starting salary could be increased. However, he notes, if you don't want the position unless you get this raise, clarify the issue now.

You should also consider a few other factors. One is the quality of your pay data. Generalized averages produced by online salary calculators aren't always applicable to specific companies and jobs. Your experience and salary history will also be taken into account. It's possible you lack the experience to warrant a higher starting salary at this company.

If this company is reputable, the interviewer probably isn't trying to take advantage of you. It's bad business to pay candidates below the market rate for a job because they'll likely become dissatisfied and leave when they find out. Also it's generally not wise to turn down a good career opportunity over a few thousand dollars. You can meet with your manager after starting work to ask when raises are given and what you can do to get the biggest increase, says Ms. Gray. With good performance, your pay may rise faster than you might expect.