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Advice for Negotiating Salary?(r/AskEngineers)
I agree with @AParanoidEmu, you have a good chance of upping this number. I’d get a copy of the school’s statistic on the $72,500 to back it up at the negotiating table. I’d counter offer with higher than $72,500 myself.
If you have higher than average GPA or if you had internships involved in AE, definitely go higher than the average!
If the average of $72,500 is OK with you, you can let yourself be negotiated down to that or even to $70K if that’s acceptable to you (I don’t know why it would be).
Also know what amount you will walk from (walk from the negotiation entire with a “Sorry, but buh-bye, no deal”). There is always such a level – personally I’d put the walk-away threshold at $72,500 but I’m a risk-thriving person, always had internships and high GPA in school, etc.
Other tips – sorry, yet another Wall of Text:
All negotiations have a similar structure and set of rules. Basically you have a “game” played with each side having a turn with 3 options:
- Stay in the game, accept offered bid, game ends
- Stay in the game, make counter-bid (including a null-bid, same-as-last-time), game continues
- Get out of the game (walk away), game ends
This is bootstrapped by a opening bid made by one of the two sides. The game iterates until the game ends. BTW ALL economic transactions and romantic/sexual relationships are also negotiations exactly the same as this. Something to think about if you aren’t getting laid regularly or if you are in a bad relationship.
All you have to do is know what you are willing to accept, counter or walk from. These are determined by stakes (pay, benefits, commitments, etc.) and resource levels (your time to play the game and money opportunity cost of playing). You should always enter any negotiation knowing what these thresholds are ahead of time.
You can determine the thresholds based on
comparables (what others that are “comparable” are paid) – like how houses are initially bid, or
your own financial needs (cost-based pricing, your cash flow costs and obligations) which usually “leaves money on the table” in their favor
your intuition and opinion of what you are worth and what you think they will accept (“what the market will bear” which is not “provable” except empirically but is just as reasonable as anything for a negotiation – you have to be brave enough to be able to “walk” based on your intuition/opinion about this) – this is actually the maximizing solution and also the one that requires the most knowledge/research and risk.
The party offering money (aka Buyer) should always low-ball their initial offer and counter-offers. The party offering non-money (aka Seller) should always high-ball their initial offer and counter-offers. This has to do with the fungibility of money over pretty much all else – it’s bias in the power relationship.
It also is the only way for both parties to find the deal “intuitively/emotionally acceptable”; go in the “wrong direction” and “non-monotonic counter-offer progression” and there will be “sour grapes” on one side even after the deal is closed which will often cause problems down the road.
Also related to this: the point is not to close the negotiation quickly. This actually both signals, and is in fact an indication of, a side’s situational/negotiation weakness. Aka “Blood in the water”. You have time (unless you don’t) so having several iterations of the above game is a good thing.
In other words, your 1st counter offer should be obviously unacceptable with the expectation it will be rejected and trigger a counter-offer but not a “walk away” on their side: above the Buyer’s “Reasonable Zone” but below the Buyer’s “Insult Zone” in the Buyer’s “Credible Zone” (see PDF below). The “Insult Zone” is where a side is jarred to the point where they realize they are wasting their time playing the game and should walk away (quit).
And the $66K should be obviously unacceptable to you – nearly in if not in your “Insult Zone”. I’d say $80K is still in the Buyer’s Credible Zone, possibly in the high Reasonable Zone. I’d guess the $66k is actually the Buyer’s “Top Line” offer.
So you iterate with their offer to your counter offer (and assuming they reject $80K):
“So you won’t do $80K. What can you offer that is better than $66K. BTW, the recent historic salaries of MSAE graduates from my school has averaged $72,500.”
lay a print-out of the schools statistics on the table
“I’ve had internships between terms which means I have more experience that your average graduate. I also have a very good, above average GPA.”
lay your resume on the table
“So I while my $80K number is quite fair IMO, what can you do instead?”
And they counter-counter-offer with a new number (the game continues, now with them having the idea that your “Bottom Line” is closer to $72,500) or they “null” counter offer (“we can’t go above $66K”). Again, what is your “walk away” threshold? I’d definitely walk at this point unless there are significant non-money things they can counter with, but that’s me.
So consider asking/proposing for things that aren’t cash money to pad you initial or counter offers (especially if they null offer below your walk away threshold). This could include benefits or it could be vacations or sabbaticals or trade/academic conference trips or perks a nice window office and an equipment budget.
“OK so you can’t go above $66K. I really liked the folks I interviewed with and it seems like a good work environment, but I can’t accept that salary. Maybe there are other benefits you can offer to make up for the gap in your salary offer. ”
This is a not subtle dig (and quite intentional, but nicely framed) which they should pick up on and put them on the defensive, at least in their minds. They want to be liked because you just said you liked them BUT – you put the BUT in their mouths based on what they said/offered which says they are not reciprocating with your liking them. You may pick up on it in body language. Being put on the defense will cause them to agree to things they may not normally agree or plan to; that’s a good thing. Just get it in writing.
“You normally offer 2 weeks of vacation per year after a 6 month probation period: how about we nullify the probation completely and you give me 4 week of vacation per year immediately. That works out to $2640 extra per year effectively.”
That bumps you up to $68,640 right there. Their objection will be that the “salary curve doesn’t allow that” to which you can say “So let’s make a new position, title and salary curve then” which BTW I’ve had done for me in the past!! It is possible but it requires imagination and authority on their part – another possible “walk away criteria”. I used 50 weeks because that’s when you’d normally be working for them productively with 2 weeks vacation. But before they can answer…
“There are 3 professional conferences I’d like to regularly attend. If you guaranteed my annual attendance with hotel, transportation and meals for myself and my wife/SO, that would be another $6K per year. I’d be willing to pick up the expenses for my wife other than the hotel, transportation and meals, of course.”
Obviously you need to be prepared for all of this with your own numbers. It’s like studying for an exam you’d actually like to pass, right? Did you notice the sleight-of-hand on getting your wife/SO covered? Of course the “extra expense” both quite reasonable and costing you nothing but it only seems fair to include the other things for her since she is affected by their offer gap also and they need to make up the gap in their offer somehow.
“And to really do my job here well, I’d really need to have the new Acme Boundary-layer Characterization System 5000 in my lab and plenty of computing power to drive the analysis. If you could provide that I have one of those, say, within the next 2-3 months, and give me a $200K/year capital budget, I could ignore the remaining difference in salary from what I think is perfectly reason and acceptable as an industry norm.”
Get this in writing also. And the benefit to them is that they get to keep the Acme 5000 and any capital anyway and it help them with a productivity issue. So it doesn’t actually cost them and might be nearly a sunk cost anyway. But it will make your work life so much easier and more pleasant.
There are so many negotiation tricks I’m using above I can’t really gory detail them here. Get a copy of Cohen and Caldini, read them, think about this situation in the context of these books. Also look at this negotiation PDF, especially the “7 secret weapons” (from Caldini IIRC).
Get these non-money things in writing as part of closing the deal. Ideally in the final offer letter or in a written employment agreement your write for them yourself if they won’t write it in or they wiggle with “we can handle this later”.
If they throw out the idea of a formal written agreement to the extras then minimally write a “letter/memorandum of understanding” that says the same basic thing and certified mail it to them. If you have a friend who’s a lawyer, ask him/her to send it to the company for you on firm letterhead.
A MOU/LOU of understanding isn’t as strong as a contract but it does have significant legal standing so you can at least use it as a negotiating tool later on if you need to – particularly if they go back on the agreed terms and you need to bitch-slap them to get them back on track.