BE HONEST ABOUT YOUR ALTERNATIVES
Keith was moving to New York City with his partner and wanted to find a new job.
The f irst offer he received was with a New York City department. He was excited but disappointed with the initial salary offered. “It was a classic case of misaligned expectations,” he says. He had applied for the job through a friend rather than in response to a formal posting with a stated salary band.
Throughout the interview process, he had been looking at other city jobs with similar titles and job descriptions and assumed the compensation would be comparable. It turns out there wasn’t a correlation.
Keith decided to ask for a higher salary. “I didn’t have formal offers, but I knew I was one of two top candidates for two other opportunities, and I knew the salary ranges,” he says. He explained to the chief of staff who had been running the process that he expected to have other, more lucrative offers. “I had to be careful about what I said. I didn’t want to lie,” he says.
He was clear and upfront. “I told them I’m really excited about the substance of the work. All things being equal I would prefer to join the team, but because there is such a discrepancy in salary, it’s a difficult decision,” Keith says. He then proposed a salary that was 15% more than the initial offer. If the department would meet him at t hat amount, he would accept. The chief of staff agreed to take the request to human resources.
He soon came back and said that HR could meet his proposal. “In retrospect, I could’ve possibly gotten a higher offer had I had that initial conversation about salary in the earlier stages of the interviews, but I was happy with the outcome,” Keith says.