3 Tips for Reopening a Salary Negotiation


Your search succeeded: You found the right job, accepted the salary proposal and agreed on a start date. And then… another company makes you a better offer.

While some people might tell you the better deal always wins, you’re actually in a delicate position. The manager who hired you has stopped interviewing candidates, and is certainly planning for the day you’ll start work. If you back out of your commitment, there’s every chance that others in the IT world (and what a small world it is) will hear about it, and that’s not a good thing to have following you around.

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Do you have any options? Though many people argue that you’re honor-bound to follow the commitment you’ve made, others say reality is a lot more nuanced.

If you find yourself in such a situation, the first order of business is to evaluate whether the new offer is truly the better one. This is about more than money, suggests Lisa Stotlar, a career counselor at CareerGenerations in Palo Alto, Calif.: Yes, you have to think about the dollars involved—but also consider the new boss, the work itself, the future of the company, and how everybody might react if you try to reopen the offer.

Some people will decide right off the bat that they can’t go back on their word. Others will believe they owe it to themselves to at least have a conversation with the original employer. If you decide that’s the course for you, tread carefully.

  • Be Frontal. Remind the company that you’d been conducting an active job search and had conversations going on with more than one employer, Stotlar said. Acknowledge that the situation is awkward, and have a clear idea of your desired outcome. Bear in mind that the company may not be able to match the other offer. As Stotlar notes, some employers may understand your predicament. “They may say they misread the market and be OK with the conversation,” she said. “They may be able to sweeten their offer, and you might take the lesser offer because it just feels like a good fit.” Whatever happens, strive to make the solution look like a win-win. “Companies want to feel special, too,” she observed. “They want to feel like they’ve been ‘selected.’”
  • Don’t Play Games. When you open the conversation, be ready to come to a decision quickly. Know your bottom line in terms of salary, as well as any other perks you might want, such as working from home or flexible hours. “I’ve seen offers reneged when people have [gone] too far,” Stotlar said. “You wouldn’t want two companies to get frustrated and both walk away.”
  • Avoid the Situation in the First Place. The best way to keep out of trouble is to keep all parties informed. Let employers know that you’re talking to other companies and whether any of these conversations are at advanced stages. When you accept an offer, tell other companies promptly. If you think others may be coming close to making an offer, by all means let them know you’ve got something on the table to try to move them along, suggests Elizabeth Lions, a career coach in Dallas and author of I Quit! Working For You Isn’t Working For Me. But do that before you’ve gone ahead and agreed to go to work for someone else. “Manage your job search,” she said. “Get offers to fall at once, so you can decide.”

When you have the discussion with the original company, bear in mind that businesses have a certain amount of pride at stake. As Stotlar warned: “If you play this like, ‘I’m just going to take the highest bidder,’ you could walk away with nothing.”

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13 Responses to “3 Tips for Reopening a Salary Negotiation”

  1. It’s funny, I did all that and it didn’t turn out well. Turns out the recruiter didn’t tell the client the complete truth, probably because they were from India they didn’t know the best way to tell the client.

    The situation – I had gotten an offer from one company and I had one more interview with another company that paid 50% more. I was honest with the recruiter right from the start.

    What happened? Well they the recruiter (guy from India) went and told the client I was still out interviewing.

    Smooth… Real smooth, make it look like I’m not interested, like I’m going here and there and all over to get away from them.

    I hate India’s involvement in my IT career, what a mess they’ve created, and the stories keep on growing.

    • What a strange comment, NF. I’m not even sure what the problem is; if you had not received an offer from company 1it is actually to your advantage for company 1 to know you’re still interviewing. And if you had received an offer, it’s your bad for accepting it when you were still actively interviewing with company 2. You should have been honest and said you had another interview to wrap up and thus would want to defer your commitment until date X, which should be no more than a week or so out.

      Regardless, blaming your poor judgement on “India” is very self-serving. Next time, if you’re biased against recruiters of a particular nationality, don’t work with them!

      Employment stuff happens, deal and move on.

      • TG, I don’t think you read the comment. My very first line states that I did exactly what the article entailed, which is communication.

        Secondly, you seem to be out of touch with reality as it relates to India. Whether it’s India or China, there’s going to be a language barrier between the two. For them to go back and tell Company A something that’s not entirely true, (which I also stated), gives Company A the wrong impression of what’s really going on.

        If you really think that the US IT career has gotten better since the outsourcing to India, you are clearly out of touch with reality, and perhaps you shouldn’t judge me based on your lack of experience. And don’t state the obvious to tell me to deal and move on, I’ve already done that without your advice.

        • Sorry, I don’t know what your point is, NF You stated you were still in the interview process for company B and then complained that the recruiter told company A that you were still interviewing. Did you want to the agency to lie to company A, even by omission, and tell them you weren’t interviewing?

          Hopefully this isn’t news to you: Agencies work for the client, NOT you. They will burn YOU, in a heartbeat, rather than their client. Knowingly lying to a client about the status of a candidate is one of the better ways to lose a client.

          All that being said, complaining about the IT career path changing because there’s more global competition is like the blacksmith whining about automobiles. If there’s one thing I’ve learned in the IT industry, it’s that those who don’t adapt to reality and constantly retool themselves quickly become roadkill.

          Employment stuff happens, deal and move on.

          The world is a big place and if you can’t compete or handle yourself professionally you

          • I think you guys are talking past each other. I think what NF is trying to say is that the recruiter botched the communication with the one company. Instead of telling the company to give NF a few days as NF might have another offer coming in and would want to compare them, it sounds like the recruiter told the company that NF wasn’t interested and would keep looking.

            NF: This is what I think you’re saying, anyway. You also mentioned in another response to someone that the company stopped talking to the recruiter. That might not have just been because of you. This recruiter could have presented the company with multiple resumes, and maybe the company just decided the recruiter was a moron (for who knows what reasons) and decided not to do business with him anymore.

            You ended up with the higher paying job anyway, right?

  2. While it’s fine to open the negotiation directly and honestly. but I think it’ll not work. because it’ll give an idea that you are a greedy person who trying to open the agreement to gain more money andor other benifit. the other reason is when a company is hiring; they have a list of C.V’s suitable for the offer and they order them so that if one apologize they will take the 2nd…etc.

    This will only work if you are unique employee that have something the other don’t have;i.e. in the case of head hunting between companies. so unless you are known with your unique and excellent working skills. this will not work for you.

    • There’s always going to be a vast range between rates, even for the same job, and this has nothing to do with the idea that you think I’m greedy. Unfortunately, the opposite is true which leads me to believe that you aren’t in touch with the business. Any consultant will tell you about the greed that goes on in the recruiting industry. And we all know that some jobs pay more than others, so it’s not uncommon to find that one position would pay considerable more than the other.

      As far as the rest, I’m not sure what you’re saying, sorry.

  3. Guys, still there are risks of accepting offer form company B, which is offering considerable higher package than company B. As, I have seen the companies not following their terms and words even mentioned during the time of before hiring. Such as, you have been informed that the contract will continue 12 months minimum, while actually it’s going to over within 3-4 months because of blah blah reasons and candidate who moved along with their families to a far destination, will come up in a difficult and unwanted situations. In such case, candidate can’t even go to jurisdiction as there are no labour laws defined for Indian IT workers, which are exists in US. Such unethical and non-reliable practices have been found even with MNC consultancies.

    • Assuming you’re specifically referencing contract assignments, those kinds of risks exist even with company A. I’m not sure how Indian law comes into play here as here in the US there are no legal protections for a contractor’s assignment, initially said to be 12 months, to end on day 1. It’s up to the contractor to protect themselves financially, it’s certainly not the client or agency who will be doing that.

  4. The article is… quite incomplete.
    Not that I can give any better advice, however: There are major differences between small companies and big IT companies that are actually recruiting… until the next wave of offshoring takes place.