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Recovering After Understating Your Salary Expectations Mark Swartz, M.B.A. M.Ed.

About the Author

Mark Swartz, MBA, M.Ed., is Canada's Career Activist. His insights reach millions yearly as the Career Advisor, as author of the best seller "Get Wired, You're Hired," also as a professional speaker and coach on career/work issues. A former Toronto Star careers columnist, Mark's advice is forthright and practical. For Canada's biggest directory of free career articles, and for personalized coaching, please visit

Question: I recently went for an interview set up by an employment agency. I believe that I did quite well at the interview and was scheduled back for a second one. At the time of scheduling the second interview I was asked what my salary expectations were. I had been told before that there was a range, based on experience that differed up to $10,000 a year (Example: $25,000 - $35,000 annually). Not thinking, I chose the lower end of the scale as it would be more than I am making currently. I am truly interested in this position and don't want to ruin my chances of getting it, but I would now like to change my expectations to reflect my experience and what I feel I could offer the company (let's say $30,000 for an example). I go for the interview on Thursday of next week, and I am told that the hiring manager will discuss salary expectations with me at that time. As I am almost sure the employment agency and the Human Resources rep have talked, how can I bring up what I feel is more fair representation of what I would like? Any advice you could provide would be greatly appreciated!!

Katie G., Canada

Dear Katie,

You're actually in a win-win situation here. If you do end up getting this job, then whether or not you are able to raise the salary from its lower point, you will not only be re-employed, but at a rate of pay higher than that of your previous position. Good for you. Now let's look at how you might negotiate a job offer to try and get the salary you believe you deserve.

You say that you've already told the recruiter you'd be willing to accept the lower end of the range. That recruiter has passed this info on the HR rep at the employer. Thus, you're concerned that the employer may be uncomfortable if you try to ask for more once they present you with an offer.

I'm not so sure you have cause for concern and have three reasons why, which I'll go into:

  • First of all, most employers expect you to negotiate an offer,
  • Secondly, you should keep in mind that salary is just one of several components in an overall compensation package,
  • And finally, the moment an employer makes you an offer, they are declaring aloud that you are the one they want to have aboard more than all the other candidates they'd heard from.

Starting with reason one above: a job offer usually comes with a bit of room to negotiate. The way you fight for what you believe you're worth can actually demonstrate to an employer your resolve and persuasion skills. (For advice on negotiating click here). As long as you are willing to leave something on the table for both parties, you may have more wiggle room than you think.

Next is the salary versus compensation aspect. Let's say, for instance, that the employer is unwilling to budge from the salary they offer you. Well, what about asking for some extra paid vacation instead? Or having them waive the waiting period for enrolment in their benefits plan? Maybe they could throw in flex-time or telecommuting to increase your work life balance.

Last is timing. Keep in mind that the best time to negotiate is just after they make you an offer, and before you accept. During what I like to call this ''peak love'' period (since the employer is now outwardly expressing that they want you specifically), your worth to them is maximized. You've already impressed them enough to make them want to hire you. They don't want to have to go back and re-interview other candidates. So why wouldn't they at least be open to your request for a somewhat more satisfactory compensation package, so long as you're within reason?

Mind you, you're going to have to justify to them why they should pay you more than you said you'd be willing to accept. For instance, now that you have a better understanding of the nature of the role you will be taking on here, you can see how your extensive skills and experience really do tie in ideally, and as such by hiring you the employer will be saving on some training costs and will be getting a knowledgeable, ready-to-jump-in staff member.

One thing is for certain, Katie: if you don't ask for more, you'll never know if they'd have said yes. The key is to make your request professionally and, if necessary, to justify it convincingly. You may end up with what you really want!

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