Don’t Fall For This
Salary Offer Trick
Last night my wife and I had dinner at a fancy place for a friend’s birthday. But when the waiter took our order, he asked me something interesting…
“Tonight we have a special lava fudge cake,” he started, “but this hand-crafted dessert is so delicate that it takes 30 minutes to prepare and bake. So if you want it, I need to take your order now, before dinner, and we can begin to create it for you.”
Based on his choice of words “we can begin to create it,” I was surprised the cake could be made in anything less than 7 days. Still, 30 minutes seemed like a long time to be waiting around for dessert. So I concluded that he was right–it would make more sense for me to order it now before dinner arrived.
The Fancy Waiter Got Me
Wow, this restaurant knew a thing or two about behavioral psychology.
If you wait until after dinner, there’s a good chance you’ll be so full from your meal that you won’t even look at the dessert menu. But if your waiter manages to find a way to “pop the question” before you’ve eaten (or even seen your dinner plate) there’s a much better chance you’ll cave in.
It’s like shopping for food when you’re hungry. You end up coming home with grocery bags overflowing with buttered popcorn flavored kettle chips (not real), and chocolate covered peeps (actual food item).
Negotiating Salary Offer Trickery
A smooth HR manager will use this same “get ‘em while they’re hungry” technique on you when you’re negotiating salary. Before they offer you the job, the employer know there’s a good chance you might really need that job. And that’s why they try to get you to commit to a salary figure as early in the process as possible. They’ll even try to make you write down your salary requirements on the job application if you let them. They want you to order dessert while you’re still hungry.
But remember this, no matter how delicious the lava fudge cake sounds, you must resist the temptation.
If you can just hang on a little bit longer until you’ve got the job offer, most of their power will go away and now you get to be the one pushing the dessert cart.
As soon as they make you the offer, it becomes their turn to be hungry. After a long and difficult search for just the right job candidate, they have finally found you. They’ve needed to fill this spot for weeks and the HR manager is getting daily telephone calls from the marketing department asking when they’re finally going to lock someone in.
A powerful confirmation bias is settling in for them. They are already beginning to think about how much easier their lives will be once they’ve got you onboard. This is the peak moment.
It’s the perfect time to sell them a big piece of your special lava fudge cake.
How “Reason Why” Statements Earn You Higher Pay
The fancy restaurant invented a beautiful story for why I had to order dessert before the dinner arrived. In the field of persuasion, this is called a “reason why” statement, and it’s a key technique for getting the other side to go along with your wishes.
Does it really take 30 minutes to bake a lava fudge cake? Who knows? It sure is a great story though, and stories make the best “reason why” statements.
But don’t worry if you’re not a very good story teller.
Research by behavioral scientist Ellen Langer showed that just using the word “because” in your statement will get you 90% of the way there. In one of her more famous studies, she had students ask to cut in line at the copying machine. She found that as long as the students used the word “because” in their “reason why” statement, it didn’t really matter what excuse they gave. People have been conditioned to hear the word “because” followed by a logical sounding explanation and their brains just tend to fill in the details.
When it comes to negotiating salary offers or asking for a pay raise, you’ll probably want to stick to a somewhat credible story. You might try a variation of the following:
“For me, salary doesn’t matter as much as the team I’ll be working with…because these are the people I‘ll be around every day for my entire career here. Let me meet them and get to know them so I can be sure that I’m the right person for this job, and as long as there’s a good fit, I don’t think salary will be a problem.”