Select Page

Negotiating Salary by Phone – 2



Continued From: Negotiating Your Salary (part 1)




HR Rep: Where did I leave off? Ah yes, let’s go ahead and have you tell me your current salary.

You: I think my current salary would definitely be a useful data point. The only thing is… I signed a confidentiality agreement as part of my contract when I was hired by my current employer. I’m not sure I can share that info without getting into some trouble there.

HR Rep: Well, I’m going to need a number to put on my HR form before we can make you an offer. This HR form is very official and there is a place right at the top where I have to write down your current salary.

You: I understand. How about this, I can probably give you my current salary in the context of a range. I’m sure I can do that without breaking any confidentiality agreements with my employer. Then you can verify the exact salary later after I’ve joined your firm? Fair enough?

HR Rep: Sure.

You: Thank you. I just ask that we not use my current salary as a benchmark, but instead rely on fair market data to determine my value. Does that sound fair?

HR Rep: Well your current salary is probably the very definition of fair market data. What could be a better estimate of your market value than what the market is currently paying you for your services?

You: Good point. But there is something I ought to tell you…

[You switch the phone from your left to right hand as well]

You: I am not left handed either! The thing about current salary is that it’s impacted by a host of non-market factors including single-firm employment duration, internal company policies, and non-salary components of total compensation.

HR Rep: So what benchmark do you suggest?

You: Other useful benchmarks might be something like data from the BLS (Bureau of Labor Statistics), current salaries of other employees at other firms in similar positions (the kind one might find on, competing offers from other firms, and survey data from third party vendors like ERI (the Economic Research Institute). Of course I’ve always found that the most accurate information comes from the database listing your company’s mandatory disclosure filings with the DOL (Department of Labor). Which method do you prefer?

HR Rep: Our niche is very specific so ERI data doesn’t apply. We are a fast-moving tech company so the BLS data isn’t timely enough to be relevant. And don’t get me started on the unreliability of You really shouldn’t believe anything you read on the internet. Unfortunately, the position we’re considering you for is totally unique at our firm, so we have no way of benchmarking your pay internally, even against our mandatory DOL filings. However, I am interested in hearing what external offers you have. Who else has made you an offer?

You: That’s a reasonable question. Please let me clarify that I’m not the sort of job candidate to play one offer against another. In the long-run I think it makes a lot more sense to just pick one company that you think is exceptional, and then give that company the first crack at hiring you. For me, that company is you guys.

HR Rep: So you don’t have any other offers? [a muffled mua-hahaha can be heard faintly over the line]

You: To be perfectly candid, I’ve only recently started looking. I have had some preliminary discussions with MicroCorp and InteliCorp,  but I haven’t yet pursued either of those opportunities…and I don’t intend to, as long as I can reach a fair deal with you guys.

HR Rep: Great and I’m sure you will be very happy working here. I am ready for your current salary range if you can give it to me now.

You: Sure, I can do that. Do you want me to include my end of year bonus? It’s usually equivalent to around 15% of my salary. I could also include 401k matching if that helps. My company is atypically generous with retirement, and 401k matching is worth an extra 10% on top of my base salary. Then there is the opportunity cost of forfeiting my un-vested stock options as well as…

HR Rep: Let’s just get your current base for the form.

You: Got it, just the base salary. This year I am on track to take home between 90 and 110 in base salary. You can use any number in that range for the form. And of course you can verify that number with my current firm after I’ve begun working for you. They can also verify that I’ll be getting a raise in August.

HR Rep: Thank you for that. We will be in touch again soon.

You: Great! Thank you so much for all of your help. It was a great pleasure speaking with you.

[You both hang up the phone at exactly the same time]


[The next morning, your phone rings early]

HR Rep: Congratulations! We have prepared your offer. We are willing to pay you $X annually. Do you accept?

You: [no matter what “X” is] Thank you so much for this offer! I am very excited about the opportunity to work with your firm. Is it okay if I take a couple of days to consider everything before accepting? Whenever I face a big decision like this, I always sleep on it for a night (and/or) talk things over with my spouse / parents / fiancé(e) / significant other.

HR Rep: Ok, but this offer expires tomorrow at 1PM sharp.

You: I understand, I’ll definitely get back to you by tomorrow late morning. In the meantime is there any chance you might be able to email over a written offer along with some literature on your benefits / equity schedule / bonus structure / payout targets? It really helps me to have something to look at.

HR Rep: You’ll receive it shortly.

You: Perfect! Thank you again for all of your help! I am very grateful for your time.

HR Rep: Good morning to you.

You: Good morning.


[You immediately hang up the phone and call David Larson]

You: Ok, I did everything you suggested on your website.

David: What did you reveal to HR?

You: I told them a range for my current salary, but that was it.

David: That’s fine. We’re striking a delicate balance here between maintaining your leverage and keeping the offer alive. Sometimes it’s necessary to give up a little information in the process, that’s a perfectly acceptable outcome.

You: So what do I do now?

David: Now we do a quick debrief of your conversation with HR. And while we’re at it, I’m going to need a copy of any email communications you’ve had with them, a copy of your resume, your offer letter, and a few other things.

You: What are you going to do with all that stuff?

[There’s a brief pause, as David considers his next words]

David: I’m going to make them pay.

Hi, I’m David Larson.
I will help you negotiate a higher salary.

Contact David