Len Kendall, CEO at CentUp

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Quibb, Uber

Yeah, it's kind of like pointless anchoring. It's funny that most people will answer this though. Maybe you should just ask back to them, "How much do you pay your best X" where X is the role you're interviewing for? :)

Hell, you could even ask the recruiter how much THEY make. It's literally just as relevant to the conversation.

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Startup Edition, Product Hunt

Haha, I'd advise against that. :)

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Senior Product Manager at PlayHaven

I'll definitely try that one day :)

Founder at Innervate

Whoever says the first number loses?

Independent, Web Analytics Wednesday, Sydney, Data Republic

No you're doing it wrong. You tell them you're earning the price you want for your next job. Then they know they have to beat it, or at least make the job attractive enough for you to take it without a raise!

Works every time.

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That works well if A) it's true or B) you're comfortable lying about the number. :)

Co-Founder & CEO at Fieldbook

I disagree; this is bad advice.

First, a good employer doesn't hire people “for the lowest possible amount the applicant is willing to accept”; they make a fair and competitive market offer. Second, you give yourself negotiating leverage by having a good BATNA. Your current job is a potential BATNA; any other offer you have from a competing employer is another. Third, by hiding information from a potential employer, you're setting up an adversarial relationship from the beginning.

If you think you are currently underpaid, then tell them your current salary and also how much you think you deserve (hopefully with some backing/basis for that other than your own desire for more money). If you're overdue for a raise, tell them when the last time you had a raise was. Otherwise, just tell them the facts.

Get a good salary by creating competition for yourself on the market, not by engaging in adversarial negotiation.

It's bad advice because you disagree? There are obviously endless iterations of how a scenario can play out and my advice isn't going to be the right path for everyone. I pointed out early in the post that I was painting a picture of the corporate world. This wasn't written with the Bay Area tech scene in mind, it was referring the average corporation you would find around the rest of the country.

That aside, I think your point about not being adversarial is dead on. I think that phrasing and tone can help mitigate any of that. The part that I just can't wrap my head around is how divulging past salary information is valuable to you (the applicant) unless you were earning significantly more than you think your new potential job will pay you.

In my book, the more information the opposite end of the table has on you, the better equipped they are to "win" this negotiation. In a perfect world, all employers would seek to compensate their employees fairly and be transparent about it among all their employees (Buffer does this and it's pretty fantastic) but again, when looking at the average corporation in the U.S., I believe that's infrequently the situation.


It's not necessary to show up with past pay stubs, but it's valuable for everyone to make sure, relatively early on, that you're in the same ballpark on comp. I've had people go through a lengthy interview process and then ask for way above both market and what we're willing to pay. I've seen people way undersell themselves too. Neither is a good thing--they both show a lack of awareness (some undersellers are from less expensive areas, which gets a pass).

Employers should be prepared to throw out numbers too, but it has to happen eventually, it's better early or midstream than at the end, and if you frame it right neither party is painting themselves into a corner.

Product & Co-founder at Pie.co

How to dodge the "how much do you make" question:

Employer: "How much do you make?"
You: "Well it depends, make me an offer I can't refuse"

Objection: “I really need a number to move the process forward.”

What you should think: “You’re lying to me to attempt to get me to compromise my negotiating position.”

What you should say: “I’m more concerned at the moment with talking to you about discovering whether we’re a mutual fit. If we’re a great fit, then I can be flexible on the numbers with you and you can be flexible on the numbers with me. If we’re not a great fit, then the numbers are ultimately irrelevant, because your company only hires A players and I only work at roles I would be an A player at.”

Objection: “This form needs a number.”

What you should think: “You’re lying to me to attempt to get me to compromise my negotiating position.”

What you should say: “Give me git access and I’ll fix it in a jiffy! both people laugh No, seriously, speaking, I’m more concerned at the moment with discovering whether we’re a mutual fit… Oh, it’s physically impossible? Put in $1 then to get the ball rolling, and we’ll circle back to this later.”

Objection: “We want to figure out whether you’re an appropriate candidate for the position.”

What you should think: “You’re lying to me to attempt to get me to compromise my negotiating position.”

What you should say: “It’s so important to me that this is a good mutual fit for us. Let’s talk about why I’m a great fit for this position: I know you’re concerned about $FILL_IN_THE_BLANK. In addition to my previous successes doing it, I have some great ideas for what I’d do about that if I was working at your company. Would you like to drill into those or is there another job area you’re more concerned about to start with?”

Objection: “I’m sorry, great try at a dodge there, but I just can’t go forward without a number.”

What you should think: “You’re lying to me to attempt to get me to compromise my negotiating position.”

What you should say (if you’re an engineer): “Well, you know, I would hate to have to walk away from the negotiation over this. Working with your company looked it would have been such a wonderful opportunity. I hear the hiring market is super-tight right now, would you like me to introduce you to other candidates? Maybe we can shave a couple of months off of you filling this position.”

What you should say (if you’re not an engineer): “Damn, I guess I should have studied engineering.”

What you should say (if you’re a little put out by that comment): “Well, you know, salary is only one component of the total compensation package. In terms of total compensation, we’re probably looking at something like $FILL_IN_NUMBER_HERE.” (Suggested calculation: take the package value from your last company and add 5~10%. If you don’t know how to calculate the value of your compensation package, learn that, but as a rough guesstimate salary + 30 ~ 50% for full-time employees in professional roles and the multiplier tends to scale up as your base salary scales up.)

Source: http://www.kalzumeus.com/2012/01/23/salary-negotiation/

On one hand, get as much as you can by emphasizing your strengths and what you bring to the table. And negotiate, but politely - never accept the first offer. The first offer is not the last offer. They want to pay more - no one wants a bargain because you get what you pay for.

Have another offer for leverage which is higher or is implied to be higher. Therefore when you negotiate you can always fall back to "you just want your fair market value" which is now ironically inflated but so what - maximize your value.

Lastly, after it's done, let it go. You're not a number, you can always get more, but what does it get you? If you get too into the negotiation, you start thinking you need more to feel validated. You don't. Move on and do the work.

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Sound advice. I think your point about another offer is extremely important too. While juggling two or more job search processes isn't easy, it does give the job seeker a distinct advantage AND (in my opinion) greater sense of confidence.

More important than money is your soul. Read this: http://priceonomics.com/what-its-like-to-fail/

"At the peak of my career, I ferociously pursued my goal of creating a hit TV show. It was my greatest ambition - and a lucrative one. But after years of homelessness and isolation, my single greatest desire became company. I wanted to spend more and more time with family and the people I loved."

Buy his book here: http://www.amazon.com/Tell-Me-Something-She-Said-ebook/dp/B00GJWJAEA/ref=tmm_kin_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&sr=1-1&qid=1384794038

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John Geletka, Tech Lead at CentUp John Geletka
Tech Lead at CentUp
Tyler Travitz, CCO, Co-Founder at CentUp Tyler Travitz
CCO, Co-Founder at CentUp