Can I negotiate an offer after verbal acceptance?

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Re: Can I negotiate an offer after verbal acceptance?

Postby Dave Jensen » Wed Aug 17, 2016 6:36 pm

Rich Lemert wrote:I'm sorry, Dave, but the whole thing just doesn't add up - even for someone just starting out.

"I made $35k last year, but I was a post-doc so that figure doesn't represent my true value to you."

"Thank you for the information. We realize that post-doc salaries are artificially low, and we will take that into consideration when we make our offer."

So, both parties agree the information has no value, and yet it's required anyway?

What you say about getting dropped from consideration for a job if you don't provide the information may very well be valid. That doesn't make it right. And, unfortunately, as long as people continue to provide the information companies will insist on asking for it - just because they can.

Thanks Rich, but I think we're just beating a dead horse. Here's a story format reply:

For the job that Sherry Marsh the Hiring Manager has advertised, she gets 200 applications. H/R goes through those and sorts the ones that actually have the required background and sends them to Sherry. There's about forty or fifty, and Dr. Marsh flips through them and sends H/R back those that need to get a screening call. She may have done this herself a few years ago, but with layoffs over the last couple of years, everyone is trying to do 1.5 jobs and she just doesn't have the time for it.

So, a non-technical recruiter in H/R, Stan Flemming, gets these 15 CVs and knows that at least he doesn't have to ask the candidate about the technical aspects of the job. He just needs to see if these people are "real," and whether or not they fit the cultural elements of old ABC Biotech. He thinks to himself as he begins the round of contacts, "Man, I'm lucky. 15 is a low number. Most jobs around here have more and I end up screening 25-40 final prospects. Today is an easy day."

First call Stan makes is to a Dr. Patel from UC Berkeley. The call goes fine; Patel sounds like he'd fit in, he's got a team spirit and willingness to learn, and he has no issues whatsoever in answering Stan's questions. Stan's got a box there on his form that he needs to fill in with the fellow's current compensation, and he puts in a $42K figure and notes that he's a Postdoc. But Stan liked the guy, and suggests he be brought in for an interview.

Next call, he reaches Joe Smith, from Iowa State. Joe's got what looks like a solid technical fit, asks a few good questions, but seems a bit on edge and perhaps aloof. He wants to know how many people report to the role (which has none). Stan figures that the "edgy" part of the conversation is due to interview nerves and is prepared to write it off, but then he asks about current compensation. Joe comes back with some kind of prepared-sounding reply, that he would "prefer to know more about the position before discussing my salary expectations." Stan assures him that he's not asking about expectations, only about current compensation, and that's when Joe drops the final comment. "Why don't we negotiate after there's a sincere mutual interest and an offer on the table?" he says.

Wow. The check box for current salary remains empty, and besides that, it sure seems like this guy is full of himself. He decides not to pass this forward with a recommendation to interview. It's clear that Joe Smith has bigger plans than to accept a job of Research Scientist at ABC, and Stan pulls up the next CV in the stack.

That's all I can do is paint it a bit more clearly via the above. At this stage, I'm out of the conversation here, because I'm saying all the same things over and over and I think we all need to take a step back. These are opinion posts, and I urge everyone to pass along opinions that will actually be suitable for those in the age and experience bracket who follow advice on this site.

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Re: Can I negotiate an offer after verbal acceptance?

Postby Nate W. » Wed Aug 17, 2016 11:48 pm

Thanks for the fable. Today, I spoke with two experts in the field about this. The key questions here are:

"If HR is not going to lowball a forthcoming candidate with a low salary and HR can determine with great accurately someone's current salary based on one's job title, why ask the current salary question in the first place?" (plus, the company is going to have a set range budgeted for this position).

If this tactic is not about saving money on compensation (of note, only 20% of all biotechs were profitable in 2013) and the budget range is set before the interviews, why ask the question in the first place?

Does current compensation have anything to do with how well qualified you are for the open position?

Might I suggest the book:

Negotiating Your Salary: How to Make $1000 a Minute. By Jack Chapman.

I spoke with Jack. His opinion was that you should always sidestep the question if asked before the interviews, regarding of your qualifications. Post-docs aren't exactly entry level employees and some graduate students have significant private sector experience before graduate school. Jack also added the delaying a salary discussion until you find out more about the requirements and responsibilities of the position is especially important for sales and business development positions. For example, a sales position might cover a small territory of one city or one key account and another sales position might cover the entire Midwest. Think there is a difference in time and responsibility between the two positions; think they deserve the same level of compensation?

Your fable only reinforces my belief that HR shouldn't be involved in the screening of candidates. They are not qualified to past judgement on one's technical qualifications. This is one reason why I always believe that candidates should directly network with hiring managers. When candidates take this approach, they avoid a lot of this nonsense and eliminate most of the competition. Of note, most positions are never advertised; tap into the hidden job market.

Bottom Line: it is ok to cut in line? it's a competition.
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Re: Can I negotiate an offer after verbal acceptance?

Postby Dave Jensen » Thu Aug 18, 2016 12:50 am


Read about that book's target audience, or the reviews and what people say (good reviews, just not our audience type). While I am sure that author would say his advice applies to everyone, even those just starting out, this is another book for salespeople, accountants, and business people. The reviewers talk about how many years they've been working (15, 20 etc) and that they used Jack's information to help negotiate a better salary for their accounting or sales career.

I think that's great, and it looks like a good book. But it's not specific to the audience here; it seems a bit of a confusing reference. You and I and most of the advisors here would all agree that you are correct, networking is the way to go, not submitting materials through online applications. But even when networking, at some stage your CV gets passed along to H/R and you'll deal with someone on the phone line or in an interview who you can not treat as unimportant. You may need to ask yourself, if you're not getting nibbles, are you ticking off H/R people with your attitude?

We can not change the way that science hires work, at least overnight -- and certainly not by pitching books with stories of how some salesman or an accountant earned a bigger, better salary by following a book. I'm sure Jack's formulas work for HIS audience! Just not this one. I'm locking the thread, as we are hashing now and re-hashing . . .

Dave Jensen, Moderator

PS - It's the same way with books on interviewing, like one with a title that sounds like "100 Snappy Answers to Tough Interview Questions." That's a huge bestseller, but it does nothing but trash careers in the sciences (similar name, not the real name of the book I'm referring to). Not all career advice from the rest of the world works here, that's for sure.
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