What to Do When You Leave Money on the Table

by Salary.com Staff - Original publish date: October 24, 2012

Greetings Jack,

I interviewed with a university office today; for a Licensing Associate position in Technology Transfer.This requires MBA, skills in business, science, and heavy communication with cold calling, together with database management, etc. I have all of these and more (PhD and MBA), and my experience in science is 10+ years and in business is 2+ years.

Someone who I know and works with the director of that office, told me that the base salary was to be $55,000, but that the director was also planning to raise it to $75,000. The interview went well. They are planning to fill the position quickly, and I was asked about my expectations regarding the salary. Although I tried to avoid the question, the interviewer insisted.

I mentioned about $65,000. I also said that I was flexible. The interviewer said the figure looked fine. When I looked up your website tonight, I saw that the median salary for a Licensing Manager is $75,000. But that could be for a company, whereas I interviewed for a small university office. The median salary for a Technical Writer is also more than $70,000. The Licensing Associate is more specialized than a technical writer.

Although Salary.com does not list a Licensing Associate position, I realize that I probably quoted lower than what I should have asked for.

I haven't had a formal, on-site interview yet. This position is yet to be posted in the public domain, and things are looking good with respect to the preliminary phone interview that I just had.

It is probably hard at this stage, but do I have any leverage left with respect to salary negotiation? After all, I already quoted $65,000. Can you please tell me how may I tweak the salary to higher level (if at all) without losing the job prospect altogether?

Many thanks,
Dr. V

Hello Dr. V,
You have lost some of your negotiating leverage but not all.

As a side note, your best response to the employer would have been, "I can appreciate you want to know whether I fit in your budget, and I'm sure I will, but I'm not finished with my research yet so I don't know what a competitive salary would be. Can you give me a ballpark, round number idea of what you were thinking this position would pay?" But all that is water over the dam, here's what to do next.

Interview like crazy, do your best job ever, and don't bring up the conversation topic again unless they do.

You need to watch for the signal that they are inclined to hire you. This could be an outright declarative sentence of their intent to make you an offer, or some other clues that you are the candidate they want among the others. Caution: you need to get this juncture correct. If there are other candidates they are seriously considering then stay away from giving them any further numbers at all costs.

But if you're the top dog, you can mention something to them before the salary negotiations really come up. Simply say, "it looks like we might have a good fit here. But I'd like to make a note about compensation if I may. I've done a little salary research since we last spoke, and the numbers we talked about are roughly in the ballpark but we'll need to have a little conversation about that to make sure that everything is copacetic."

Then, when it comes time for the actual negotiations, use steps 2, 3, 4, and 5 from Negotiating Your Salary: How to Make $1000 a Minute, and make sure you don't leave any money on the table.

Best of luck,

Jack Chapman is a Career and Salary Coach, and author of "Negotiating Your Salary: How to Make $1000 a Minute." For more negotiating advice go to www.salarynegotiations.com or e-mail jack@salarynegotiations.com

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