What to Do When You Lowball Yourself During Salary Negotiations

by Salary.com Staff - Original publish date: August 1, 2012

Q: Hello Jack,

I just completed an exploratory (group) interview and mini-individual interview with an HR Manager at a prestigious non-profit organization that services Developmentally Disabled individuals nationwide. I have 12 years in the field of Disabilities, starting out as a case manager and working myself up to two supervisory positions within the last five years with a year gap in between as I was pursuing my Masters in Social Work. I'll be  getting my MSW by 2013. 

I cant help thinking that I made a huge mistake in writing a salary range of $48k-$50k on my application. When I sat with him individually, I stated $47,500-$50k. I feel like my experience warrants more of a range like $50k-$55k, but I don't know how I'd convey that without feeling unprofessional or being looked at by a human services agency like "just in it for the money", although I genuinely enjoy working with this population. 

I'm expecting to hear back from two program directors that the HR manager will refer my resume and application to. But, I'm torn about whether or not I should voice anything about this to the HR manager before being set up with the Directors or if I should meet with the Directors, allow them to shed some light about the logistics of my role as program supervisor, convey my experience and what I know and then hit them with my higher target range?

I'd hate to mess this up for myself and end up with no offer at all. Please help!

A: The numbers you are talking about, $47,000, through $55,000, are all within about 10 percent of each other. So you haven't hurt anything in terms of your negotiation capabilities. What you want to make sure happens is that you do not get screened out of the interview because of salary. You will be able to negotiate your fair salary later on. But if you don't get in for an interview  there won't be any "later on" at all.

If you think disclosing your salary expectations kept you out of an interview, then take the extra step to get back to the HR person. Use some reason having to do with your personal scheduling or something else, and get a hold of the HR representative telling her something like, "I have a heavy schedule of traveling and interviewing in the next few days, I wanted to leave with you my availability because I'd be willing to reschedule any of that in order to get my 2nd interview. By the way, I was a little worried that I might come in outside the range you were thinking of for this position. Because of my background and experience  and my fondness for the types of people you care for, I want to make sure you have everything you need in my full cooperation to set up a 2nd interview."

Remember, salary negotiations takes place in two stages: 1) qualifying you so you are not screened out of the interview, and 2) negotiating for your full compensation package once they determined you're the candidate they want to hire. So go for the gold, as they say.

Good 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