I was lowballed by $5ok and won it back with a salary spy

Recently I was living in Europe and visited the Bay Area to see friends and family, where I met up with one of my old bosses. She was at a major tech company and told me she had a job opening that would be perfect for me, as a senior director of brand marketing. The catch: I had to make a decision quickly, because she’d need me to start in exactly a month.

I returned home to Europe and she emailed me the offer: $150K. I got the nagging sense she’d low-balled me because she knew the place I was working was a bit volatile and that I’d soon not just want but need a new job. It would have been easier for me to simply accept what I was offered and be grateful for what seemed to be a more secure role, but I didn’t. Instead, I did some digging.

I had two Bespoke WAGER conversations and was connected through this network to someone at the company. I spoke with an employee who had vital info and was willing to share. I asked if they’d be willing to tell me the “band”--or salary range--for an equivalent role. Finally, I found a guy who had the intel and was willing to share it. Yep, I’d been low-balled. He told me the band was $140K-$190K for that position.

I decided two key things right then. First, I was going to counter to ask for the high-end of that range. And second, I wouldn’t panic if I didn’t receive it. Because I knew if I didn’t take this job, there would be another one. My willingness to walk away, along with my understanding of what the position was worth, were a powerful combination.

The day after I received the offer, I called my boss to ask if I could talk it through. She seemed a little annoyed that I didn’t quickly accept. After all, I’d worked with her before and we had a great relationship. I think she assumed I’d be a quick hire. Nonetheless, I told her what I knew to be the band for this role, and that I’d like to make on the high end of that range. She went to bat for me and made the request, I think in part because she knew once I was signed on, it would be a very smooth working relationship.

I got the number I shot for--at the high end of the range my “salary spy” had slipped me. Yes, I got a great salary, but I took home a few important lessons about negotiation, too.

Know your worth before you begin to negotiate.

Dig to find out the average salary range for the position. Do this by signing up for bespoke wager conversations that will connect you to colleagues in your industry and find people with similar job titles. Make sure to have this information before you respond to any offer. In fact, do this before you even broach the topic of salary during early rounds of interviewing. Know your worth before you begin to negotiate.

Make this range your anchor during the choppy seas of salary negotiation. Hold tight to it. If I hadn’t known the competitive range, and clung to it, I would have taken a far lower number and cheated myself out of tens of thousands of dollars.

If the hiring manager isn’t receptive to negotiation, it speaks volumes about the company. After all, if it’s unacceptable to question your offer, how it is going to be later, when you’re in the job and have to ask for substantive changes or push for the budget to accomplish your goals? You might not get exactly your target salary you’re, but it has to be okay to voice what you’re aiming for. If the tenor of the organization is such that you can’t, it’s not going to be a good fit.