March 24, 2014

How do I prove I deserve a higher job offer?

Filed under: Interviewing, Job Search, Salary, The job offer

In a recent edition, we discussed what to do when an employer makes you a low job offer for a job you plan to take anyway. Now it’s time to boost the employer’s opinion of what you are really worth, well before an offer is ever made to you.

In the March 25, 2014 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter, a reader asks how to get a bigger offer:

I think you’re right: To get a company interested in me, I need to show what my value is to them. But if I’m not a salesperson or entertainment star (in which case it should be very obvious), how do I quantify my value to an employer’s bottom line? How do I actually prove I’m worth a higher job offer?

more-moneyNick’s Reply

Here’s my general approach: Estimate as best you can how your work will produce revenue or reduce costs for the company. Then explain it to the employer. Your numbers will be off; that’s okay. What matters is being able to have an intelligent discussion about how you can do the job in a way that pays off to the employer.

Virtually no one does this in a job interview. I’ve had people tell me it’s presumptuous to talk about how they’d contribute to the bottom line. Others claim it’s impossible to calculate one person’s impact. Again, what matters is that you’re telling the employer you care about his success and how you’d fit into the equation. Don’t lecture; have a discussion..

I address this challenge in Fearless Job Hunting, Book 6, Be The Profitable Hire. Here is an excerpt from the book:


Estimate your impact to the bottom line

If the work you do is overhead and mostly affects costs: Do you shave two minutes off each customer service call you handle? Have you figured out a way to get projects done 20% faster? Multiply this by the hourly wage or by the salary. The savings are just one part of the profit you contribute. Get the idea? I’m simplifying, but few of your competitors will offer any estimates at all. This gives you a good, honest story to tell the employer about how you will contribute to the success of the business. It gives you an edge.

If the job affects revenue: Try to quantify the impact. Your estimate may not be accurate, simply because you don’t have all the relevant information at your fingertips, but you must be able to defend your calculations. Run it by someone you trust who knows the business, then present it to your boss or to your prospective boss. You can even present your estimates in the interview, and ask the employer how you might make them more accurate. This can be a very effective ice breaker.

If you can’t demonstrate how you will contribute to the bottom line, then be honest with yourself: Why should the employer hire you? Or, why should your employer keep you?

Rather than demonstrate their value, job hunters hand over their resumes and wait for the employer to figure it out. Employers are not good at figuring out your value… The particulars depend on the job and the situation. I can almost guarantee that when you discuss a job in such profit-based terms with management, they won’t care so much about your actual numbers. But they’ll be impressed that you cared enough to try to work it out. (Just make sure that you do the necessary homework before you go to the interview!)

Reprinted from Fearless Job Hunting, Book 6, The Interview: Be The Profitable Hire, “How can I demonstrate my value?” pp. 8-9. The book includes “How to do a Working Interview,” “What’s your business plan for this job?” and 10 other methods to show you’re the profitable hire — plus 8 How to Say It tips.


You’ve already guessed this is not an easy way to boost a job offer. But why should it be? Why would anyone offer you more money if you can’t show them what they’ll get in return? This is how the best headhunters coach their candidates to get the best offers.

Job interviews have become so rote that applicants just show up, and employers think they’ll be able to make a hiring judgment based on a bunch of worn-out questions and answers. That’s to your advantage. Your competition is not likely to attempt what I’m suggesting. To be the applicant who stands out, be ready to show why you’re the profitable hire. Do the work, win the job.

How do you get bigger job offers? What advice would you give this reader? Have you tried and failed to get more money?

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19 Comments on “How do I prove I deserve a higher job offer?”
By JR in Mass
March 24, 2014 at 9:09 pm

Hi Nick,

Just read this on Slate, where a potential college faculty hire tried to negotiate and the offer was withdrawn, and thought of you. Article takes the candidate’s side whole-heartedly, and maybe I can see why given the difficult professional environment for academics, but I think she could have handled it better and gotten most of what she wanted: 1) by accepting the offer as it was; 2) asking in a more friendly manner for the key conditions especially the start date of 2015; and 3) leaving her future child-bearing plans competely out of the discussion because that’s none of the employer’s business until it becomes reality. Or maybe don’t accept immediately, but boil it down to one critical concession (assuming it’s really critical): “Love your offer, want to accept it, if I can start in 2015 you’ve got a deal.”

http://www.slate.com/articles/life/education/2014/03/nazareth_college_revoked_a_job_offer_when_a_candidate_tried_to_negotiate.html

By Nick Corcodilos
March 24, 2014 at 11:45 pm

@JR: Just read the Slate column. What a story. I tweeted a link to http://bit.ly/1dmBNvi, which could have done the trick. Nonetheless, those academics reveal a mean streak and sanctimony of the highest order. How could they assume what kind of job “interest” W really has?

Having said that, I think W blew it by sending that e-mail. You don’t negotiate by e-mail. You do it in person. Of course, that assumes the college folk will deign to talk to the candidate.

By Jim
March 25, 2014 at 8:57 am

If you are uncomfortable with the word “sales”, substitute “influence, negotiate, and persuade”. We are all in that business, every day of our lives.

Will so-and-so go out with me, or have a second date?

Will the club/group accept me?

Will the employer hire me / promote me / give me challenging assignments?

What will we have for dinner tonight / do on the weekend / spend our vacation?

What can I do to get my child to make their bed / focus on their studies?

By Dee
March 25, 2014 at 9:55 am

Re the Slate column, W’s tone was all wrong. She should have done this first by discussion and emphasized how enthusiastic she’d be to join them. I think the essential problem was the fit–small college versus her frame/expectations which were more suitable to a university environment. Nazareth wasn’t the place for her, but the way she was handled was pathetic.

But what do I know? I just had the experience of negotiating a few points in a seven-page letter of employment/non-disclosure non-compete with a small, private but foreign-controlled, culturally ‘different’ company for a VP marketing slot. Kept it positive, light and ‘excited to be on board.’ Anything but a dreaded ‘difficult female’. Got to a mutual agreement with the CEO and COO (including conceding some points to them–and none involved salary, BTW), started with onboarding (including their inviting me to an internal conference which required a push-forward on my start date), signed off on the new document–and the offer was rescinded that day with no explanation other than ‘we’re going in a different direction.’

Probably other reasons at play here (like client loss or operating problems) but the lack of candor from the top level confirmed to me that there was something not quite right here–as the voice in the back of my head kept saying.

Does that mean you shouldn’t negotiate? Sometimes that reveals what the people you’re working with are really like. (Nick, that’s a topic you can address in an article.) What would the tough discussions around marketing be like once I was on board, and the C-level would no longer be on their best behavior? The ‘dread’ I had around that from the discussions was simply validated. (But when you need to be working….)

By Dee
March 25, 2014 at 10:04 am

FYI the recruiter (I actually worked with two) had placed multiple people there–and was in shock that it didn’t happen, because 1) the CEO had never pulled that one before, and 2) I was way ahead of all the candidates. And all my negotiation points were within reason. As someone who knows about this put it to me, ‘you smoked them out–and you weren’t surprised when something very different emerged from the fog’.

By marybeth
March 25, 2014 at 10:47 am

@JR in Mass: you beat me to it. I was going to email another link (this from from the Chronicle of Higher Ed rather than Slate) to Nick as it is germane to his last few blogs. I’ll have to read your link; the HE article didn’t take W’s side, and if you read the comments, many sided with the college, not with W, for very sound reasons. Dee alluded to a couple of them–W handled it poorly (negotiating in an email! Yikes!) and a poor fit being the reason for rescinding the offer. I’ve worked in academia for almost 10 years, and there are still more reasons why N chose to rescind. Faculty searches are lengthy, time-consuming tasks, with very clear start dates which affect everything from scheduling to workloads for teaching students to having enough faculty to be on various committees (master’s theses, doctoral dissertations, hiring, curriculum, long term planning, accreditation, admissions, and more). W wanted to postpone her start date by a year (assuming that the job vacancy posted a start date of fall 2014, which is why the faculty search has been going on for 2013-2014 year). Agreeing to her demand to postpone her start date means the position would go unfilled for a year, which means either the remaining faculty would have to pick up the courses she wouldn’t be teaching, sit on the committees of which she would have been a member, etc. Sure, N could have hired an adjunct to cover the year gap, but if they are up for accreditation review, then that wouldn’t work. They have to have a certain number of tenure-track faculty (vs adjuncts) per FTEs, and if you’re lacking, then you can get dinged (written up, placed on probation) at best and at worst lose your accreditation (if you’ve been warned and didn’t hire to fill the faculty gaps). I went through this at my last job, when budget cuts and early retirements (to help offset the budget cuts) resulted in many gaps in our faculty and with our not having our own dean. Our accreditors didn’t miss (couldn’t miss) the gaps in the faculty and not having an independent dean, and we were immediately placed on probation, with a dire warning that if we didn’t get our act together (hire an independent dean, hire full time, tenure-track faculty, not adjuncts, don’t cannablize or borrow from other depts.) in the time they gave us, they’d yank our accreditation. Accreditation is a very big deal–no accreditation, our graduates wouldn’t be able to get jobs, internships, or go on to other graduate programs.

From what I read, W didn’t want to start in 2014 (wanted them to hire her, but wanted to wait a year), didn’t want to do a certain number of preps (wanted a reduced teaching load)–this at a small, liberal arts college, which emphasizes teaching over research, wanted pre-tenure sabbaticals, and wanted a starting salary that was much higher than the average for starting faculty at that school in that area. I’m less bothered by the maternity leave issue because the school offers it (she didn’t need to negotiate something that is already part of the package). But it did contribute to the overall impression of her as problematic for them if they went ahead with the hire–I want $15,000 more than other faculty are getting and what is paid here, and I don’t want to work (delay my start date by a year, reduce my courseload, give me time off for research/sabbatical, and oh, I might be starting my family). None of that speaks to, as Nick as written numerous time, how she will benefit the employer.

Could N have handled her botched negotiation differently? Sure–they could have said “salary is non-negotiable–this is what N pays all of its starting associate professors; this is a TEACHING college, so you are expected to TEACH. Faculty here carry a 4-4 load (at research universities, the load is commonly 3-2 or 2-3, less if you bring in a grant for which you are now responsible for overseeing), sabbaticals will only be considered once tenure has been granted (i.e., 7 years after you begin, assuming that you get tenure and that you don’t take time off to start your family). Are you still interested in the offer?” I think it is possible that the faculty viewed her as difficult given her demands, realized that she would be a poor fit for their dept. and the school (her requirements didn’t mesh with the mission of the college), and that if she’s like this before she would start, they envisioned having to deal with her (and likely even more demands) forever, assuming that she got tenure in the future and she’d be part of the dept. for a very, very, very long time.

IMHO, it could have been handled better from BOTH parties, but from what I’ve seen in academia, I don’t fault them for rescinding the offer. She wouldn’t be able to meet their needs, and I’m sure that they moved on to their runner-up. Tenure-track positions are getting rarer and rarer, and even more so for people who teach Philosophy. It sounds like she either didn’t do her homework when she applied for the job (didn’t look at the school and its mission, didn’t understand that at SLACs, the job of the faculty is to teach first and foremost, or she read it but simply ignored it, thinking she could negotiate what she wanted). One of Nick’s rules is to do your homework and make sure that your values and goals align with those of the prospective employer, and dovetailing into that is that when you interview, your emphasis should be on what you can do for the employer (improve your bottom line, provide some kind of service if money/sales isn’t the employer’s primary purpose, etc.) not what your prospective employer can do for you. So yes, I’m with Dee. She bungled it, but it isn’t a bad thing. I’d rather learn that there’s a mismatch/poor fit now than later/after she started.

By Nick Corcodilos
March 25, 2014 at 11:20 am

@Dee: My compliments on your success. You got them to the offer you were happy with. What they did next is abominable. They may have had good reasons for the last-minute change-up, but if I were the CEO, I would have taken you to lunch after rescinding your offer. No kidding. Isn’t that what good companies do when a customer returns a product or complains about service? A good company stretches to save the relationship, because that’s where more business comes from. The CEO and COO in this story are total dopes. If they’re suddenly “going in a different direction,” it seems it’s because they’re stone drunk and their car is out of control.

By Dee
March 25, 2014 at 12:06 pm

@Nick–thanks, exactly,’abominable.’ The lunch or at least a phone call of explanation would have been enough. It would have been respectful, professional and courteous. But that just isn’t done anymore. Would you agree that it is because of 1) legal concerns (small because it’s all ‘at will’) and 2) because they can, and don’t think they owe you more than that? Or perhaps they were just embarrassed.

Extending the car out of control analogy, I’d add ‘or someone else has grabbed the controls’. The company has foreign financing and HQ–and the chairman is very active; I know because I interviewed with him–and by phone, one of his advisers.

Under the circumstances, it was better that it went sideways now than later. Proving your adage that you should never stop looking or talking even after you have an ‘offer’.

By marybeth
March 25, 2014 at 1:16 pm

@Dee: Wow! That is quite an experience. It sounds like you did everything right, and still the whole offer went off the rails. Yes, it does proves Nick’s adage that job hunters should never stop looking or talking even after they have an offer. I think Nick wrote in a blog earlier this year or last year that you don’t really have the job until you show up for your first day and get all of the paperwork filled out.

It is hard to tell what caused them to suddenly change their minds–an agreement and a rescission all in the same day–perhaps Nick is right–it can only be explained by their being stone drunk (I’d add plain old stoned too) and their car is out of control/don’t know who is driving their car. It is disappointing for you, but I suspect this near miss was a good thing. Better to find out now than once you get there and suddenly your salary is much lower than you were promised, and/or other benefits now not part of your package.

Yes, the right and courteous thing to do would have been to call you, apologize (even if the reason is the vague “something happened/something changed”), take you out to lunch. And no, courtesy is no longer part of the job hunt and candidate search. If I had two offers I would at least telephone the one I decided NOT to accept, thank them for their offer, their time, etc., politely decline their offer. It is simple good manners and basic courtesy. You’re never too busy for this. Yet on the other side, you never hear even a “thanks but no than

By marybeth
March 25, 2014 at 1:25 pm

ks, good luck in your future endeavors”. As Nick said, this is common sense and good business. You’re not working for them, but who knows–in the future your paths might cross again, and they might need something from you. I’m sure that you will remember how you were treated.

@Nick, once again, all of your points in your answer to this week’s question are sound. Getting more money, better benefits, etc. isn’t just a matter of asking for it–I have to be able to SHOW the prospective employer how I will benefit them, otherwise, as you noted, not only why should they pay me more but why should they hire me?

By Dee
March 26, 2014 at 10:40 am

@marybeth Thank you for your thoughts. BTW, I was notified by email that the offer was being withdrawn one hour after I sent in the signed LOE. I immediately tried to reach the CEO. No pickup on the call of course. I then sent a reply which courteously, calmly asked for a reason why and citing things such as business changes or delays. No reply. The most information was received from the recruiter who couldn’t reach the CEO till the following day–the ‘different direction’ which was as unsatisfactory to him as to me.

What’s usually recommended in these instances is to write a courteous ‘sorry it didn’t work out note’ with a ‘hope we can work together in the future.’ I did not bother, because I never want to do business with these people again.

By Nick Corcodilos
March 26, 2014 at 11:39 am

@Dee: This falls into the “Never Work With Jerks” category. The last client I had that behaved that way I fired. A good headhunter’s name is mud in this situation. As far as I’m concerned, the recruiter isn’t worth working with, either, because he has no real relationship with his client. The recruiter is treated like a pawn, not like a partner in recruiting. What will the recruiter do when word gets out that he has no influence over the client, and that the client doesn’t come clean with the recruiter?

By Dee
March 26, 2014 at 8:43 pm

@Nick, I hate to say this, but no one, including recruiters, seems to behave like that anymore. That says something about business nowadays–recruiters feel they cannot afford to make your ethical and correct stand. I’ve never heard back from the main recruiter, perhaps out of embarrassment.

Have you ever heard of this circumstance? I suspect the following may have happened. The previous VP marketing, who ostensibly left for ‘personal reasons’, cut a deal with the CEO (for whom he had worked with in other companies) to take over the function through his new marketing agency. This new agency was visible to anyone with a LinkedIn account and was established before Former VP left. My hiring was Plan B. I used the InMail function to reach out to him, and the mail was returned unread. Hmmmm….

Again, ‘never work with jerks’.

By marybeth
March 26, 2014 at 10:08 pm

@Nick: It is heartening to know that you did the right thing (by firing client who behaved badly). Too often bad/jerky behavior is not only tolerated but celebrated, and thus it not only continues but spreads because there are no consequences for the bad behavior. If more headhunters did what you did, perhaps some companies would change how they treat candidates and headhunters.

@Dee: I have, but in a different setting and with different players/jobs/functions/titles. Perhaps Nick has, as well as some of the other posters on this blog.

What I wonder, and I’m sure you’ve wondered too, is this: if the CEO intended to hire his former VP of marketing to take over the function, then why go through the dog-and-pony show of posting the job, culling the applicants, selecting candidates to be interviewed, and not only making you an offer but going through the negotiations for salary, benefits, title, duties, and more? The latter part doesn’t make any sense. The CEO is within his rights to outsource the VP of marketing job if he wants (assuming that what he wants goes, without having to go to a committee, get approval from a board of directors, etc.). If that’s the case, then why the waste of time, money, and energy with the job search, especially if the VP of marketing was the preferred candidate all along?

Perhaps the recruiter with whom you dealt was left in the dark as well. And perhaps he learned about the plans when it was too late, and was too embarrassed to get in touch with you. Even that I don’t understand–it isn’t the recruiter’s fault if his client decides mid-way through the process to hire the guy who held the job before, only this time as an independent contractor. Sure, it is embarrassing, because it makes him look clueless, but if the client isn’t honest, then there’s nothing to be embarrassed about. Although if it is as Nick said, the recruiter was embarrassed because he has no influence over the client, then that is different. And yes, then the recruiter’s name is mud. Clients can be like secret squirrel, and then the only remedy is firing the client. The question of why some recruiters don’t fire the clients behaving badly is another topic for another day.

I’m sorry this happened to you, but it sounds like you had a lucky miss. If this is how they behave during the hiring process, I wonder how they treat their employees?

By Dee
March 27, 2014 at 4:03 pm

@marybeth…thank you for your thoughts. I agree that what happened was a waste of time–days of work I won’t get back!

It’s wholly speculative on my part, but one factor is that the CEO reports to an offshore chairman/owner. While the chairman/owner during my interview (ungraciously) scored the Former Marketing VP (FMV) in my interview as only able to give “93%” (!) of his efforts, how the CEO could have presented to the chairman is that 1) FMV did the marketing plan, 2) he would cost far less off the payroll–no benefits (very important–these folks were culturally cheap), 3) it would be appropriate for their limited spend and 4) no rampup. FMV and the CEO worked together in previous companies as well, so there would be favoritism there.

Why do a search? Timing. It started end of January. FMV was to leave at end of Feb. He may have initially wanted a clean break, but he figured he’d ask for the account. FMV and the CEO may have arrived at the deal during my offer negotiation over three days in mid-March.

As to the recruiter…the CEO did it Because He Could. Same recruiter had placed three other people there before me. Bet the CEO figured the recruiter made more than enough and he could sweet talk the rest.

Then again I could be way off. CEO could be out the door after not delivering results and I got tossed over the side. I did detect more than a bit of stress and control issues between the foreign ownership and the CEO.

By Dave
March 28, 2014 at 11:06 am

@Dee

“Same recruiter had placed three other people there before me. Bet the CEO figured the recruiter made more than enough and he could sweet talk the rest.”

I would say just because the recruiter placed people at a particular company previously, doesn’t mean the recruiter is any good, has a deep relationship with the company or that the end company is any good. Sometimes, it’s just being at the right place/right time. ;-)

By Nick Corcodilos
March 28, 2014 at 11:52 am

@Dee: It’s entirely possible that the former VP cut a deal for his new business. But I think the telling fact here is how suddenly this all happened. You signed the offer and an hour later the offer was rescinded. Whatever happened, happened between issuance of the offer and your acceptance — what was that, a day, a few days? There’s no telling what it was. I’d let it go and move on. Don’t fault yourself for not seeing it coming.

I take a simple view of dealing with others, because you just can’t invest tons of energy and “what if” before you decide whom to trust. I take people at face value, then it’s all up to them. If they turn out to be playing games, we’re done. On to the next. But keeping an open heart gives you access to the best things in life, as long as you don’t let yourself dwell too much on times people took advantage of you. Move on and rest assured that the CEO who refused to call you back wakes up each morning and sees the same old crank in the mirror – that’s who he lives with every day. You don’t have to, unless you let him live in your mind.

By Dee
March 28, 2014 at 12:47 pm

@Nick, thank you for all your good counsel. Part of getting it out of my mind is post-mortem’ing this experience, and also sharing it with others so that we do not think we are at fault…or crazy…when this happens!

Many thanks to Nick, marybeth and Dave for your thoughts, and your readers!

By Ask The Headhunter® | Nick Corcodilos – The employer is hiding the salary!
July 14, 2014 at 8:42 pm

[…] See what I mean? It sounds kind of awkward and presumptuous for you to do that — right? Yet he did it with no problem. Maybe it’s worth trying. Maybe he’ll realize he can’t find who he needs for the money he wants to spend. (You might want to be ready to explain, How do I prove I deserve a higher job offer?) […]

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