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Ask Amy

Job seeker is rebuffed for negotiating

Q. I am a 34-year-old man working in risk management, seeking a mid- to senior-level position in my profession. Recently, I had a wonderful panel interview with a billion-dollar health care company. It could not have gone better. I was thrilled to receive a voice mail a day after the interview requesting a call back.

When I called back and spoke to the recruiting manager, I was less than excited at the proposed pay. It was not commensurate with the position. I told the manager I would think about it and prepared the argument for my counteroffer. I spoke to a job coach and did my research (again), preparing to ask for pay in line with the market standards.

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When I called the recruiting manager back, I eased into my thoughts on their offer. Firmly but gently, I began to explain that it was a bit on the low side for me.

Before I could continue the discussion, the recruiting manager cut me off. He balked at the idea of negotiating and then went on to lecture me. He cautioned me for asking for more than what I was offered.

I was stunned. And furious. I stayed calm, but I could not believe his reaction. A few days later, another recruiter at the company followed up to see if I had reconsidered. When I responded, he also offered his own unique brand of advice.

Amy, they treated me as though I was the first applicant in history to negotiate a job offer. Am I out of touch with the current job market? Since when did employers become so resistant to counteroffers and salary negotiations? Jaded

A. I shared your question with Dr. Brenda Wells, the Robert F. Bird Distinguished Professor of Risk and Insurance at East Carolina University. She responded: “I coach students who are graduating from college, and employers almost always expect these 23- and 24-year-old students to come back with a counteroffer. If an employer refuses to negotiate, you have a very important piece of information about that employer. This means they prize their position over their employees.

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“Risk managers are in the business of protecting profit and people. They could always tell an applicant they don’t have the money to offer, but no reasonable employer should be offended at a respectful attempt to negotiate. This company did the potential employee a favor by revealing its true colors. Risk management is a finance-oriented field, after all, where discussing money should not be uncomfortable.”

Professor Wells and I agree that you are not out of step with the current job market, and perhaps you should feel you dodged a bullet with this particular employer.


Amy Dickinson can be reached at askamy@tribpub.com.