A reader writes:
I have a question about something I ran into in a previous job than the one I am in now:
I had an interview for a job and returned home afterward. Only about two hours later, the HR manager called me and asked if I could come back to the office. It wasn't until I drove back to their office that same day, that they then offered me the job. Then things got extremely weird and uncomfortable.
They brought out papers with their offer on it and I politely asked if we could discuss it. I was in a room with the HR manager and my future boss. I brought up extremely valid points to renegotiate the salary. Then everything took a turn. They justified such a small salary by saying that I lived at home with my parents. (Though true, this seems completely irrelevant to me and there was no way that they could know that except for my age at the time - 22 and out of college. I lived at home with one parent until I could find another place and I still paid rent, utilities, etc.) Then they justified such a small salary by saying that I was on my parents' health insurance. (This was completely untrue. I was not on anyone's insurance except my own which I paid for.) I politely corrected these misconceptions but they didn't really seem to care. It was as if they had made up a story in their heads about who I was and what they owed me based on that.
As far as asking for a slightly larger salary, one of them finally said, "Well, when I was right out of college, I made less than $18,000 per year at my first job, lived with my parents and lived off of credit cards for the first two years." I didn't see at all how this story was related to me, especially since he graduated from college in the eighties. This was my first time negotiating a salary and I truly needed a job, so I accepted their offer of just $1,000 more on the salary. Needless to say, this was a horrible experience and I started the job with a very, very bad taste in my mouth.
I would really like to know what your take is on all of this and what advice you have for future negotiations. Especially:
- Is it odd for an employer to interview you and call you to return to the office that very same day? They didn't call, offer it to me and let me think about it. They only asked if I could come by, put me in a room and made their offer.
- Is it odd that they offered me the job in person and not on the phone?
- How do you handle such inappropriate comments and assumptions during a negotiation?
- Was any of this behavior normal and I should know this now and accept it so that I don't expect better treatment in future negotiations?
I realize now that if they were asking things like that, they probably were a company that I didn't want to work for. I really needed a job, though. I have since left and it was truly a horrible job with a very corrupt company. The job itself was very impressive but I only lasted five months in that atmosphere. It was a toxic environment.
I am now in a great job with wonderful people. I would just like some help knowing what's right/wrong in negotiating a salary and accepting a job offer. I feel like all of this was not normal but perhaps it's more common than I think.
No, this was all weird.
Assuming they know things about you they they don't know, like your living arrangements: Weird.
Justifying a salary offer by what they assume your expenses are: Weird. (And irrelevant; your expenses are none of their business, just like your expenses aren't a way to justify it when you want more money.)
Assuming you're on your parents' health insurance: Weird.
Suggesting you live off of credit cards: Weird.
Offering you the job in person rather than over the phone: Inefficient, but not unheard of.
There are a bunch of red flags here. I can't tell if they were pushing you for an answer right then and there in the meeting, or if you just didn't ask them for time to think it over, but if they were pressuring you for an on-the-spot answer, that's another red flag (the biggest of all, in fact -- that is always a bad sign).
As for how to handle it -- well, interviews are a two-way street. Just like they wouldn't have offered you a job if you had conducted yourself really weirdly throughout, you should be very cautious about accepting an offer from any employer that behaves weirdly itself. It's highly unlikely that the weirdness is somehow confined only to their hiring process -- and indeed, you found that out after you started working there.
So my advice if you encounter a situation like this in the future is to (a) thank them for the offer and tell them you'd like a few days to think about it, (b) do some research if you haven't already on what the job should pay in your area and at that level, and (c) call them up and counter with a higher number if you feel it's warranted. If someone refuses to give you time to think over an offer, run. If someone tells you that you should accept a low offer because you live with your parents, politely respond that your expenses are not a factor in how much your work is worth. And if an employer seems to be unprofessional, rude, or unfair in its dealings with you as a candidate, assume it's going to only going to get worse once you're employed there.