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Salary negotiation

Updated: Jan 18, 2022

It was my first job interview in the US.

The client of my potential employer was positively inclined towards me. A college friend had joined them and referred me. On the other hand, the job market was dismal.

(The client was at that time the biggest company in the world, the only one who handled long distance and international phone calls - AT&T).

I asked a relative how much I should ask for my salary (my friend did not discuss his salary with me). $25,000 to $30,000 per annum was the range, I was told.

Dustin Hoffman had a salary of $36,000 in "The Graduate".

My interview was predictably successful. I asked for $36,000. My potential employer balked. I told him that Dustin got that amount years ago. He smiled and hesitatingly agreed. (Starting salaries have more than doubled since then, in our line of work).

I went about my new job like a happy puppy, learning technical tricks of the trade fast. (My Masters' Degree helped me get the job, but my education became irrelevant). I got the impression that my technical guru liked me. As the intensity grew, the client decided to hire more fresh post-graduates and requested me to refer candidates.

The one thing that surprised me is that they shared the billing rate they were willing to extend. My annual salary was a paltry amount in contrast to their potential offer.

I recruited my cousin, also a fresh graduate. I instructed him not to accept a penny less than a $42,000/- annual salary, at the end of the interview process with my employer. He stuck to his guns and that's what he got. (The client actually asked for my cousin).

Following up with a visit to our employer, I said, "Bruce, I'm getting a raise, right?" I liked Bruce, but the monosyllable he responded with was NO. I knew him well and had prepared a number of bullet points to rattle off, the last of which was that I was expecting our client to hire more personnel. Even that met with an emphatic NO RAISE.

I got up and headed out, shrugged and told myself (aloud), "Well, I tried."

Bruce heard that. I'm not sure what happened inside his brain, but he asked me to sit down again and agreed to the raise (without a smile).

I repeated that process a few times by referring more candidates from my school (college) and raising my salary incrementally each time. I met with no resistance.

Later, I worked for AT&T Global Information Systems directly.

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