Hosted By

Isaiah Hankel, PhD
Isaiah Hankel, PhD
Chief Executive Officer Cheeky Scientist

Join Isaiah as he explains why you should never accept a verbal salary offer and how you can deflect early salary questions

Here’s a quick rundown of this week’s episode…

  • First, Isaiah discusses why companies will try to get you to agree on a verbal salary offer and why doing so is never in your best interest
  • Next, Isaiah reveals how you can avoid giving a number early in the interview process: by deflecting salary questions
  • Finally, Isaiah gives some examples of how you can deflect salary questions until you get a written offer

From This Week’s Show… 

Why You Should Never Commit To A Verbal Salary Offer

Be aware that the company will try to negotiate salary with you before giving you a written offer. Any number you provide in this context will only hurt you; therefore, you should prepare to deflect these attempts.

You may have to deflect these attempts dozens of times with the same person. Yes, dozens. If you get too uncomfortable during this process to continue deflecting, you will not be paid what you’re worth. If you allow your brain to convince you that you did everything you could and agree verbally to an offer or a salary range, you will not be paid what you are worth.

Only discuss salary once the company has decided they want to hire you enough to make you an offer on paper. You only have leverage in a negotiation once you have such an offer on paper. No written offer, no leverage. No leverage, you lose.

The Best Strategy To Avoid Accepting A Verbal Salary Offer

You can only come to a win-win deal if you deflect their attempts to negotiate until they give you an offer on paper. I’m stressing this because most PhDs have no experience negotiating, and they get extremely uncomfortable the first time the employer pushes back by saying “We have a salary cap,” “No, we can’t negotiate,” “I need a number from you before we can proceed,” or something similar.

Don’t let those statements derail your efforts or make you tense. They’re just negotiating. The key to deflecting early negotiation attempts is to keep the discussion relaxed and conversational. If you find yourself getting uptight, take a step back mentally and remind yourself, Take it easy. This is fun.

How To Deflect Salary Questions Early In The Interview Process

Practice deflecting by answering a question with another question. Approach any question with curiosity and add more curiosity to it. You can lean into any ignorance or lack of experience you have when it comes to negotiating or working in industry. Don’t try to be the smartest person in the room.

For example, if you’re asked about your salary expectations, you can deflect with, “Oh wow, I haven’t thought much about this yet. I’m more concerned with learning about who I’ll be working with and what I’ll be doing. Any reasonable offer will be considered.”

Likely, the conversation won’t stop there, so don’t expect it to. The employer may come back with, “I appreciate that, but I really need a number to take to my boss.” 

Don’t freeze here or get tense. Instead, just say, “Ah, I see what you’re saying. Well, I defer to whatever you think is reasonable. What do you think I’m worth to the company based on what you know right now?”

Maybe they’ll back off, maybe they’ll give you a number, or maybe they’ll say, “Okay, but seriously, I need to know from you what a reasonable salary is.”

Here you could simply reply by asking, “Well, what’s possible?” Very often, after several attempts to get a number and several deflections, the conversation may move to salary ranges. The employer might say, “You’ll have to at least give me a range before we can move forward.”

Here, still, it’s important to remember to stay calm, be curious, play dumb, and keep things conversational. It also helps to add extra transparency by calling out what is going on by saying, “Of course. I just thought I’d ask if it would be possible for us to move forward without setting a range in stone now? I’m asking because I’ve heard that committing to a range now can be used to offer me a lower salary than I’m worth. Is this the case here?”

Hopefully you can see that most PhDs fail in such a discussion by not having the stomach to deflect the employer’s attempts multiple times. Deflecting requires staying calm and sitting in uncertainty and uncomfortableness, but it’s worth it. You are worth it.

If you’re ready to start your transition into industry, you can apply to book a free Transition Call with our founder Isaiah Hankel, PhD or one of our Transition Specialists. Apply to book a Transition Call here.

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