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michelleC  
#1 Posted : Thursday, July 7, 2022 6:06:39 PM(UTC)
michelleC

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HELP!

I applied for a position in May, interviewed end of June and offered immediately. I'm pretty uniquely qualified given the issue focus, skillset, and population to be served.

I have PhD + >19 years work experience

Have opted to stay in nonprofit work for the mission and flexibility. Consequently, my salary isn't on par with what it could or should be for education or experience.

Offered GS-14 position, step 1.

I searched salaries for current agency staff in similar positions and tracked to employment experience (thanks indeed) to find out what I think the "market" is using their current employees as a barometer.

Otherwise my experience is very niche and hard to pin to any one job market for "market trends".

I asked for step 9, which was what I really wanted (duh, rookie move).

They countered with step 5 (okay).

I asked HR about match for time off based on years of non-gov experience (8 hrs vs 4) to make up the diff and countered with 6.


Things went weird here-

The counter was for step 3 (down) and the 8 hours of annual leave.

That's a big salary and step backwards from the initial and doesn't acknowledge the counter for higher. The extra time off would have equaled about $7k. So, the counter essentially reduced the initial amount.

The HR specialist replied to my confused email to say they don't have salary info (W2) to justify giving highers steps and are using market trends to justify pay.

I had asked for negotation based on superior quals and specifically said my salary history wouldn't justify.

Step 3 would be a decent bump in current salary for sure, but I work from home and the current position provides no written guarantee telework is an option though they said it was.

Telework option was my primary interview question given the commute.

30 miles one way in Baltimore/DC traffic, so not insignificent. Gas / mileage alone = several thousand dollars not to mention time away from fam, etc.

I'm perplexed and annoyed by the response and fairly soured on the offer at the moment.

The response received sounded to be essentially closing the door unless I can prove I am making more money than I am to justify a pay match.

Pay equity is questionable in my mind knowing what other staff make, and I also know I only get one shot at starting where I should be based on experience and skillset.

Have folks experienced an offer, then essentially a step backwards in the pay offer?

Any gut reaction to whether they are yanking me around? Or is this SOP with fed hiring process?

As someone who does hiring for our org I would never consider coming back after putting an offer on the table to make it worse. Not sure if I should take this as a sign of the culture or if it is process.

Appreciate any insights from anyone who has done salary negotation.

Edited by user Friday, July 8, 2022 12:50:36 PM(UTC)  | Reason: Not specified

FatHappyCat  
#2 Posted : Thursday, July 7, 2022 7:36:12 PM(UTC)
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Ultimately it really depends on what your priorities are. I'd lay out the facts and figures and then make the decisions with what works for you.

1) The difference between a 3 and an 8 with DC locality pay is about 16k, but the gap is misleading. To go from step 3 to 4 is one year. To get from step 4 to 5 is two years. To get from 8 to 9 is 3 years.

2) Time off. You start off with 4 hours. Takes 3 years to get to 6 hours. Takes 15 years to get to 8 hours.

3) Transportation cost. The government subsidizes your transportation cost if you use mass transit; is that an option for you?

Me personally, my time is significantly more important than a 16k difference especially knowing that it would take me 15 years to reach 8 hour per pp. I'd easily take the time over the money especially with the fact that you can pick up steps faster than with just time-in-grade such as through QSIs. Your vacation time is locked in once you're in. I would really have to be out in the middle of nowhere, ie need to drive to a mass transit site + spending another hour+ on mass transit each way to consider forfeiting transit benefits.
thanks 1 user thanked FatHappyCat for this useful post.
TheUnderverse15 on 7/17/2022(UTC)
michelleC  
#3 Posted : Thursday, July 7, 2022 9:17:30 PM(UTC)
michelleC

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Thanks so much for your thoughts!

If they hadn't cut back the salary / step offer so drastically I think I'd be less perturbed at the moment. Trying to focus on pros/cons as you suggest, but good to hear how others prioritize and thinking about the time to accelerate with salary vs time off.

I also find a system based on current pay stubs as the means for pay setting bizarre. Especially given all that is known about pay equity etc. That might be useful if that were my justification for asking for more, but it clearly wasn't though I feel like they are going to fall on that sword for rationale.

For the heck of it I went back and looked at staff salaries from 2021 in equivalent level / programmatic positions in this shop. The step 5 salary offer was somewhat on par- not factoring in locale pay differences (which are huge) or experience, etc. If their justification is what they pay current employees in equivalent positions with same (really, less) years of experience, then it doesn't add up that way either.

I also noticed a phenomenon that seems to show a lot of turnover from staff in the last 2 years based on salary lookups.

I'm probably just feeling sensitive and annoyed at what seems like a big out of alignment drop in salary from their initial offer. It is essentially worse overall by $s than their first counter. With zero logic, other than show us your w2s.

Unfortunately mass transit isn't a reasonable option based on my location. It would essentially be what you laid our or really worse (reverse horse shoe / u to use mass transiat vs an around the beltway drive.

In hindsight I should have been more matter of fact and assertive from the jump.

I'm not sure at this point if i just suck it up and take it or push back/ try to counter (a third time)? I already indicated in my first email to HR that a step backwards in the salary offer wasn't really optional, but didn't go so far as to point out that their recent counter actually was more punitive. Not sure how assertive to be.

Just not sure what fed HR negotations usually look like in terms of back and forth volleys, temperament for continued negotations, and at this point my willingness to make a big leap like this for the first time in years.

Good things to think about as you shared above though.

FrankJr  
#4 Posted : Friday, July 8, 2022 12:42:45 AM(UTC)
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Originally Posted by: michelleC Go to Quoted Post
Thanks so much for your thoughts!

If they hadn't cut back the salary / step offer so drastically I think I'd be less perturbed at the moment. Trying to focus on pros/cons as you suggest, but good to hear how others prioritize and thinking about the time to accelerate with salary vs time off.

I also find a system based on current pay stubs as the means for pay setting bizarre. Especially given all that is known about pay equity etc. That might be useful if that were my justification for asking for more, but it clearly wasn't though I feel like they are going to fall on that sword for rationale.

For the heck of it I went back and looked at staff salaries from 2021 in equivalent level / programmatic positions in this shop. The step 5 salary offer was somewhat on par- not factoring in locale pay differences (which are huge) or experience, etc. If their justification is what they pay current employees in equivalent positions with same (really, less) years of experience, then it doesn't add up that way either.

I also noticed a phenomenon that seems to show a lot of turnover from staff in the last 2 years based on salary lookups.

I'm probably just feeling sensitive and annoyed at what seems like a big out of alignment drop in salary from their initial offer. It is essentially worse overall by $s than their first counter. With zero logic, other than show us your w2s.

Unfortunately mass transit isn't a reasonable option based on my location. It would essentially be what you laid our or really worse (reverse horse shoe / u to use mass transiat vs an around the beltway drive.

In hindsight I should have been more matter of fact and assertive from the jump.

I'm not sure at this point if i just suck it up and take it or push back/ try to counter (a third time)? I already indicated in my first email to HR that a step backwards in the salary offer wasn't really optional, but didn't go so far as to point out that their recent counter actually was more punitive. Not sure how assertive to be.

Just not sure what fed HR negotations usually look like in terms of back and forth volleys, temperament for continued negotations, and at this point my willingness to make a big leap like this for the first time in years.

Good things to think about as you shared above though.



The fed do not offer / counteroffer. Responses to fed offers are yes or no; and a response other than a "yes" is a "no". The feds either proceed to process the next candidate or start the process with a clean slate. And so you received an offer and you responded with a different set of variables and the feds responded to the different set of variables. Pay studies are a 2-3 year process and for organizations or pay series, not individual candidates. The HR representative requested W2s but you do not indicate if you have or have not provided the W2s. The most "successful" fed employee have worked for the federal government for decades, not entered the federal government with 20 years of experience. The leadership have decades of service with the federal government, not decades of experience in a series. If you are this frustrated with the hiring process, imagine the frustration once you are hired...
GWPDA  
#5 Posted : Friday, July 8, 2022 5:02:31 AM(UTC)
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Qualifying for and being offered a GS14 as an external candidate is quite something in FedWorld. Your experience and PhD notwithstanding that alone was a pretty big offer. Getting additional perks is quite something as well. It is unlikely that you'll get much more and as you can tell, the main pushback is likely to come from HR. My bet is that if you keep 'pushing' then HR is going to be inclined to withdraw their offer and cancel the job. It is unlikely you were the sole well-qualified applicant, but rather their first choice. This means that second choice may turn out to be an easier, 'better' selection for HR.

Your choice now.
michelleC  
#6 Posted : Friday, July 8, 2022 12:42:29 PM(UTC)
michelleC

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Originally Posted by: FrankJr Go to Quoted Post
Originally Posted by: michelleC Go to Quoted Post
Thanks so much for your thoughts!



The fed do not offer / counteroffer. Responses to fed offers are yes or no; and a response other than a "yes" is a "no". The feds either proceed to process the next candidate or start the process with a clean slate. And so you received an offer and you responded with a different set of variables and the feds responded to the different set of variables. Pay studies are a 2-3 year process and for organizations or pay series, not individual candidates. The HR representative requested W2s but you do not indicate if you have or have not provided the W2s. The most "successful" fed employee have worked for the federal government for decades, not entered the federal government with 20 years of experience. The leadership have decades of service with the federal government, not decades of experience in a series. If you are this frustrated with the hiring process, imagine the frustration once you are hired...


Well that actually turns out not to be true LOL.
They offered, I countered, they countered, I countered, and they countered again including meeting the request for time off match for non-fed time worked.

I did provide the W2 and 1099 from consulting work with the note that basing pay on salary history doesn't adequately reflect experience, education, etc. I stopped short of pointing out that wage gaps exist b/c of practices like using past salary history, penalizing folks for choosing mission over money in nonprofit careers, and penalizing women who take time away for kids. Though, the current administration has already pointed this out. Is waht it is and it is still legal for the feds to use salary history as the measure, which is what they did in this instance.

Maybe the system needs to be fixed if we aren't incentivizing long term employees with exceptional experience to come work for the feds. Instead I see repeatedly where I, other orgs, and consultants get paid top dollar to NOT work for the feds.

Not my problems to solve and it has been written about prolifically it appears, but is and should be a factor in folks decision making.

Your last sentence is spot on and exactly where I'm debating whether I take the position or not. It's also why I've steered clear of federal positions having been offered multiple over time. That said, this particular position and work are an exceptional fit for my background and it is a niche position. Sure someone else could do the job, but would they come with the skillset, experience, contacts and capacity to do it great? Finally, it is notable as I was reading up on salary negotiations that this particular scenario is incredibly common, not so black and white as you describe. Maybe less so in fed space, but it is happening.

They responded to say their last offer is final, and thanks for the info. They needed it to justify that higher salary offer. It's shameful though to make an offer then turn around and reduce your offer. No clue whose doing that is though.
michelleC  
#7 Posted : Friday, July 8, 2022 12:47:28 PM(UTC)
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Originally Posted by: GWPDA Go to Quoted Post
Qualifying for and being offered a GS14 as an external candidate is quite something in FedWorld. Your experience and PhD notwithstanding that alone was a pretty big offer. Getting additional perks is quite something as well. It is unlikely that you'll get much more and as you can tell, the main pushback is likely to come from HR. My bet is that if you keep 'pushing' then HR is going to be inclined to withdraw their offer and cancel the job. It is unlikely you were the sole well-qualified applicant, but rather their first choice. This means that second choice may turn out to be an easier, 'better' selection for HR.

Your choice now.


Thanks much for the perspective, super helpful. My spouse who is a long-time fed contractor said pretty much the same thing re: GS14 level.

It's interesting to READ articles about negotiations on fed salaries and time off that say it is possible, but the reality conveyed here seems to indicate maybe not so much.

Your instinct on pushing was sort of where I was at. I did send a final note with my pay documentation, one last time. The last counter did not say firm or final... which felt like left the door open.

The reply back this afternoon did.

Now I just need to take a minute to figure out if this process is disassociated with the people and internal workings of the actual job or if this typifies the experience?

Perhaps stop being pouty that they offered me $10k more and than took it back on the next counter. It is like the sort of negotiating I do with my kiddo LOL. Every time they ask for more I go evern lower. ;)
smithandjones  
#8 Posted : Tuesday, July 12, 2022 4:21:16 AM(UTC)

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That is really strange - they acknowledged your additional years of experience by increasing your leave time but also lowering the pay offer? And the Government wonders why they have disgruntled employees :(.

My snarky response is you don't want to work for an organization that would do this (you really don't) because you will forever be bitter about it (which is why they shouldn't do it!) But I understand that real world tough decisions have to be made and I have made plenty of my own dealing with Government HR.

I obviously don't know your situation but I would be tempted to not accept this as a final answer . . . ask them to explain how the offer was reduced rather than increased (especially if you would rather have the first offer).

Whenever I respond to HR I say something like "I would really like to accept this offer but would like to know if/why. . . ." rather than come off as totally rejecting the offer.

But they do like to move on rather than explain themselves. Some people have success challenging their actions after the fact but it takes forever and is rarely worth the effort.

Edited by user Tuesday, July 12, 2022 4:24:29 AM(UTC)  | Reason: Not specified

GWPDA  
#9 Posted : Tuesday, July 12, 2022 5:52:51 AM(UTC)
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"Now I just need to take a minute to figure out if this process is disassociated with the people and internal workings of the actual job or if this typifies the experience? "

You're on point here. All 'negotiations' are done by various elements/levels of HR - not by those who do the job or supervise the job or authorise the job. It is HR's responsibility, with the assumption that what they do is in strict accord with governmental policy, practice and law. This is also meant to ensure that there is no illegal favouritism offered or bestowed on any one applicant - my belief is that when dealing with a GS14 position the separation between the two sides is going to be especially bright line. This may also account for why they backed off from offering additional monies. Extra leave is explicitly authorised in OPM policy - extra money can be very iffy. Extra benefits - yes. Extra money? Not so much.

If you want to give it another shot - or just for s&g's - send them a note completely ignoring their semi-turndown. Thank them for their offer (filling in the best terms they offered and you were willing to take, don't give a date to the offer) and accept the offer. Copy your acceptance to whomever you have an email for. Don't argue or ask or explain.

No, I'm not very nice.... :-) Have fun!
djp  
#10 Posted : Tuesday, July 12, 2022 12:07:29 PM(UTC)

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Take the higher leave over pay. You only can negotiate this on entry, not once a fed.

If you do a great job you can get quality step increases as a reward.


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