by Meridith Levinson

Salary Negotiation Lessons Learned from Hiring a Nanny

Mar 21, 2011

Hiring managers should always ask job seekers whether they're entertaining other job interviews or offers. It's about leverage.

Today is my first day back to work after a four-month maternity leave (thank you, IDG). While trying to hire a babysitter to care for my daughter during the workday because I can’t get her into a local daycare center until the fall, I learned a lesson about salary negotiation that’s important to job seekers and hiring managers, especially when hiring is back on the rise in IT. The lesson illustrates a critical question hiring managers should always ask prospective employees during job interviews:

Are you interviewing for any other positions or entertaining any other job offers?

I, stupidly, failed to ask this question when I interviewed the young woman who’s currently caring for my daughter three days a week. (I chalk my carelessness up to new parent sleep deprivation.) Had I asked this question during the job interview and had the nanny told me she didn’t have any other interviews or offers, my husband and I probably could have hired her at a lower hourly rate than what she was seeking.

But because I didn’t think to ask this question and because my husband and I were under pressure to find some kind of childcare solution for our daughter, the nanny was in a strong position to ask for—and receive—the hourly rate she wanted. (And even in my small, rural community, nannies don’t come cheap. More than half my monthly take-home pay is now going to the nanny.) 

The lesson from my bush league hiring manager experience is about leverage, and who has it during a job interview and subsequent salary negotiations. If a job seeker tells a hiring manager that she doesn’t have any other job interviews or offers, the hiring manager knows he can nickel-and-dime the candidate on salary. But if the job seeker is in fact mulling other offers, she’s poised to negotiate a better salary, and the hiring manager will know he’ll have to pony up, especially if the candidate possesses the skills, experience and stellar references the hiring manager seeks (as my nanny did). 

The moral of this story for job seekers: If a hiring manager doesn’t ask you whether you’re interviewing for other jobs or considering other offers and you do in fact have promising opportunities in the works, make it known during the job interview. Your salary depends on it.