Final Exam

In each issue of Wharton Magazine, we’ll test your knowledge with a question straight from an actual Wharton exam or course, crafted by one of the School’s esteemed faculty members. Submit the correct answer and you’ll be entered into our drawing for a fabulous prize—tuition-free attendance at a Wharton Executive Education program.

This Final Exam challenge comes from Adam Grant, associate professor in the Management Department. Good luck!

The Basics:

You’ve just received a job offer from your dream employer in San Francisco. You want to accept it, but you’re concerned about the cost of living in San Francisco and paying back your student loans. You want to negotiate the starting salary without jeopardizing the relationship or your reputation, especially because several other qualified candidates are on the waiting list.

The Question:

What negotiating strategy does evidence support as effective for achieving your goals in this situation?

(a) Recruit a competing offer from another firm.

(b) Ask a contact inside the company for advice.

(c) Ask for tuition reimbursement instead of a salary increase.

(d) Sign and express an interest in a larger raise or bonus after proving yourself.

(e) Present benchmarking data demonstrating that you have grounds for making more money.

The Answer:

(b) Ask a contact inside the company for advice.

When you want to achieve influence without authority, seeking advice can turn your adversary into your advocate. The four benefits of asking for advice include flattering your contact, allowing him or her the chance to gain your perspective and do the proverbial “walk in your shoes,” showing your commitment to the potential new position and, lastly of course, actually getting you answers to your questions.

According to Katie A. Liljenquist and Adam D. Galinsky in their article, “Turn Your Adversary Into Your Advocate,” from the June 2007 issue of Negotiation, there are three best practices when asking for advice.  First, be careful to ask for the advice in a way that doesn’t make you look weak or jeopardize your competence. Second, make your request as specific as possible to make it easier for your contact to provide the needed information, and to limit any reciprocal favor requests. Third, make sure your contact knows you are only seeking advice, and be clear about why you value it from them in particular.

The Winner:

Winner of the winter issue Final Exam challenge: Brian Connelly, WEV’04

  • TJ

    This sounds great in theory but I am not so sure if this is the best answer.  What if the person giving the advice turns around and tells the hiring manager (your future boss)?  Then it could backfire.

  • PW

    This choice of strategy has a few pitfalls. Suppose you don’t have a contact within the organization? Not to mention someone whose opinion you value, intentions you trust, with actual incite into the situation? Relying on the advice of one person is a dubious proposition when you face stiff competition for a position with an ideal employer.

  • venkat

    Relying on the advice of one person is a dubious proposition when you face stiff competition

  • Robert Rosenthal

    This is another question with an answer that doesn’t apply to the real world. If one of my employees offered to have me help her pay her student loan in lieu of a cash raise to her I’d be truly impressed. That is a serious look at her future and her career. I’d go for it!

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