Take Charge of Salary Questions

Love this article from Lee Miller on Monster.com about dealing with recruiters and salary negotiation:

“Once a prospective employer starts talking money — as in how much you currently earn — it’s hard not to panic. And while it may seem like the only option is to simply answer the question, this is the time to choose your words carefully. In fact, how you respond to those initial salary questions plays a crucial role in determining whether your final pay package is excellent or just enough.

Employers use salary information to decide how much they need to offer to get you to consider the job. By providing salary information to a potential employer, you limit your ability to negotiate a compensation package that reflects your true market value. If you are currently underpaid, providing that information will ensure that you remain so.

The best way to deal with the salary issue is to avoid it. However, you need to do that tactfully and in a way that will not upset your prospective employer. At the same time, if you handle it correctly, an employer trying to recruit you will not want to press the issue for fear of angering you.

If you can delay discussions about salary, or keep them vague, until an employer wants to hire you, you can often get an offer without providing detailed salary information at all. If hiring managers do not have that information, they will be forced to base their offer on your market value rather than your current salary.

The following are various scenarios when your salary history may be requested and possible ways you can respond:

Salary Information Requested on the Application

The issue of what you are earning is likely to arise before you even start the interview process, when you are asked to fill out an application. Most applications have a section that asks for salary history. Many online job postings and ads in newspapers also ask for this information. Some even warn that you won’t be considered if you don’t provide salary information. Sometimes you can get away by simply ignoring the request. Another way to deal with this question is to state that you “will discuss it in person.” Occasionally, you will not be considered for a job if you do not provide this information; more often than not, though, if you have marketed yourself well, you will be able to get an interview without disclosing your current salary.

Questions About Salary from the Interviewer

When the interviewer asks you about your salary, your goal remains the same — delay talking about it or keep the discussions vague. You might try saying something like, “It is not about the salary; it is about the job. If it’s the right job for me and I am the right person for it, salary won’t be an issue.” Then you can turn it around and ask what the employer has budgeted for the position. If you have to talk about compensation, be general and talk about your total compensation. For example, if your salary, potential bonus and stock options are worth $46,000, maximize it by saying something like, “My total annual compensation is in the mid-five figures.”

When the Recruiter Asks

Recruiters generally seek salary information for a different purpose. Since they usually are paid based on a percentage of your first year’s compensation, it is in their interest for the offer to be higher. They want to know your salary to avoid recommending a candidate, only to find out later that the company and the candidate cannot agree on salary. Therefore, the tactics that work with companies to avoid discussing salary will not work with most recruiters. They will insist on having salary information. Providing the information to the recruiter, though, will hurt your ability to negotiate. Remember the recruiter works for the company and whatever you tell the recruiter will usually be passed on to the company.

Even though a company generally has a salary range for a position, it is never set in stone. Once a hiring manager has decided you are the best candidate, he will find ways to pay more, if necessary. The goal is to get all the key players to really want to hire you before talking about salary.”

 

SALARIES, SALARIES, SALARIES!

My grandmother once told me if you had enough money to pay your rent/mortgage, all of your bills, and still have money left to put into savings, you were doing just fine. Simplistic, perhaps, but very true. One of the most difficult aspects of saying “yes” to a new job is negotiating your salary, benefits, and other possible perks.

Let’s say you’ve sent a potential employer your perfect resume and cover letter, aced the phone and/or in-person interview(s), and it’s been determined you’re the best candidate for the job. Before you say yes, take the time to do your homework before accepting a first offer. This is the BEST time for you to negotiate before you begin your new job.

Typically, perhaps in your first phone call from a potential employer, they might bring up the topic of how much money you’d like to make. Let them rather than you! If you’re asked this question, defer the question as long as possible, but do have a salary range in mind:

Employer: “What sort of salary were you thinking of?

You: “After researching the current market, and with my experience, I was thinking $85,000 to $100,000 sounds about right. Does the position’s salary fall within this range?”

When you quote a range, be certain the lowest figure you mention, in this example $85,000, is the lowest figure you’re willing to accept. You’ll be able to figure this out from doing research online (www.salary.com and http://www.salaryexpert.com are good websites) as well as speaking with people from your job network and from informational interviews. 

If your interviewer mentions the salary you want is too high for the position, consider how much lower the actual salary might be than what you want and what perks you might be able to negotiate instead. For example, I was offered a job for a prestigious company in the Bay Area. Unfortunately, the salary was $3000 less than what I was making. The hiring manager was very nice, and mentioned that while she couldn’t match my current salary, she would be able to give me a $3000 hiring bonus to make up the difference. Other things you might try and negotiate are extra paid vacation days/weeks, medical/dental insurance starting immediately instead of after several months, paid transportation costs, stock options, etc.

Remember, if you are offered a salary which you are unhappy about, won’t meet your budget, and the employer won’t budge during negotiations, your power lies in your ability to simply walk away and politely say no to the job offer. Or, if you really want to work for the company, ask the hiring manager if you could negotiate a six-month job review, at which time you could possibly discuss a bump in your salary. Remember, it never hurts to ask for what you want!