SAGE ADVICE FOR RESUMES, INTERVIEWING, AND MORE!
- By bruce w clagg
How Do I Handle The “Salary” Question?
You can certainly expect the questions regarding salary during the interviewing process (perhaps several times) be it from Human Resources, a recruiter, online, and/or the hiring decision-maker (DM). The following is making the assumption that because of age, or whatever, that you are not taking an obvious professional step backward! (That is for another article)
HR, Demand It... Regardless of the job title!!!
An oft omitted item in the sequence of events is that a true Application for Employment should be required before ANY interviews. If one has not officially applied, one cannot officially be denied. This step used to be cast in stone by HR Departments and company policies. Today, not as much. Pass the word to the DMs, HR!! DMs - "We forgot (?).” DEMAND IT, REGARDLESS OF JOB TITLE!
Search the Internet for “salaries by position” and you’ll get a bunch. Salary.com and Payscale.com are good examples. Check several. Some charge, but most do not. Insert the job title you’re seeking, the industry (one search at a time), and the zip code of the city/town you would like to work (you can Google those also). Up pops the salary range along with the bonus potential, if applicable to that position. Also, check the cost-of-living difference (a separate Search) and factor that, too – there could be a huge difference! Using $100K in Houston, Texas compared to Los Angeles, California - $136.3K. You would need to earn 36.3% MORE just to break even! Don’t expect L.A. to pay 36.3% more for that job! Possible?
Now, where do you fit? If your current salary is below the minimum, or above the maximum, you need to give some thought as to whether you’re seeking the right position. If the exact title you entered does not bring a result, other titles may be used, or suggested. Closely read the job description to see if it is a very close match and insert THAT one. PRINT IT – IT MAY BE NEEDED LATER SINCE MANY HR DEPARTMENTS HAVE NOT BOTHERED, OR HAD TIME TO CONDUCT COMPENSATION COMPARISONS IN YEARS! I see it A LOT!
“Expected Salary” is another question in most cases whether on the Application, or face-to-face. Start with your current number (as calculated in (D), below). Add, e.g. 20% (which works for most people) and see where you fall with the Salary Range, above. Most DMs have some reluctance to paying more than 120% of your current compensation, even if you fall within range. That said, smoking them on the interview (refer to my articles pertaining to "The Interview" (noted in red, right-side column) increases your value, so you never know. Many of my coaching clients have earned salaries and bonuses that were off the chart!
When completing the application, use your current salary, plus any 401(k) and medical Flex Plan contributions since those ARE a part of your salary; only deferred earnings when you have monies withheld. This would be the number I would use, when asked, whether an application was completed, or not. (Remember to factor in the cost-of-living difference if to your advantage)
Never Negotiate Face-to-Face!!!
Although this will happen when speaking with HR, or a recruiter, but a DM will generally wait until the end of the interview, and if they like what they’ve heard, this question will now arise: “So, Mary, where do we need to be regarding salary?” Yep, your stomach tightens, your palms start to sweat… (”Oh, I hate that question!”) NEVER “NEGOTIATE” NOW, OR FACE-TO-FACE!! (For me, a Job Offer is not real unless it is in writing!) This is the major reason people are underpaid. Start low, stay low. If asked by HR, or a recruiter, use your number derived from (D), above, but say that you’re flexible depending upon the other items within The Offer of Employment.
The DM obviously believes that you are a prime candidate, or that question would never be posed! It IS a fair question at this point in the interviewing process. They DO have a budget that must be closely observed. But…this isn’t “The Price is Right” show!
C.At this point, blurting out a figure is not wise as it will, or could begin negotiating face-to-face. We DMs are, in general, very good at it. The candidates, not so much. Personalities differ, so what I would strongly suggest, below, may, or may not fit your personality, or “style.”
“Miss Jones, before I answer that question, and I will…may I ask you a question?” “Certainly!” “If salary was not an issue; it was settled; would I be the one receiving The Offer for this perfect position?”
Maybe there are other “hurdles” that you have to jump before an Offer is forthcoming, so the answer will be rather close to “no.” But, if it is “yes,” then no more hurdles, other than salary.
“Yes, you (probably) would.” “Miss Jones, I am so excited about the opportunity with such a great company. I believe that this is truly ‘the round peg into the round hole.’ I’m thrilled as I hope that you are!” “Now, the salary – Miss Jones, you know what I have been earning and that this position poses additional challenges that I am eager to solve, so I’m sure that you will do the best you can on the salary issue. How soon could I expect to see The Offer?” Nothing works every time with everyone, but it has worked famously with hundreds of my clients!
If you don't ask...you don't get!
Assuming the dialog above worked, you have already completed the research that may be needed to author a Counter-Offer (which most Americans NEVER do) and include an attachment of your research for that position which supports your request for a higher salary, a sign-on bonus, performance bonuses, stipends for auto expenses, cell phone, etc., relocation package, company car, et al. IF YOU DON’T ASK, YOU DON’T GET and most never ask. That said, it must be authored very, very well. About 90% of the Counter-Offers that I prepare for clients are accepted; about 8% are reduced, and about 2% are denied, but NEVER has the original Offer been rescinded because of a Counter-Offer! You are probably expected to negotiate with others on the new company’s behalf, so not negotiating at all, or negotiating poorly could reflect negatively upon you. But, hey, The Offer may be right on target!
If the above did not work, then ask “What is our next step, and how should I follow-up?” “What about my salary question?” “Miss Jones, without seeing the entire Offer, it would be impossible to provide a solid number, but I’m sure that you would do the best that you could.”
Your thoughts? Everyone encounters it and is uncomfortable with it; I hope this helps!
Hello! I'm Bruce Clagg,
Advanced Career Solutions
Advanced Career Solutions (ACS) is a professional resume writing services firm also providing unique, job interview training, LinkedIn Profile rebuilding, career counseling & coaching from the ONLY multi-certified professional* in Texas. - Bruce Clagg, Rapid Employment & Career Management Coach
*The four Certifications are noted within.