The Joys of Salary Negotiation

 iStockphoto.com |  mokee81

iStockphoto.com | mokee81

 

After you've sent a resume to a company, somebody in human resources will call you up to screen you for fit. They will invariably ask you what you will are looking for in terms of salary.

This is where it gets tricky. It's a game of chicken – salary discussions, especially at the beginning of the process, are especially difficult because the first party to give away their position loses their leverage to negotiate.

Your goal here is not necessarily aligned to the company's goal in terms of compensation. Assuming the position is a good match for both parties, here's where your interests diverge.

Your goal: To get the best salary offer you can.

The company's goal: To get the best candidate into the position in the most cost-effective manner possible. Less money is better.

The actual figure you agree upon is the reality.

Before getting into negotiation strategy, let's discuss a few facts about how corporate salaries are determined (by the way, this is a simplification, so I'm certain the compensation professionals out will have information to add):

  1. Companies - especially larger ones - usually have salary bands in which employees need to fit. For a particular position, there is an assigned salary range. For example, the company may have determined that they are willing to pay between $15 and $20 per hour for an administrative assistant. They don't want to have too large of a salary discrepancy between several individuals doing the same type of job, but they also want a bit of wiggle room to offer more money if necessary for the right candidate.
     
  2. Salaries are usually driven by market data. A company will subscribe to (and often provide information for) compensation studies tracking what the market will pay for a particular job. This data take into consideration several factors - skill sets, nature of the market, geography, and what competitors are willing to pay.
     
  3. A company selectes a compensation philosophy. This goes back to the market data described above. After looking at the data, executives make a decision about their compensation philosophy as to how it relates to their own company. A company looking to aggressively hire high-performing talent or that competes in a fast-changing market like technology tends to extend offers at the higher end of the range. Other companies may look to hire at the general market salaries, tending toward the average.
     
  4. Companies often have less flexibility on salaries for recent graduates and entry-level hires. This applies to your newly minted MBA just as much as it does to your nephew who recently received their bachelor's degree. Companies often have a concrete salary structure for these recent grads, with adjustments up and down for work location and the ranking for the school from which they graduated. In other words, a graduate with an Ivy league degree can often fetch more than the local state school.
     
  5. There's a lot more to consider in the offer than just salary. Benefits matter. A lot. Companies often pay a great deal of money to provide a competitive benefits package. You know that health insurance the company's offering? Not every employer subsidizes the same amount to cover that, often leaving you - the employee - to pay a larger share of your premiums or co-pays.  There are other benefits, too - dental insurance, life insurance, disability insurance, tuition reimbursement, vacation time, holidays, company car, 401(k) matches and so on - into which companies can pay dearly. A richer benefits package leaving more take-home money in the employee's pocket may give an employer a real incentive to offer a lower base salary, while still enabling an employee to make ends meet.
     
  6. Variable compensation matters, too. I'm referring to bonuses, profit sharing, commissions, and long-term incentives. Not every job offers an incentive beyond the base salary. A bonus is real money, and a company's philosophy may direct them to offer a lower base salary in exchange for a desirable bonus target.

Here are some considerations when negotiating salary:

  • It's to your advantage to avoid giving a specific expected salary figure – until it's essential.  It's not always possible to hold off on showing your hand. A recruiter may push you to give a specific number to ensure that you fit within their salary structure. But if you can hold off without coming across as confrontation, it's worth trying. The best scenario is to see if the job itself is a good marriage before locking down a specific number. You'll keep your leverage.
     
  • Sometimes ignorance can work in your favor. This isn't always true, but in certain cases it absolutely can. If you're a recent graduate (or been at the same company for a very long time) and an employer is asking you what you are looking for in terms of salary, it's okay to say, "I don't have a specific figure in mind, I am looking for a compensation package that is in line for a recent graduate with an MBA from my university." A similar approach also works well if you know you've been underpaid against the market, you can say something like, "I'm looking for a salary that is in line with my experience and education."
     
  • The employer may push hard to find out your salary expectations. In which case, you may wish to consider taking a slightly different approach with your answer - "In my current position I have been earning $x, I am looking for a salary that will take into consideration the accomplishments and experiences I gained in my present role." You're not telling the employer that you're asking for a specific figure - you're giving an idea of where you've been.
     
  • Sometimes it doesn't matter what you want. See #4 above - the company may pay everyone the same salary for a certain job. In which case, you have the option of taking or leaving the offer.
     
  • Ask about the benefits. A rich benefits package has real cash value. Consider all the non-salary components of the offer as part of the total compensation.
     
  • A sign-on bonus may make up any difference. The company may really want to get you on board, but their salary bands (or some other reason) may prevent them from offering a higher salary. Or perhaps you are walking away from a bonus at your current job. A sign-on bonus might help close the gap during that first year.
     
  • Be sincere in your negotiations. Tell the corporate recruiter that you really want to make this work and that company x is clearly your first choice (assuming this is true). Perhaps you are willing to meet somewhere in the middle of what was offered and what you asked for. The more you can make the recruiter feel that this is a partnership designed to meet a common goal, the better.
     
  • The choice is ultimately yours. You don't have to accept the job at the salary offered just because the company offers you the position. If you've negotiated in good faith, then you should be able to walk away from an offer with no hard feelings. Which leads me to one last point...
     
  • Avoid getting into the negotiations for counter-offers with your current employer. It's not recommended - find out why here.

Scott Singer is the President and Founder of Insider Career Strategies Resume Writing & Career Coaching, a firm dedicated to guiding job seekers and companies through the job search and hiring process. Insider Career Strategies provides resume writing, LinkedIn profile development, and career coaching services, including a free resume review. You can email Scott Singer at scott.singer@insidercs.com, or via the website, www.insidercs.com.

Why Do Recruiters Have So Little Knowledge About The Jobs They're Recruiting For?

 iStockphoto.com |  timnewman

iStockphoto.com | timnewman

 

Candidates can get frustrated by a lack of in-depth knowledge on a recruiter's part regarding the job they've called about. You may want to cut the recruiter a little bit of slack. Start by looking at the typical recruiter role.

Recruiters typically work in one of two settings – either within internal human resources departments (filling internal jobs), or at staffing firms (filling jobs on behalf of their clients’ human resources departments). In either situation, it’s important to note the following factors:

  1. Recruiters are (typically) not technical experts on the subject matter the individual they’re looking to hire is expected to have. Their job is to fill jobs. All. Day. Long. Their focus is on sourcing and identifying talent to fill the open job. They need to know the right search terms, how to identify a potential candidate, the right things to look for in the resume, and a few key questions to ask the candidate to determine if it’s worth scheduling a conversation with the hiring manager. It’s not their job to know every nitty gritty technical detail of the position they’re filling. That’s usually the hiring manager’s job.
     
  2. It is the recruiters’ job to determine whether it’s worth introducing the candidate to the hiring manager. Recruiters should know enough to conduct an initial screen of the candidate’s credentials, general subject knowledge, and skills. They also check to qualify that the candidate’s salary requirements, commute, and personality fit the role and the company. Then it’s time to hand them off to the hiring manager.
     
  3. Recruiters are busy as hell. It’s not unusual for a recruiter to be expected to manage a load of 40 (yes, 40) open positions. Each one has a hiring manager screaming for candidates to fill their open jobs. Assuming the recruiter touches every open position once a week, that gives them one hour per open position, per week to source resumes, screen candidates, communicate with hiring managers, and address whatever other matters come down the pipeline. That’s not even close to enough time to do a truly deep dive on the specifics of the job. And sometimes the person recruiting is also working as a human resources generalist managing employee relations issues and other matters, and recruitment is just a component of their job.
     
  4. Hiring managers are busy as hell. “So what?” you may ask. Well, when a recruiter receives a new open position, they typically reach out to the hiring manager to gather information and develop a search strategy. I recruited for 19 years. I experienced countless situations in which I reached out to the hiring manager for more information and they couldn’t be bothered to return my call in a reasonable time (if at all). I was in the no-win position of being forced to decide between waiting for the manager to get back to me before recruiting, or plowing ahead on the search with insufficient data and hoping I was approaching it correctly.

That said, there are always exceptions.

Some staffing agencies or internal recruiting departments focus on recruiting specific disciplines, such as accountants. The intention is to mold these individuals into recruiters focused on that particular discipline, with the understanding that they can build a practice around their specific base of knowledge. It’s a lot easier for a CPA to establish credibility and build rapport with both accounting hiring managers and candidates, and well as to intuit the specifics about the positions they work on.

Also, some companies believe in giving their recruiters smaller workloads, supported by the idea that the recruiters can devote more time to finding the right person for each open position. It’s rare.

Make no mistake, there’s no excuse for a recruiter to be sloppy in their job. It is their duty to effectively source and evaluate talent, and to know enough about their open positions in order to add value to the hiring manager and ensure that the candidate has a positive experience with the employer. With time, practice, exposure to the subject, and after experiencing a few notable mistakes along the way, recruiters do get better at this.

This article originally appeared on Quora.


Scott Singer is the President and Founder of Insider Career Strategies Resume Writing & Career Coaching, a firm dedicated to guiding job seekers and companies through the job search and hiring process. Insider Career Strategies provides resume writing, LinkedIn profile development, and career coaching services, including a free resume review. You can email Scott Singer at scott.singer@insidercs.com, or via the website, www.insidercs.com.

8 Great Strategies To Beat The Job Interview Jitters

 iStockphoto |  Minerva Studio

iStockphoto | Minerva Studio

 

Job interviews aren't much fun. Quite frankly – they're stressful. You're under the microscope and there's tremendous pressure to make the best possible impression in a short period of time.

The good news is there are strategies you can use to reduce the stress and improve your chances.

  1. Dress nicely for the interview. Wear a suit. End of discussion.
     
  2. Remember - It's just a conversation. Sure, the people you are meeting with are judging you and they're going to throw some curve balls your way, but in the end, an interview is just as much about demonstrating you can work together as the technical skills you bring. Do your best to remember that you're just having a conversation with the person seated across from you. You're both trying to find common ground. Often the interviewer is looking for reasons to hire you – being easy to get along with helps.
     
  3. Do your research. The more you know, the more you'll be prepared to talk about. Learn  what's going on at the company and about their products and services by looking at the company's web page and searching online. Be prepared for the question, "What do you know about our company?" Likewise, if you receive an agenda ahead of time , check out your interviewers' LinkedIn profiles – you should be able to come up with some great discussion material (example: "I see you left General Motors to come work here. There must have been something interesting about this company, what drove your decision?").
     
  4. It's okay to bring notes. Most interviewers won't mind if you have a page of notes to job your memory during the interview, so long as it's not a crutch. Prepare short, easy-to-read, bulleted discussion points so that you can glance quickly at your notes without having to study them. Notes can  project an impression of preparedness.
     
  5. Prepare your war stories. Behavioral interviews are big. Interviewers will ask you questions about your past actions to determine how you'd behave in the future. The examples you present are an opportunity to shine; choose examples that demonstrate your ability to identify and overcome adversity, collaborate, and build creative solutions to work problems. Have five or six go-to stories about your work successes that you can tell which will show you as a strong potential hire.
     
  6. Have questions ready. At the end of the conversation, your interviewer will either run out of questions for you, or ask if you have any of your own. Never be caught without insightful questions to ask. They don't have to be profound, but they should demonstrate that you're engaged and have paid attention. Some good standbys: "What does success in this role look like?"; "What does the average day in this position consist of?"; and "Why is this position open?" Find other effective questions here.
     
  7. Put off the salary discussion, if at all possible. In fact, don't bring it up at all. Let the interviewer bring it up, and if they do, handle it delicately. Focus on your interest in the job, and indicate that compensation is a secondary consideration to the job itself.
     
  8. Send "Thank You" notes. If you met with somebody during your interview day, send them a brief note (email is fine) thanking them for their time and consideration. I've seen a well-placed "Thank You" note push a candidate over the top. And don't send notes to some people and not to others - everybody has a say in whether you get hired, from the receptionist up through the CEO; don't let anybody feel snubbed and wanting to sabotage your chances.

Scott Singer is the President and Founder of Insider Career Strategies Resume Writing & Career Coaching, a firm dedicated to guiding job seekers and companies through the job search and hiring process. Insider Career Strategies provides resume writing, LinkedIn profile development, and career coaching services, including a free resume review. You can email Scott Singer at scott.singer@insidercs.com, or via the website, www.insidercs.com.