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August 27, 2008


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I believe the argument is that on average whoever mentions a concrete figure/range first loses out in the negotiating stakes. On the other hand, it's about getting a good salary, not a perfect one.

Plonkee --

I understand that's the argument -- but I don't buy it.

I agree with FMF - well said!

Yes, all career/employment advisors say to avoid the discussion of salary like the 3rd-rail. I say that's BS. While I agree not to walk in and the first thing you say is "What does this job pay?" or "I expect X-salary!" avoiding the discussion of pay (and bennies) is ridiculous. It's part of the crazy idea that to a 'professional' the money doesn't matter, only the work. I wish I knew who came up with that STUPID concept?!

Better to find out sooner than later that what you want/expect just isn't what they are willing to pay (prsuming your expectations are reasonable).

ps- Plonkee: I've never known an empolyer to offer the higher end of their pay range. If anything it's the lower end. They want to get the most for the least. That's just business.

One thing that bothers me... most major companies require you to submit your resume online. Sometimes this is even after you've sent a paper resume and gone through a first interview. You have to submit your resume and create a profile so that you show up in their internal HR system, so that you can move forward in the selection process. I think it covers them in terms of equal employment opportunity (ie. so that they have a record of applicant ethnicity).

Here's the problem I have, aside from having to keep track of usernames and passwords for dozens of sites: sometimes, in order to get the application to submit, you HAVE to provide a salary range. This is before you have an offer, usually before the final interview. I find this obnoxious, but I'm not quite sure how to get around this. Do I put in a salary so low that its obviously incorrect (ie. $0-$10,000), or would they count this against me? If I put in something realistic, am I pricing myself out of a job, or leaving money on the table?

I haven't really figured out how to handle this situation.

I would like to know if anyone has any suggestions for gracefully evading salary history requests?

I have a few reasons for not wanting to divulge this information, and don't see what difference it makes since I can provide all kinds of information about what the local market pays candidates with my profile. But they keep asking, and (long story) I am working for a company hires at competitive rates but isn't so generous with raises as job descriptions evolve. As a result, I now find myself in the bottom 10th salary percentile on when compared to similar workers.

But as FMF says, I don't want to appear obstinate and I certainly don't want it to look like I'm hiding something about my work history. So what to do?

Frankly, I think it makes the candidate look weak, indecisive, and unsure of themselves to evade the salary question. If I were interviewing someone, asked about their salary expectations and they evaded the question I would have my doubts about them.

The cold truth that no one wants to admit but we all live is that money DOES matter! It matters a geat deal to us! Somehow the idea that it's the work and not the pay has been allowed to propogate into a new Victorianism way of dealing with it.

Has ANYONE *EVER* evaded the question then been given a grand offer beyond their hopes and dreams? Do you think a VP or CEO leaves it up to the board to treat them fairly with a good offer? I doubt it.

I think salary negotiation is overhyped. Most companies have a range they are willing to pay a position, and every job hunter has a range they think they should make.

It's pretty stupid to go through 4 interviews to then get an offer $20k less than you'd consider (which has happened to me), then let them know that's not even close, and have them be suprised. That's a lot of your time and their time wasted.

I suggest getting an idea up front, either via the initial communication (sending salary requirements), or the initial phone communication with the HR person setting up the interview.

"Is the salary range for this position in the low six figures?" is not an unreasonable question to ask if you are making $90K a year and need $110K a year to consider leaving your current job.

Although it is true that a lot of companies have salary ranges, it is true as well that these ranges are pretty wide and often when you negotiate for a position you will be evaluated as well at what level you should be put (at least 2 options normally).

One of the things I like to do when considering a new position is to find out what kind of a salary range they're looking or expecting to pay. First off if you're looking around you should already know what you could expect to make. Secondly this lets you gauge the position to see where your level of experience lines up with what they're asking.

I also try to ask this within the first interview - if you think you're worth $60,000 and they're only looking to pay $35,000 there is no point wasting your time or the employers.

My wife was recently searching for a job after being out of work over a year and she avoided the salary question for a long time because in a couple of earlier cases she priced herself out of jobs. And after being out of work a year, we didn't really want $10K/yr to stop her from earning any salary at all. But, OTOH, we didn't want her to get paid less than what the company was paying others at her position. So, it was a tough situation. Ultimately, the HR person was adamant that she give some notion of what she was looking for, but the HR person did throw out a number first that she said would be way high (she said something like, "look, I want to be sure you're not looking for an offer with 1XX,000". And once we heard that, we knew my wife could give her old salary confidently and know they wouldn't reject her just for that.

As for finding out what others are paying, it is a nice idea, but practically speaking really difficult because job descriptions vary so much, especially in the engineering field. It's really easy to be off by 20% of your guess of what somebody should be making.

My experience with higher paying jobs (Director level and above) is to not bring up the salary question beyond stating the expectation that you expect to be paid fairly and competitively for the position and the value you bring to the table.

Keep interviewing and building your value- it's my experience that companies may push the range to get the best candidate. You will need to use the 'give and take' approach to negotiation to keep discussions open but with this approach you can often get the best salary possible. Downsides are you have to be patient and there is always the potential for deadlock or no deal. If you have the skills and attitude along with the ability to be patient it's the way to go.


As one good friend of mine says(he owns a company and from time to time he hires people) that he gives people a salary as big as they want. He says he can give them even a million dollars per month but for that money they have to bring in the company at least three million dollars per month :)

It's very important what your day to day job will look like, what are your tasks, if they are repetitive, if they can be unique and require you to find solutions, how fast do you need to find solutions, and also what responsabilities will you have.

Use these factors when communicating with your employer and make him understand your value after you understand your value in the business that you want to join.

I think Mike B. hit it right about his wife's situation.

All depends how urgently you need the job. If you've been out of work for awhile and you MUST have the job then you do what they want you to do to get it. But if you aren't so desperate you can try to play these games.

For me, I only look for a new position when I need to. I don't interview for sport and my job hopping days are over. So when I need a new job I really NEED it and can't be too much a squeeky wheel about interview questions.

That's reality.

The "price yourself like a house" bit is a great analogy and useful advice. I agree that the salary-requirements talk is a conversation that shouldn't be delayed. If both candidate and employer endure several rounds of interviews only to find they'll never meet on common financial ground, it proves to have been a dire waste of time for all.

I blogged this week about salary requirements, asking several career experts to weigh in (see link attached to signature).

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