Ah, money! It shouldn’t be the primary motivator for any job seeker, but it ranks up there near the top. I maintain that too many people get it bass ackwards and are easily lured to the money component; but that’s not what this blog entry is about.
In many jobs there simply is not a lot of room for you to negotiate salary or wider aspects of compensation; for example, in retail, union scale, government jobs and many others there are limitations and/or no room for discussion. You’re presented with a salary scale and an offer, take it or leave it. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t at least make an attempt, it is an important consideration. When is the right time to ask or discuss money and how can you best approach the subject?
First let’s talk about a few don’ts. It is never a good idea to discuss money in the first interview if it can be avoided for two primary reasons; first, because you’re there to learn about the job. Why would you talk about money before you know what you’ll be doing; in reality that advert you answered doesn’t really tell you anything about the job. Second, until you can demonstrate to a hiring manager your value as a potential employee, why would you categorize yourself (in monetary terms)? You might end up short-changing yourself or, worse, price yourself out of consideration. Until you know about the job and they learn more about you, all you’re doing is throwing numbers around with nothing on which to base it – it is shortsighted and just plain dumb. It’s no one’s business what you earn, especially in a first interview, as it has no bearing on your ability to perform the job you’re there to discuss. How to avoid this and side-step the money question is good information and instructive – but that is a separate blog topic for another day.
So, for how much should you ask?
Some people behave as if they are dickering back and forth at a flea market, swap meet or pawn shop. They’ll state a ridiculously high number they know is out of reach with the assumption the other side will automatically come back with a much lower number. This little back and forth thing is not the way to negotiate a salary and, among pros, we know this denotes ignorance or a general lack of awareness. Or, it indicates a lack of seriousness on the part of the job candidate. I usually wash these people out of the process because I don’t like games. But it’s not just applicants; there are also some cheesy hiring managers who think nothing of insulting the intelligence of applicants they meet with ridiculously low offers, hoping they’ll get no push-back.
So here’s a traditional guideline; if you are currently working, and seeking to change jobs, up to about a 20% increase is not outrageous; however, it doesn’t matter how much you ask for if you cannot also demonstrate during the interview process why you are worthy of what you are asking. Some people claim, due to the deteriorating job market of the last few years, the 20% needs to be adjusted downward, although I think that percentage level is still valid. If you are not working and you are unemployed, it is hard to realistically ask for or expect more than the same as you were making. Plus, the longer you are unemployed the more your bargaining power decreases. If you’re not working, I suggest your goal should simply be to try as best you can to get what you were earning previously, when you were employed. The sad reality of the current economy is that many people are finding that jobs are paying less than they once did.
During my recruiting career I ask two questions that help me frame my efforts on behalf of anyone I represent:
· What would you (realistically) like to earn?
· What do you need to earn (and cannot go below)?
Then, I try to help them obtain something between those numbers. This is the most basic guideline you can use. However, you should also look at the bigger financial picture and we’ll talk about that next time.
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