04 May How to handle the salary issue
CHICAGO – Obviously, questions regarding salary and benefits are top-of-mind when you apply for a job.
However, your salary requirements are not the employer’s main concern. The hiring executive is more interested in what you can do for the company — how you can add value to the organization and its profitability.
The prospective employer wants to know why you should be hired over several other candidates who appear to be equally qualified. Therefore, your goal in the first interview should be to make a good impression on the interviewer. If you do that, it is likely that you will be asked back for subsequent interviews. If you do not, forget about the job.
Let the interviewer take the lead in discussing the position. Your responses should focus on how you can help the company. Describe how you can apply your skills to help solve its problems.
As a cardinal rule, try to avoid mentioning money, benefits and related matters in the first interivew. With many hiring executives, this approach is like waving a red flag in front of a bull. It implies that that you are more interested in yourself than in the job or the company.
Be patient. The discussion will inevitably turn to money and benefits in successive interviews — if the person with hiring authority decides to offer you the job.
Unfortunately, many applicants overlook the basic fact that the objective of the job search is to get the offer. All efforts should be directed toward that central goal, beginning with your first contact with the prospective employer. You may decide after the offer is made not to accept the job. But you never may have that choice to make if you leave the wrong impression after the first meeting. After the offer is made, not before, is the time to start discussing salary.
Consider the case of Tonya, who interviewed for the position of account executive at a large advertising agency. She was particularly concerned about money because of her high overhead. In her previous position, she had accumulated considerable debt under the belief that she was in line for a significant raise in the near future. Her family had moved to a larger home and began incurring college expenses for the children.
Unfortunately, Tonya’s previous employer suffered major and unexpected businesses losses within a short time frame, and she was discharged.
During her first job interview, the hiring executive was familiar with her work and was pleased with her background. However, Tonya sabotaged the good rapport she began to build by raising the topic of money too early. She stated that she admired the agency’s work, but could not accept less than a certain salary level. As it turned out, she had to accept a lot less — she was eliminated as a candidate because, in effect, she told the employer that her primary concern was money, not the job opportunity or the agency.
In some cases the hiring executive may raise the subject of money in the first interview with a question such as: “What will it take to get you here?” or “How much of a salary are you looking for?” You can’t ignore the question, so the best tack is to merely state your current or last salary. Or you may give an innocuous response such as, “I’m looking for a salary comparable to my experience or skills.” Then switch the subject back to the job at hand.
Some interviewers may interject a question about compensation early-on just to note your reaction. It is always smart not to give the impression that money is the main reason for your job search.
Try not to be first to state a salary figure. If you can, throw the question back at the interviewer in a tactful manner. You might reply: “As a knowledgeable source, how much do you think my experience and skills are worth to the company?”
If you name a salary figure that is much too high, you will price yourself out of the job and indicate that you will be dissatisfied with less. On the other hand, if you give too low a figure, the employer will tend to think the job is too big for you. In addition, if the employer is first to name a figure, the negotiation can be directed toward increasing salary or adding concessions. However, if you are the first to name a figure, in most cases the negotiation will be about decreasing it.
You need to convince the decision maker that you are worth top dollar by showing how you can add value to the company’s operations. Throughout the interview process, you should cite examples with previous employers where you have helped improved revenues, cut expenses, increased productivity or saved time. Concentrate on the results of your actions without giving too many details. You don’t want the interviewer to rationalize that your past accomplishments would not work at his or her company.
If the hiring executive offers a salary figure that is too low, do not hesitate to let him or her know. However, you first should point out that you want to work for the company. Then explain why you cannot accept an amount below your minimum salary requirement.
The employer knows others will be applying for the same position, and may be fishing for the lowest salary you will accept. However, you should stick to your predetermined minimum salary requirement. The job market is strong and receptive for qualified individuals, and there are other jobs that will meet your requirement if this one does not.
Recent columns by James Challenger
- James Challenger: How to spot employer credibility trouble
- James Challenger: Slow hiring of college graduates: non-profits to benefit
- James Challenger: Transferring skills the key to new work in today’s economy
- James Challenger: Expanding job market predicted to shatter glass ceiling
- James Challenger: How human resource managers can help you get a job
This article previously appeared in MidwestBusiness.com, and was reprinted with its permission.
The opinions expressed herein or statements made in the above column are solely those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Wisconsin Technology Network, LLC. WTN accepts no legal liability or responsibility for any claims made or opinions expressed herein.