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There seems to be a lot of confusion out there about how revealing to be with your salary information in your job search. There was recently a linkedin influencer post that said never reveal your salary to your recruiter or to the company that wants to hire you. Wrong! I couldn’t disagree with that post more! Clarifying your current compensation and your desired base salary is a critical part of the job hunting process. Here are Smith Hanley’s recommendations for handling some common salary discussions.

1. Your salary is embarrassingly low

At some point in your career this will happen to you. Always, always be honest about your real base salary number. Maybe you have an equity position, or the company you currently work for is giving bonuses greater than the average, or you’ve been such a loyal employee management hasn’t felt the need to compensate you competitively with the marketplace. You might live in a very low cost of living area, or when you got that Master’s degree at night, your firm didn’t recognize it. These are all valid, explainable reasons, for your lower than average earnings. Hiding that low number or WORSE lying about it will always catch up to you in a negative way.

2. Your salary is above your skill set

Certain industries tend to pay higher base salaries than the norm. Advertising, at the middle management level, gives very minimal, if any, bonuses and to balance that out they give higher base salaries. Management consulting asks their employees to be on the road four days a week and often work 60-80 hour work weeks. Some insurance companies give amazingly high bonuses when low claim years happen in their business. Perhaps you took on a major project or failing area for your current firm and they compensated you for that extra effort. Providing a rational reason why your current salary is above the market and how that impacts a new position you move to will speak to your professionalism and make you a desirable hire.

3. How to talk about your salary expectations

A matter-of-fact approach to this topic is essential. Skittishness, vagueness or any other avoidance tactics lead the hiring firm to question your honesty or forthrightness in other areas. When asked, offer your current base salary and most recent bonus compensation. You can mention when your next bonus or raise is due and some information about equity or other benefits. In the first discussion, do not go into extensive detail about any compensation you receive beyond base salary and bonus, unless you are specifically asked. Too much detail on benefits or differences in 401K plans can be off-putting. They may enter into your decision making but aren’t really negotiating points as fairness dictates plans be the same for all employees.

Finally, when asked for your salary expectations, always offer a range of numbers you would consider for a base salary. Do not include a number in that range where you will not accept the position. Changing that range, after an initial offer, is very confusing to the hiring company unless there is a specific reason for the change.

Just like you want to know what a particular position is paying before pursuing it, the hiring company wants to know what you have achieved in your salary history and if you are rational and reasonable in your explanations and expectations. Need advice on explaining your current compensation or defining your salary expectations? Give Smith Hanley Associates a call. Our recruiters, found at smithhanley.com, have an average of 10+ years of experience in our niche recruiting areas, and can give you the benefit of that experience in any salary negotiation.


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