Sunday, July 22, 2007

When Do I Bring Up Salary? Job search question of the week - Page 2

Even if a company were to offer you a job during a first interview, don’t ask about salary. Some hiring managers and HR reps will try to bait you with the salary expectation question - don’t take the bait. Others will try to bait you in the application process, asking on an official looking form or required answer on a web application about salary - don’t take the bait.

Just say no.

Why You Want To Avoid Bringing Up Salary At All Costs:

Simple answer ... you want to avoid bringing up salary at all costs, because it will probably cost you if you bring it up.

A salary discussion is a negotiation - a nice negotiation, hidden by flowery words about how much an employer wants you on their team. Most hiring managers have a range that they can offer candidates, and they typically offer the lower end of the range at the beginning. Information is power in most negotiations - this is no different.

Consider this as reCareered’s salary rule: A candidate is never benefited from bringing up salary first.

Corollary #1 to reCareered’s salary rule: The longer a candidate delays revealing salary history/expectations, the more valuable that candidate is to the employer.

Salary negotiations are a tricky dance that is an uncomfortable dance for many. On one hand, you want to maximize your pay and feel valued. On the other hand, you don’t want to start out a new job with a boss who feels that you’re just in it for the paycheck. Even if money is your primary motivation, you’ll likely have a tough time in your new job if your boss feels like you don’t care about the company, the product/service, your boss, or the quality of your work ... but only care about the benjamins.

Even in sales, where hiring managers often want staff that’s motivated by money, giving the perception that’s your only motivation bring strong odds of scaring away a potentially great employer.

While my friends question may sound comically pre-mature, you’d be surprised how many candidates want to know this information up front. And there’s a valid reason - the candidate doesn’t want to waste time with a job that won’t fit their salary needs. There are other places to gain this information, other than asking in a first interview and risking both scaring away the hiring manager and weakening your eventual salary negotiation.

Why is a candidate benefited for delaying the salary discussion (Corollary #1)?

If you want to earn more than the bottom of the salary range, you’ll want your employer to realize just how much extra value they will gain from you, compared to your completion. Demonstrating how much value you’ve provided to past employers (see Employer Value Statements at gives your potential employer an idea of how much money you can make their company. Even better, demonstrating that you’ve solved, or helped solve similar problems that the company is facing, makes your accomplishments relevant - so the hiring manager actually cares because you’ve described WIFT (see Tell Your Readers WIFT - What’s In it For Them

If you discuss salary before the potential employer realizes your true return on investment, you appear to be a lower value. In addition, scarcity adds value also. Remember Beanie Babies? People paid hundreds of dollars for little stuffed animals because they had limited distribution - they were scarce. In the same way, the longer you wait before discussing salary, the more your potential employer has to wonder about what other job options you might have ... perhaps with their competition. Just like with collectibles, once you’ve decided that you really want something, you’re much more flexible on price. When an employer has decided that they really want you, they will also be much more flexible on salary.

But bring up salary before the employer has made that decision, and there’s no incentive for the employer to give anything more than the bottom of their range, or maybe even the minimum they think you’ll accept.

( Continued ... So How Do I Address Salary When ... ? )

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Krvince said...

I'm amazed the candidate is even posing this question if she's been out in the job marketplace. Rest assured the hiring company will bring up the issue early and often and, generally speaking, long before it's appropriate. The candidate is burdened with practicing the artful dodge, a maneuver that is becoming increasingly difficult as hiring authorities pre-screen these days with all the subtlety of a meat cleaver to find candidates who are the "right size" for the role they envision.
I sometimes toy with the idea of pointing out that I'm not a compensation specialist, but that my reading of the marketplace is that the role would call for a range of x-y. This gets the discussion off your history (what if you helped a startup for $0?) and back to what the job is worth. I can't see how the financial wherewithal of your previous employer should have any bearing on this subject. On the other hand, if you are taking a cut, it behooves you to explain how this is not a big issue.

David said...

I couldn't disagree more. It's all well and good for career coaches to tell candidates that they shouldn't talk about money.

I head up a corporate recruiting department and I can tell you that if I ask a candidate for their current and target salary, and that candidate won't give me an answer, I'm going to think long and hard about whether I want to possibly waste more of my time and the hiring manager's time with a candidate we have no idea whether we can afford.

Coaches please take note. This advice can seriously hurt a candidate's chances of getting the job.

Entering into an interview process with as much openness and transparency from both sides is the best way to move forward. Entering into the process as nemeses isn't good for anyone.

Phil Rosenberg said...

@David - Thanks for commenting! I'd really like to discuss this, but you posted your comment on my archive site - and I want to answer your comment on my new site where the audience will see our discussion.

You make a great point. This is an important discussion for candidates to see, to understand both sides of this question.

Could I ask you to repost your comment at ?