Let's Talk About Your Salary

No matter how much we would like to think that salary should not be the key component of one’s job search, we must acknowledge that is a very important part of the employment process - both for you and for your prospective employer.

At JobGiraffe, we always advise our job seekers to walk into a client interview with two numbers in their mind: their desired salary and their ‘least considered’ salary. In other words, the amount they would like to be paid, and the lowest amount they are willing to be paid to take the job.

The ‘least considered’ amount must be a salary that you are ready to accept and can live with, if it is offered. There are some really good jobs that shouldn’t be passed up, and, for whatever reason at the time, you simply cannot expect to negotiate more. Period.

Your ‘desired salary’ should be exactly that. It must be within reason and commensurate with your skills and experience. It should be justifiable in relation to your ‘least considered’; don’t have too large of a gap between them. The closer your desired salary is to your ‘least considered’, the better chance you have of getting your desired salary.

Your JobGiraffe consultant will always have exact information on the pay ranges of our client’s open positions, but when trying to figure out what your least-and-desired salary numbers should be, you may want to do some of your own research. Use online tools (salary.com and payscale.com are two resources), as well as salary data compiled by industry-specific associations, career services and alumni relations, to get a sense of what a position should pay based on industry, geography, size of company, level of experience and education.

Talk to peers in the same industry to find out what they say is the going rate, but do so with a grain of salt. Sometimes even our pals overstate what they earn, so use that information sparingly.

All of this salary information arms you with the knowledge you need to have an intelligent conversation, but don’t forget – your ‘least considered’ and desired salary numbers may change depending on the type of job you are interviewing for:

  • You may accept less: if the job is entry level and you expect to receive valuable training.
  • You may demand more: if the job turns out to be something with which you have a lot of experience.
Made a lot in the past?
It’s one of the biggest issues in today’s job market...

What if you have made more money in prior positions than the current job pays? More than ever, you must be prepared to discuss why you’re okay taking a new position for less money. This is a very important point in today’s job market: you not only have to convince the potential employer that you’ll be satisfied earning an annual salary of $45,000 for basically the same job for which you used to earn $60,000, but that you’ll be okay with it in two or more years when you may still be behind the salary you used to make. It’s a good idea to learn phrases like, “I adjusted my style of living and budgets long before I lost/left my last position”, or “I realize I was fortunate to be earning at that level, but I understand that was a condition of both the times and the market”. You must also not get discouraged, as many clients won’t even interview people who made more on their last jobs.

When you work with JobGiraffe, your consultant will always clear your ‘least considered’ and ‘desired salary’ with the client before your client interview. We will also clear if you have made more than what the current job offers for comparable work. If we have a mismatch from the start and the client can’t deal with it, you won’t even go on the interview.

Additional things to consider...
  • Raises & reviews - Find out about raises and review policy. A lower start with a 3-month review may be just fine.
  • Bonuses - Bonus and profit sharing can make up for a lower starting salary. Again, learn as much as you can about what they are and how they work. These are crucial factors in your final salary negotiation.
  • Benefits - Don’t forget the benefits. Health insurance, paid membership at health clubs, vacation and sick days can add up to much more and allow you to take a lower starting salary. Know your benefits – what they cover and how much (if anything) they will cost you.
  • Pay Policy - Understand how the prospective employer pays. Watch out for
    differences created by
    • Hourly vs. salaried pay
    • Paid vs. unpaid over time
    • What is the expected work week – 40 hrs? 37.5 hours? 35 hours?
    • Are lunch breaks paid or unpaid?

  • Perks - What are the perks? Is there an onsite fitness center, are there company outings or events, free breakfast or lunch or snacks, transportation bonuses and passes, free parking, etc.?
Be careful!

Do not spend too much time discussing salary, benefits, time off, etc., on the first interview – unless you know for certain there will only be one interview. Make sure all of the employer’s questions about you, your experience and qualifications, and your questions about the nature of the job they are offering have been covered before you even venture into this territory.

Know When to Quit Bargaining

There comes a point in every negotiation when you have achieved everything that you could have reasonably expected to achieve. At that point you should thank the person you are dealing with and accept the offer. If you don't recognize when to stop negotiating, you run the risk of having the company decide that it made a mistake by offering you the job in the first place. Most companies will want to treat you fairly and make you happy, but few companies want to hire a prima donna. Being perceived as greedy or unreasonable may cause the deal to fall apart. Even if it does not, you will have done immeasurable harm to your career with your new employer.

Never Forget That Employment Is an Ongoing Relationship

This is the most important part of the negotiating process and cannot be overemphasized.

Employment negotiations are the starting point for your career with the company. They set the tone for your employment relationship. Get too little and you are disadvantaged throughout your career; push too hard and you can sour the relationship before it even begins. How you handle the initial negotiations can have an impact, for better or worse, on how successful your tenure with a company will be.

JobGiraffe – Reach Higher®