Let's Talk About Your Salary

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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 it 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. Also, there may be a really good job with an exceptional firm that shouldn’t be passed up just because the salary is lower than others.  If you cannot negotiate more money, make sure whatever that offer amount is, it meets your needs.

Your ‘desired salary’ should be exactly that. It must be within reason and commensurate with your skills and experience. It should also be justifiable in relation to your least considered, so 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, GlassDoor.com, payscale.com), 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.

You can also talk to peers in the same industry to find out what they are making, but do so with care and verify the information with a third party source.  Sometimes even people we know may overstate what they earn.

All of this salary information arms you with the knowledge you need to make a good decision once an offer is made, 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 involves skills or experience that you have a lot of.
Made a lot in the past?
It’s always a big issue in any job market...

What if you have made more money in prior positions than the current job pays? Be prepared to discuss why you’re okay taking a new position for less money.  Phrases such as, “I've adjusted my lifestyle and can afford this pay cut because this is the type of job/industry I want to be involved with going forward."  But do not get discouraged if a client still says "no" to you having made more money in the past, 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 the client can’t deal with it, we will not persist with securing the interview.

Additional things to consider when negotiating salary...
  • Raises & reviews - Find out about raises and review policy. A lower starting salary with a 3-month review may be just fine.
  • Bonuses - Bonuses and profit sharing can add a lot onto a starting salary. Again, learn as much as you can about what types of additional compensation may be available. These are crucial factors in your final salary negotiation.
  • Benefits - Don’t forget the benefits. Employer-paid healthcare, group insurance, dental, vision or full-family coverages can make up for thousands of dollars in annual compensation.  Ask about the benefits, what they cover and how much (if anything) they will cost you.
  • Are there paid personal days, vacations and sick days? Paid and unpaid time off should always be considered when considering a starting salary and assessing work/life balance at a potential employer.
  • Pay Policy - Understand how the prospective employer pays. Watch out for
    differences created by:
    • Hourly vs. salaried pay
    • Paid vs. unpaid overtime - and at what rate is it paid?
    • What is the expected work week – 40 hrs? 37.5 hours? 35 hours?
    • Are lunch breaks paid or unpaid?
  • Perks - What are the perks? Add-ons such as paid memberships at health clubs, paid travel, tuition reimbursement can mean a lot.  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.?  Even product discounts can be important if the firm manufactures products you love!
Giraffe Tip:
Be careful as to when you ask these questions!

Even though you need to be well informed, do not spend too much time discussing salary, benefits, time off, etc., on the first 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 discuss compensation, benefits and perks.  Also, your JobGiraffe consultant may be able to answer many of these questions for you.

Giraffe Tip:
Know When to Quit Bargaining

There comes a point in every negotiation when it's time to stop.  If you don't recognize when to stop negotiating, you run the risk of having the company decide to select another candidate or even take back offering you the job in the first place. Most companies will want to treat you fairly and make you happy, but few companies will want to hire a candidate being perceived as greedy or unreasonable. 

Giraffe Tip:
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®