You need to focus on what you bring to the table:
Now present yourself relative to the market, not relative to what you happened to be making before.When the question comes up, don’t play their game:
“I am working for a recruiting firm, and have been told that I can stay if I accept a 40% cut in pay until business picks up. A bucket of ice water in the face does not adequately describe my initial thoughts. I am at a crossroads as unemployment would be more for me after taxes, but I have great insurance with the company that I could not get w/out.
Any advice? I would imagine there are more questions, please hit me with them! Need an outside perspective on this.”
This is a very tough situation – I would have described it more like a sucker punch in the gut than ice water in the face!
You should think carefully about options, longer term goals, etc, and be careful not to simply act out of the stress of the moment. Possibilities that occur to me off the top of my head include:
In preparation for the discussion, also try to examine how much they would be hurt if you walked away. What would that possibly cost them in terms of the remaining accounts, relationships, and the need to pay someone else to take on what you’ve been doing?
If you have a strong relationship with those accounts, what could you do to sell the benefits of your services to them, either as part of the recruiting firm, as an employee with them, as an independent contractor (lower cost), or with another firm? (Obviously, any non-compete agreements with your current boss will affect your options … and if you have those, then part of the quid pro quo negotiation to accept any pay cut should include limiting or eliminating such restrictions until the point they bump your pay back up.)
Finally, think about:
“I started two years ago as a temp to hire with the belief that my salary would increase when I became full time. It did not and I was already into the position for months, and made the decision to stay because when my review would come then my salary would increase. It did, about 30 cents. Also, I have had enough with bad communication with senior management. I have a good work ethic and do not believe in quitting until another opportunity is available. However, I am looking to go into work tomorrow with my resignation letter in hand. Any advice would be appreciated.”
When I first wrote my piece “When to Talk About Salary”, I received the following comment:
“I couldn’t disagree with your comments about salary more. Hiring someone is an economic transaction. To not talk about salary is to hide part of the facts of the transaction from one of the parties involved in the deal. There is no reason to feel shame in discussing it. In fact, the job candidate who asks about salary early in the interview shows to me a business acumen and forthrightness that makes him/her look more favorable in my eyes, not less.”
I was surprised to receive such a strong disagreement with this article. Coincidentally, I received a comment from another actuary who couldn’t imagine anyone taking issue with what I said - he thought it was such obvious common sense!
Even if you reduce hiring to just an economic transaction (debatable), how do you determine the ‘value’ of that transaction? How do you measure the value of the future results this candidate will produce for the organization? This is where negotiation comes into it. And I would never start a negotiation by laying out all of my cards on the table face up.
I’m not advocating “hiding” anything. I just believe firmly that the best time to get into the discussion is after the hiring manager is convinced that he or she needs the candidate, that the candidate is the strong solution to his or her serious challenge. That’s the time that the hiring manager is prepared to make the best offer, and to be the most flexible in negotiation. To get into the discussion earlier is to risk ending the interview prematurely, or set things up for a significantly lower offer.
Feel free to post your own comments on this topic!
When a job seeker told me he’d had a great interview, but that they wouldn’t pay him enough to make it worthwhile, I asked how he knew. His answer: “Because I asked them what the range was.”
I asked why he did that. The question surprised him. “Because I wanted to know … but don’t worry, I first told them that money wasn’t the most important thing to me, that I was most interested in the challenges, etc.”
This is a common mistake among job seekers. They are naturally worried about compensation, and want to know what the possibilities are. They want to be prepared for offer negotiations. But there are many other ways to find out enough information to satisfy those concerns, such as through networking with people in similar roles at other companies, or friends at the particular company who aren’t involved in the hiring decision; and through research in the library and on websites like SalaryExpert.com.
The problem with being the first to bring up compensation with anyone in the hiring chain is that just raising the question:
“Oh, but I said all the right things first.”
So? Do you think hiring managers aren’t savvy enough to know that you ask every question for a reason? Do you really believe that they don’t try to use every piece of information offered, including what questions you ask, to get a fix on what’s important to you and whether you are the best possible candidate?
“Don’t worry, I didn’t ask the hiring manager … I just asked the HR person.”
OK, that’s better than asking the hiring manager. But don’t you think I will seek input from every person you talked to prior to making a decision whether to move forward? Or do you assume that the HR person’s opinion carries absolutely zero weight?
“But I didn’t ask about salary, just other benefits.” (eg, paid time off, medical/dental)
Why is that any better? Those benefits are still part of the total compensation. In fact, that might be worse. As a hiring manager, I can at least understand why someone would be so worried about salary that they ask about it, but to ask about specific benefits? Now I’m wondering whether you are even focused on the right issues, and understand that benefits are a tradeoff for salary. And if it was vacation time you asked about, I might now be worried about whether you are prepared to put in whatever time the job requires.
“But, wait, by asking early on, I’ve often been able to find out they couldn’t offer me enough to make it worthwhile, and saved us both the time and energy of a pointless interview!”
Perhaps, but how do you know that they couldn’t offer you more than what they said? If I’m a hiring manager interviewing for a job whose range was $70-100,000, typically I’m going to try to bring in new employees in the lower half of the range, ie, $70-85,000. 90% of offers I make will be under $87,000, but there will sometimes be exceptional candidates to whom I offer $90,000 or even $95,000. And once in a great while I will even upgrade the job to a new grade level to fit that exceptional candidate, opening up a whole new range.
But if someone asked me early in the process what the range was, I would likely answer $70-85,000. I don’t want the candidate thinking I can offer more, and then bargaining for that higher amount. Plus I don’t want to set things up for them to potentially be disappointed with the offer because they compare their offer to a top of the range I don’t expect to offer.
In fact, twice in my years as a hiring manager, I offered a candidate who was a superstar a salary only a few $1,000 below what I was making! But I NEVER would have even considered revealing that number as a possibility to either a prospective candidate or a recruiter who was interested in sending me candidates - until I interviewed those candidates, I hadn’t considered that amount a possibility myself!
Here’s the most fundamental reason never to bring up compensation yourself: You don’t want a prospective employer thinking about how much you might cost them until they are convinced they want you on their team. If you’ve done a great job in the interview of getting deep into their challenges, of establishing how much it’s costing them not to have you in that position tomorrow, that you are a great solution to their problems, then they will want to make the best possible offer they can to get you on their team!