Candidate Advantage is produced by Motion Recruitment Partners.

Discussing Salary: the "Hot Potato"

Images2_3Handle this poorly and you'll not only negatively impact the offer you get, but could actually knock yourself out of the running altogether! Learn how to catch this question and quickly throw it back to the manager (before you get burned!)

OK...first off, remember that you are not a mind reader! As a result, you will never know exactly what the manager is thinking about offering you.  So don't guess or try to be overly involved in this process. Set things up for them to do all the work so that you can avoid the following traps.

  • Overpricing Yourself: If you say you want more than what they are thinking about offering , you will turn them off. No one wants to hire someone who is going to be making a concession by coming to work there or who will always be carrying around a feeling that they are underpaid.
  • Underpricing Yourself: If you say you want substantially less than what they are considering. They may think you are desperate (or worse...they may actually offer you that!)
  • Negotiating Yourself Out the Door: Just because they want you doesn't mean you can put the screws to them to get as much money as possible. Salary ranges are not arbitrary and are typically established with great detail. In other words, this negotiation window is finite. You can always find out if an offer is indeed the best they can do, but be mindful of pushing too hard here or else you'll risk pushing them away.

How do you do this? Simple... when asked what you are looking to make in an initial or final interview, just respond with these three points:

  1. Current Compensation "Well, I'm glad you asked. I'm currently making a base of 95K with a 10% bonus along with full benefits"
  2. Desired Salary "What I'm looking for is the most competitive offer. I'm hesitant to give you an exact # because I'm not sure what you think I'm worth and how I'd fit in with the compensation structure of the rest of the team. So, I guess this is  a better question to ask of you.....What do you think I might be worth to your organization?"
  3. Big Picture "While money is very important, the opportunity within the position is really my #1 consideration. If we agree there's a match, I'm confident that you'd offer me the most you felt that I was worth."

This prevents you from saying any number other than your current comp and throws things back to put the responsibility on them to come up with the number. And by reminding them that it's not all about the cash, you send a very mature and balanced message about how you are looking at things.

And lastly, if you are working with a recruiter. These tips still apply and leave a nice open window for them to negotiate on your behalf . Let them do their job!


Job Boards: Old & New

A lot has changed in the last 5 years. (in other words...Monster is no longer your only option!). Take advantage of these newly emerging resources on the web.

The Usual Suspects
You'll probably recognize all of these sites. Some are general search boards and others are niche and geared specifically to the IT Industry (ex: Dice and TechieGold). These are all a good place to start.

Job Boards w/ a "twist"
All of these newer-to-market sites (anywhere from 1-3 yrs old) are just job boards as we know them, but all have a unique angle that supposes increased value  and efficiency for the job seeker.  Make these part of of your search routine as well.

  • / / -These sites all aggregate jobs from the web and index jobs directly from company sites. Free for employers!! So, look for a continued increase in posting traffic to these sites. They also offer a "one-stop shopping" advantage since they pull from all the major job boards and a neat set of widgets to assist your job search.
  • The - Job board targeted at 100K and up professionals. Their site services several specific verticals to achieve the best of both worlds: a niche board with a cross-Industry reach.
  • - A job board attempting to harness the power of employee referrals and social networking.
  • - A place to post and view self published resumes. Very low barrier, low pretense site. If you are conducting an open, transparent job search, this could be a great way to increase exposure to your background
  • - Techcrunch (a great blog) has begun monetizing it's audience in a meaningful way here with creating it's own native job board.  Look for this "blogboard" trend to start taking off. Companies are already creating turnkey job board tools for bloggers to jump on this bandwagon.
  • Linkedin - by far the leader in professional networking. Get an account here that will allow you to search jobs and be searched by employers who subscribe. 

TIP: Also, if you do have an interview set up, double check these boards to see if that position is posted. This will give you good information to prepare yourself prior to the interview


Send the right message

You say a lot about who you are in how you respond to or ask certain questions. Pay attention to these cues that you send during the interview...because, yes, it's that obvious.

Don’t make things up or ever overstate your impact on a project. Be specific about what you were (and weren't) responsible for. Also, always provide the details of your team. There is no such thing as the "perfect candidate" or a "one-man show" don't portray yourself to be either one of these two myths.

There may be details off your resume that throw up a red flag. Prevent these from turning into a problem by addressing them upfront (ex: a noticeably long commute, job history gaps of time, any title discrepancy where you'd appear to be taking a step back, etc..). Bringing it up and having an explanation will avoid having the manager draw his own conclusions.

You are going to meet many people throughout the interview process and they will all convene at the end to compare notes. If you have a different versions of your answer for each person, the company may think you aren't sure about what you want, that you're not being genuine or worse... that you are schizophrenic!

Don't engage in heated debates over technology. If asked for your opinion, certainly provide one. But you're best off telling them you'd need a lot more background information in order to give a responsible answer. Managers often ask this kind of stuff to sniff out any heavy bias or aversion towards certain technology. It is also a good indicator of whether or not someone is flexibile and open-minded

Team Players
People with the right kind of positive attitude are always sought after. So, never talk negatively about your previous employers. Also, try to inquire about company sponsored social events or team building activities to show your interest in participating in these kinds of things


Stand by your word!

This isn't "all about you". There's a daisy chain of people that get affected by your decisions.  So, think things through before acting and then, of course, follow through with what you say.

It's your interview process, right? Why should you care about what happens to anyone else? Because hopefully you're a professional (and a decent human being!). Have some respect for other people's time and efforts as well as the "casualties"  (other candidates) that will be hurt if you don't handle things well. Furthermore, reputations are at stake (to include yours).

Below are three examples. This is all preventable if you take these latter stage decisions very seriously before responding. If you give things the proper consideration, it will also make it far easier to stick to your word.

  1. Accepting a job offer and then not starting
  2. Saying you will accept "X" salary and then changing your mind at the last minute
  3. Backing out of a final interview set up

Who gets hurt here?...
- because you broke your word and will now have that bad rap amongst this inner hiring circle.  A circle that can be a lot bigger than you think.

- because they assumed certain information to be true and took certain action like generating an offer (that now won't be accepted) or scheduling someone for a final with their boss (that they'll now need to cancel with egg on their face) or cutting all their back up candidates (that they'll now need to resurrect interest with) 
- because the agency should have been able to prevent this. These examples are highly detrimental to the agency /client relationship. You don't want to burn a bridge with your agency, especially if you want them to continue to represent you now or down the line.
- If someone actually referred you into this job via a social/professional network, word of mouth or internal employee referral, these people now all look bad because the assumption will be that they knew since they "knew" you.

- And finally, how about the candidates who really wanted this job, but when they learned that they were cut or ranked #2 or #3, took another position.


Avoiding a bad break up

Nothing can prevent the inevitable discomfort that comes along with giving notice. However, there are things that you can do to make this go more smoothly with your boss.

Focus on the transition, not the decision. With resignation letter in hand, always open up with a firm statment of intention and immediately turn the conversation towards what you can accomplish for the remaining time that you will be there. By focusing on this and not your decision to leave, you'll avoid having to go down that uncomfortable path of justifying why you made this decision in the first place. Ex: “... it probably makes most sense today to talk about my departure to see how I can be as productive as possible before I leave . Plus, I really want to leave things on a positive note with you. What can I do in my last two weeks to help transition my work most effectively?"

Keep your lips sealed. It is not always necessary to tell your current boss all the details about where you are going to work...although they will all ask! But go right ahead if you have an open and trusting relationship with them. However, if it is a "cut cord" / "no love lost" kind of situation, you're better off keeping this confidential. There are instances where these specifics could fall into the wrong hands prior to your start date. If you do decide to withhold the info, simply tell your boss that this confidentiality is actually at the request of your new employer. This way, it removes you from the equation. Tell them you'll get in touch after getting settled in to give them all your contact info.

Pull the band aid off quick.  Don't go slow to avoid the real pain. Just explain that, while very flattering, any counteroffer attempts would be futile. If you leave even the tiniest window open , you'll make this initial conversation a lot harder than need be, not to mention making the following two weeks equally uncomfortable  By letting them down easy, you're wasting everyone's time. And worse, this good intention can actually backfire if they continue to jump through hoops to court you and you still end up saying no in the end. Can you say "burned bridge"? 


The Salary Seesaw

Be aware of offers that are unusually high or low. There are lots of reasons why this happens and you'll want to know these things before ever accepting a job under these circumstances.

To start with....if you're currently employed, have the applicable background and are coming out of a comparable environment/ Industry, you should  probably expect an 8-10% increase. 

However, here are two polarized examples that you'll want to investigate further.

High on the hog... Did you receive a 25% or more raise in your offer? Great! Then you should accept it. Just make sure it isn't a "too good to be true" scenario.  In some cases, companies pay well above market rate for one simple reason...because they have to!  It's not because they are naive and don't know what to pay or that they were just feeling overly generous that day. Sometimes, these "off the charts" raises are meant to compensate for something else like unusually long hours, large increase in expectations, adverse work conditions to endure, backed up workload, extensive travel, etc. 

Now, relax, there are also plenty of legitimate reasons to feel safe about accepting an unusually high offer like the fact that you may have been underpaid in your last job or that this is a spot they needed to fill asap and don't want to leave anything to chance with your acceptance or that this is what they paid the last person in this role. Also, unsusal increases can come from the competitive frenzy involved with a hot job market. And finally, if you have a well-educated and effective agency negotiating on your behalf, this can also impact salary offers dramatically.

How low can you go?...Pay cuts and laterals. On the flip side, don't go so far with your flexibility and higher ground to take  a  "low ball" offer for the wrong reasons. Any established company that makes a habit of offering low salaries to new hires should send out a red flag to anyone. They are either real penny pinchers and, believe me, this will permeate all aspects of your work experience (tight IT budgets, low bonuses, cut backs on office equipment, very few perks, etc..). Or they have the "you're lucky to be here" attitude and feel that since there is a strong demand to work there, that they can get away with paying less. This also will make for a less than positive work culture.

When is accepting a low offer actually a good idea? Well, to begin with if you really love the job/ company/ location, etc. Past that, other examples could be if you've been unemployed for an extended period of time, joining a startup or ground floor opportunity, shifting roles and going into a new learning curve.  Also, sometimes it just comes down to timing and budgets. In this instance, these comapnies can usually they make up for the lower starting point with a more  aggressive bonus schedule, accelerated review, stock options, additional vacation time or sign-on bonus. You can ask about these alternatives if the salary comes in on the low side.

In any of these instances,  just try to get the story behind the story on what you are offered. And of course, make sure you have the particulars on the whole offer package, not just the starting salary.


Is your job offer "skin deep"?

Good looks aren't the ONLY thing that matters in dating and job offers shouldn't be judged entirely on the starting salary either.  Dig deeper to acknowlege everything that goes into an offer before ever accepting or declining a job. You'll be glad you did.

Anatomy of an offer...Be thorough with this list and also within each category itself to get the necessary level of details to fully understand what's being offered. Don't be afraid to ask and  certainly don't ever make a decision on incomplete data.

  • Starting Salary
  • Title
  • Bonuses
  • Benefits & Vacation
  • Stock Options
  • Future Technology Plans
  • Location
  • Hours/ Schedule
  • Environment/ work culture
  • People (Co-workers)
  • Career Growth and Opportunity

Think Independently... Everyone is different. So, don't follow some cliche acceptance theory of what should be most important to you.  First, identify why you're leaving  in the first place and what your core goals are in seeking a new opportunity.  Don't be flexible on these things, but do be flexible with the other non-core components of that job offer. "Give to get" in order to strike what it is that YOU really want.

Cash is king (but not always!)...Be wary if you think money is always the #1 answer. While an obviously very important factor, money won't ever truly compensate for the things that you really want (like career growth, better project work, cutting edge technology, etc..). Overtime, this will occur to you.  And let's face it, you only think about your income twice a month when you get paid. But, you are forced to think about your job everyday. Certainly, keep your standards high for salary, but don't ever make $$$ your ultimate and only North Star when deciding on an offer.

Be Realistic...It’s very rare for someone to be completely happy with every aspect of their job offer. There are usually one or two things about the job offer that might not be ideal. Be balanced and reasonable here and the decision process will become less stressful since you won’t be searching for the “perfect offer”. Make a checklist for when you get to the offer stage. Using the pro’s and con’s approach may sound trite, but it is actually a great way to look at things objectively and make this acceptance process personal to you.


Time is on your side

Images2_2When interviews occur is not a trivial detail. In most cases, you'll be accommodating them. But if you're fortunate enough to pick the time, follow this simple logic on what works best.

The Best Times Are...

  • Right After lunch (1:00pm).  If you schedule it right before lunch, they are not only going to be hungry (and possibly grumpy as a result), but they'll also likely want to cut things short at some point so that they can run one of their many errands during their break.
  • Before hours (8:00am). Most managers get in to work this early anyway. So, they'll be there, trust me. Plus, at this time of day they won't keep getting interrupted by incoming phone calls/ pages.  And as an added benefit, you can show them that you too are an early bird and hard worker!  Simply ask the scheduler or interviewer themselves what time they usually get in in the morning and tell them you will meet them there (even if they say 7:30am!!). This makes a great impression. By the way, the same holds true for making yourself available after hours (anything after 6:00pm).
  • End of the Day (after 4:30pm). Albeit, you run the risk of fatigue from the days events, the late afternoon usually represents a slow down of activity. Also, their guard has usually dropped a little bit and your more likely to be able to make more of a connection with them then you would in the middle of the morning when things are hectic and they are understandibly a bit preoccupied.

ALways be flexible and make yourslef available to the employer. And, if given the choice, avoid scheduling interviews at times where you know the Hiring Manager might be distracted or under the gun. This will differ from manager to manager but will typically occur during prime time: 9-12:00pm and 2-4:00pm. And also always avoid rush hour traffic. No sense being late for reasons out of your control.