hiring issues rattle job seekers more than negotiating a starting salary.
Laura Allen was interviewing recently for a position as vice president of
communications at a small New York entertainment company when its chief
executive suddenly asked what salary she hoped to earn in the position. The
company had posted the range for the job at $42,000 to $55,000, and she picked
the upper limit.
"The fact that I said $55,000 first completely put me out of the ballgame,"
she says. She had been earning between $75,000 and $80,000 in her prior job as
a vice president of sales and marketing at eCatalogmail, a New York
online-marketing company, before she was laid off in December 2001.
But she suspects she appeared arrogant by naming the company's top salary
figure, without leaving room to negotiate. "I learned that as the job seeker,
if you mention a number first you lose," says the 32-year-old New York
resident. Many career experts agree with that rule of thumb, advising job
seekers to put the onus of setting a starting salary on the employer,
regardless of when the subject comes up in the hiring process.
Conventional wisdom holds that if a job seeker names a figure first,
negotiations will push the salary down, while when an employer speaks first, a
negotiated salary can only go up. Moreover, naming a salary figure prematurely
sometimes knocks you out of contention early in the process, experts warn. But
some hiring managers insist that candidates should be upfront about salary
requirements -- and in fact make naming a figure a prerequisite. "Companies
can't react to something they don't know," says Scott Stahlmann, a vice
president of talent acquisition for Prudential Financial Inc. in Newark, N.J.
He argues that candidates could actually hurt their chances for a position by
being coy about salary issues, and says he always asks candidates for their
salary requirements in preliminary phone interviews. "The ones who don't give
me an answer usually won't get a call back," he says.
So how should you handle yourself in the heat of the moment? Here are some
Do research. Before you walk into your first interview for a job, be informed
about what a company is likely to pay for the position, says Peter Goodman,
author of "Win-Win Career Negotiations." He recommends visiting Internet
salary sites, including SalaryExpert.com, that allow you to research salaries
for related positions at similar firms in similar regions. When pressed by a
company, candidates should provide a salary range based on their research. "If
you're going to put the first figure on the table, make sure the low end of
the range is the number you're willing to accept," he says. David Schmier,
president of GetHired.com, a New York company that teaches job-finding skills,
advises clients to avoid naming the first salary figure at all costs. This
includes a candidate's first response to postings that ask for salary
requirements (unless they insist on such information) as well as an impromptu
query from a manager early in the interview process.
Mr. Schmier says that, in his previous post as a director of interactive
marketing for AOL Time Warner, he frequently asked candidates for their salary
requirements, and more than 90% of the candidates responded with a figure. "I
knew how much I was going to have to pay them, and I would low-ball them," he
says. Now he advises clients to delay such a discussion until an employer
makes an offer of employment. Even then, candidates should express their
enthusiasm for the job and ask for a day to consider the offer; they should
then come back to negotiate any additional compensation items.
Practice negotiating, and don't be afraid to ask for what you want, says Lori
Davila, an Atlanta-based career coach. Many anxious job seekers are currently
selling themselves too low in today's market, she says. She advises her
clients to always make a good-faith counteroffer. "It's showing the hiring
manager, in a sense, how you're going to approach this new job -- that you
have good negotiating skills, that you work hard and go after things" she
Kris Maher is a staff reporter for the Wall Street Journal. ©2003; The
Wall Street Journal; All Rights Reserved