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Understanding Salary Considerations

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Before following up job leads, it is important to have a good feeling for salaries paid and for the minimum salary you would accept. It would certainly be a waste of your time to pursue a job lead and get selected, only to receive a salary offer far below your minimum requirements.

If you come upon an announcement for a job paying $17,000 per year, and you’re currently making $25,000, move on. It is best to use your energy in pursuing a more appropriately paying position.

Do not be deterred, however, from applying for positions paying considerably more than you are now making. For example, if you are currently earning $25,000 and a job announcement states a range of $35,000 to $40,000, you may be very qualified to handle this new responsibility and may be able to sell yourself successfully. Of course, at the same time, it is also highly unlikely that a $25,000 manager would be seriously considered for a $60,000 executive position unless he/she possesses highly specialized or successful experiences of great demand in that area. Remember, one of your goals in changing jobs is to improve your financial position, so seeking higher salaries and selling yourself to justify them are appropriate.

It is also important to find out whether a salary offer once made would be negotiable or non-negotiable. Many company-announced jobs indicate salary ranges or state "salary open" or "salary negotiable." Such information tells you that you can attempt to negotiate for a higher salary if not satisfied with the initial offer made to you. If you are working through a third party or know a person well who works for that company, these people may also find out whether the salary is negotiable or not.

In some cases, you may not be able to negotiate for a higher salary, such as in many entry-level jobs offered to new and inexperienced college graduates or in many civil service positions. Try to understand how the salaries for jobs you would like are handled.

While you should know how to negotiate salaries, negotiation is not always necessary. An offer may be highly satisfactory and well within your expectations. If such is the case, feel out the situation and consider your "real" chances for pushing up such an offer versus the risk involved. However, sometimes it doesn’t hurt to ask for a little more.

Timing Salary Discussion

The discussion of salary and other employee benefits should, if possible, be reserved until after a job offer is made. While it is likely that the company will initiate this discussion in application blanks or early in interviews, it is to your advantage to postpone discussion until you have sufficiently impressed the interviewer with your sales presentation. 

Once the employer wants you for your job-related credentials, you are then in a superior bargaining position to negotiate for a higher salary. But if you reveal your salary history or desired compensation in an application blank or early in your interviewing, this information could undermine your bargaining position with that company.

Employers tend to use salary information to evaluate your credentials and worth, to understand your motives and drives, and to help compute the specific salary figure to be offered. By discussing salary before you have taken the time with the interviewer to closely examine the scope and depth of the job responsibilities, you may give the impression that your motivation is more personal than professional and that you would be dedicated primarily to the dollar rather than to the job and company.

Past salaries are used as indexes of past job performance and may be used as the basis for computing salary offers. A low salary history discussed too early could be interpreted as meaning inferior capability. This could be used to screen you out or as justification for making you a lower salary offer, even if you subsequently sell yourself successfully. By contrast, a high salary history discussed too early could be interpreted as meaning superior capability. This could also get you screened out because of a fear that you would demand unreasonably high compensation. And if you prematurely indicate that you would work for less, suspicion might arise that you were worth less than your salary would lead one to believe.

Whatever your salary history—low, middle, or top of the salary range—the chance of getting your asking price is greater if you have first sold yourself successfully and created an employer demand for your job services.

Postponing Salary Discussion

Hopefully, based on prior research, you will already know the going salary range of the job you are interviewing for. If so, premature discussion of salary serves no useful function for you.

If job ads or application blanks request salary information, insert, instead, a brief delay statement such as "to be discussed during interview,'' "Open salary, depending on nature of job," or "Negotiable."

As mentioned earlier, a delay statement will probably be questioned during the interview. If it is before you are ready to disclose your salary information, you must again postpone discussion. Consider delivering this delay statement: "Ms. Jackson, it's my personal policy not to discuss money until we've first established that a job is being offered and until I first understand the scope of the responsibilities in question, I hope you understand. And, of course, any figure discussed should be based upon my contribution to the organization and my actual worth in this position. Don't you agree?"

This response accomplishes the following goals:
  1. Postpones salary discussion.
  2. Allows you more time to sell credentials.
  3. Encourages interviewer to express interest in you.
  4. Impresses interviewer with your good business sense.

If the interviewer insists, however, in initiating salary discussion at this time, then do not resist further and risk antagonizing her. Before you give the information, though, you may remark, "Ms, Jackson, I'll be glad to give you the information you require. But the reason I asked for a delay of financial discussion at this point is because I believe this subject can best be handled once a specific job is being offered. And, in all candor, what I'm now interested in is finding out what I can do for CTR Industries before placing a charge on that service."

Sometimes it is difficult to postpone salary discussion until late in the interviewing process. An employer may call you on the phone after reviewing your application and resume, express serious interest in you, and want to invite you for an interview at his/her office a long distance away, but first may need to know whether your salary requirements are within the budget for that job. 

You may also be asked, ''John, would you mind telling me what you are currently earning so I can determine if this position pays according to your requirements?" Over the phone and following an expression of interest in you, it is difficult to hedge this question if asked. Consider telling your total current compensation, quickly adding that you assume this position would involve an improved financial arrangement to reflect your capability and your desire for career advancement. If an employer want performance, shouldn’t he expect to pay?
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