Salary and Benefits “Secrets” in the Interview-to-Offer Process

Salary questions are probably one of the biggest concerns I hear from clients and potential clients (with benefits being a related issue). Two sides of the coin could be involved: (1) the salary history and/or salary expectations of the job seeker; (2) what the company will probably pay and how to get an idea of what that amount (or range) might be. I always recommend that job seekers do their research to find out things like what the going rate/range would be for someone in their field, with their experience, at their level, in the geographic region, and so on.

One reason you should do this, of course, is so you will have at least a sense of what is potentially available to you, but also so you can compare your background with the general group of job seekers who might be similar to you and develop some insights into your probable salary range before starting a serious job search.

However, a big “nut to crack” is the part about getting employers to divulge useful information about the salary range before you jump into the interview process. It too often seems that companies want you to divulge that kind of information about yourself and are absolutely unwilling to reciprocate. However, it now appears that benefits could be as touchy a subject as salary. In fact, I just read an interesting and provocative post by Nick Corcodillos (Ask the Headhunter) that has to do with benefits information being withheld pending offer acceptance! Really?

Benefits Information Kept Secret by Companies

Someone wrote to Corcodillos about a job offer he had received from a major company that had an acceptable salary , but the headhunter he was working with indicated the company had a policy of not revealing benefits information until an offer was accepted! According to Corcodillos, the usual rationale is that the company’s benefits package (and maybe its employee policy manual) are competitive secrets or confidential and can’t be disclosed to non-employees. This is crazy! As Corcodillos puts it, “They invite you to join the game, but you can’t see the rules in advance. You may make an investment in the company, but you may not see the financials.”

By a real stretch of the imagination, I can see where companies might come up with this rationale, especially if their management is paranoid. Does that make it acceptable for them to do all the taking and none of the giving with regard to information-sharing during the interview-to-offer process? Not by a long shot. That stance puts all the risk burden on you as the job seeker. As we all know, life isn’t always fair, but this situation is beyond unfair–it’s potentially hazardous to your financial and emotional well-being. What happens, for instance, if you accept the position and then discover that a critical aspect of the benefits package falls seriously short of what you needed and expected?

Walk Away from Overly Secretive Companies?

Under some circumstances, you might decide that the company’s lack of willingness to share key information justifies declining the offer. However, that could mean giving up an opportunity that would prove beneficial to you in the long run. You might come up with your own approach to this situation. In case it’s of interest, though, here in a nutshell is what Corcodillos advised his inquirer to do:

Call the CEO’s office and tell whoever answers that you’re ready to accept a job offer, but no one (including HR) can satisfactorily answer a question you have. When (and only when) someone from the CEO’s office rather than HR agrees to talk to you, you explain the issue and politely but firmly refuse to go back to HR to deal with it. Corcodillos goes on to say, “”I’d tell the headhunter you have your own policy: I need to know what the entire offer is–including the benefits.

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