Can You Negotiate Your Salary for a New Job?

Maybe the question should really be, “How can you negotiate your salary for a New Job?”

Recently an article titled “Negotiating Employment Agreements or the Real Reason Jennifer Lawrence Got Paid Less Than Bradley Cooper,” published on LinkedIn’s Pulse, talked about negotiating your salary from a different slant than I’d seen before. It definitely caused me to think about some of the assumptions we tend to make that might not be as soundly based as they seem to be.

Employment Negotiation–No Excuses?

According to the Pulse article, actress Jennifer Lawrence wrote a piece stating that she received lower pay for her role because Hollywood was sexist and because she didn’t want to appear difficult or silly by negotiating a much higher salary. Her essay in turn stirred up a big brouhaha about the gap between what men and women are paid.

The main point the article makes, however, is that Lawrence’s experience was a “glaring violation of the cardinal rule of employment negotiations – IF YOU DO NOT ASK FOR IT, YOU WILL NOT GET IT.” Author Elisaveta (Leiza) Dolghih contends that this isn’t directly driven by gender but by personality (how an individual functions). She goes on to state that “if your personality is like Jennifer Lawrence’s…and does not allow you to ask, find a person who will ask and negotiate for you….”

When to Talk Money

One issue that often bothers my clients is when to discuss salary during their search for a new position. If you’ve ever been in that spot, you know what I’m talking about. For years I’ve been advocating the view expressed by many professionals, including author Jack Chapman, that “he who mentions money first loses.” Just this week, however, I read a column by Nick Corcodillos (Ask The Headhunter) in which he flatly contradicts that view and insists that job seekers need to take the initiative in order to avoid missteps such as going through multiple interviews before finding out the range for the position–which might be thousands of $$$ below their target.

I have to say that this whole situation has raised issues I need to think through carefully before I do more salary negotiation coaching with clients! Apparently there aren’t any simple, straightforward answers. Maybe the best we can do is look at each interview process, each salary negotiation aspect, on a case-by-case basis. However, I think there are at least a few key points to keep in mind:

  1. Do your homework even before you submit your resume to a potential employer. Within reason (don’t take weeks!), gather the best intelligence you can about the company’s situation, background, etc.
  2. Explore what people who do what you do are making, taking into account things like geographical differences, to get at least a general, ballpark range. Compare that information to your anticipated target salary.
  3. Decide how you plan to bring up the subject of compensation (if you do) or how you will respond if it comes up before you feel you have enough information about the opportunity.
  4. Be ready to negotiate based on solid value, but be prepared to politely walk away from an opportunity as soon as you can tell that it’s not going to be worth your time (or the company’s) to push ahead.

So, yes, you can negotiate your salary for a new job–at least sometimes. At other times, the answer might be, probably not–or–it’s not worth the effort you’d have to make.

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Don’t Be a Job Search “Idiot”!

If you’ve never made any dumb or slightly silly mistakes in a job search, congratulations! On the other hand, an occasional misstep is probably not the kiss of death unless it’s seriously stupid.

Look at it this way, though: If you don’t put your best foot forward when you’re planning and conducting a job search, why should a potential employer assume that you won’t do something equally bad as an employee? To those employers, you are–in large part–the person you present to them in your job search interactions: initial contact, interview process, follow-through and follow-up, and so on.

There is no excuse I can think of for screwing up a job search because you didn’t seriously think through and put the key steps of your search into action appropriately. (Unless maybe it’s something as major as a death in the family or other traumatic event.) For instance, if you can’t at least try to put yourself in the shoes of the employers and do whatever you can to make it easy for them to consider you as a viable candidate, what makes you think they’ll want to bother doing that?

Whether the economy and job search market are good, bad or somewhere in between, you owe it to yourself and to the prospective employer (as well as anyone else your job search directly affects) to make sure you’re not behaving like a job search “idiot”! Act like a professional in all your dealings with the people you make contact with (or are contacted by). But don’t be afraid to cut loose those who are bent on wasting your time for their own benefit. You don’t owe them anything!

Because this will be my last post for a while (we’re moving across the country in less than a week), I’m not going to make it a long one. However, I do strongly encourage you to read the blog post from Nick Corcodillos (Ask the Headhunter) that prompted me to write on this topic today. You can find his post on his Ask The Headhunter blog. It’s really an eye-opener.

Here’s hoping you have a safe and happy Memorial Day weekend.


Video Interviews: Challenges & Opportunities

A while ago I mentioned the idea of “canned” video interviews that some companies were instituting in their hiring process (make that screening process). Now I have a first-hand client story that points out some of the perils these interviews pose for job seekers.

One of my clients was required to undergo a video-webcam interview that he expected would contain five questions. After just one question, he found he was unable to continue. He assumed that was due to a technical glitch, but when he contacted their tech support, he was informed that he had completed the interview and it was being processed. Subsequently, he received a rejection notice.

What’s wrong with this picture? He was applying for a position similar to what he does now but at a more well-established company, and his background seemed like a good fit. Obviously,there’s no way to tell whether his answer to the question was good, but what does seem apparent is that, for whatever reason, technology had been used to rule him out as a job candidate.

Challenges of Video Interviews

My client’s experience indicates just one of the challenges of video interviews used for pre-screening candidates: The technology can be inflexible, and you have little chance to influence that. Here are a few more challenges:

  • The information available to you before the interview might be inaccurate, incomplete or otherwise not as helpful as it needs to be in order for you to prepare properly.
  • Such interviews are completely one-sided. You have no interaction with an interviewer to give you hints on his/her responses, reactions, etc., because there is no interviewer involved at that stage. You also don’t get to ask questions about things it might be important for you to know.
  • If you don’t do well when being recorded (visually or audibly), you start the interview with a pre-set handicap that can put you at a distinct disadvantage.

Opportunities of Video Interviews

According to an article by Hannah Morgan titled “Are You Ready For Your Video Interview?” (an interview with Jobvite’s CEO), video interviewing offers some advantages to the job seeker as well as saving a lot of time for recruiters.

“Dan Finnigan says this advancement will help eliminate the ‘black hole’ applicants find themselves in because companies will be able to interview more candidates. The candidate will have the opportunity to review and re-record each answer before submitting them according to Finnigan. This is the equivalent to an open-book test in my mind. There will be no excuse NOT to submit the best interview responses possible. That is, unless the candidate doesn’t review their answers first.”

But what if the system you’re forced to use doesn’t allow you to review and revise your answers or exhibits a glitch that truncates the process? Does that mean you’re pretty much out of luck? At this point, who knows?

These points do suggest, however, that preparation will be as critical as for a more traditional interview–and maybe even more so. Your best bet is to begin by gathering as much information about the company and the position as possible–always a good idea in any case. A key element, of course, is the need to make sure that you are well prepared to present yourself effectively in a visual format (including obvious factors such as hair, clothing, facial expressions, etc.). In addition to that, you need to practice speaking about yourself and make sure you don’t stumble over your words or come off looking/sounding like an idiot.

Will every company move to video interviews? Maybe not, but the more that do, the more challenging you’re likely to find the interview process. Be prepared!


Turn Down A Job Interview? Are You Crazy?

If someone told you that you should turn down the opportunity for a job interview–especially if you’ve been out of work for a while–would you think they were crazy?

After all, the whole point is to get interviews so you can land a new job sooner rather than later, right?

Bad Job Interview Prospects

There are times, though, when a potential job interview stands to do more harm than good for your overall job search success. These are just a few of the “bad job interview” situations:

  • Makes you take time off from your current job (if you’re employed) or postpone other job search activities (if you’re not working), without resulting in a meaningful dialogue with the employer because they didn’t give you enough relevant information up front (in other words, holding their cards too close to their vest).
  • Forces you to prematurely reveal information (about salary, etc.)–that is, before the employer offers any solid information to help you evaluate the job opportunity in terms of probable mutual fit.
  • Puts you through the full interview process (possibly with multiple interviewers) for a position that sometimes ends up going to an insider (a candidate the hiring manager has had in mind from the start).

When to Turn Down a Job Interview

Having a bad feeling about a company would be a good starting point for rejecting an interview, although you probably wouldn’t have applied in the first place if you got such a feeling initially.

If a prospective employer demands a lot of information from you before scheduling an interview and it’s information you don’t want to reveal that soon–such as providing your references or (heaven forbid!) Social Security number before an interview–you will probably want to pull back from that one.

In fact, whenever the preliminary exchange of information is heavily lopsided in favor of the employer, you could find that an interview would be not only a big waste of time but also a source of aggravation and frustration. Do you really need that?

Similarly, you might be asked (maybe even required) to jump through multiple hoops before scheduling an interview, including agreeing to travel to a distant location on your own dollar. In such situations, you should be evaluating whether the interview and the job (if it gets that far) are worth the risk and the effort you are expected to make.

Job Interview Turn-Down Advice

Ask The Headhunter’s Nick Corcodillos never minces words, and here’s what he had to say in response to an inquiry from a reader:

“If you don’t get the information you need, I wouldn’t go to the interview. Every job seeker needs to draw a line somewhere. Just bear in mind that the company may put a big X on your file and never consider you again. On the other hand, you may not want to reconsider them any time soon yourself.” [Note: The reader opted to turn down the interview request.]

Ultimately, you’re the one who has to make the decision about whether or not to pursue the interview: weigh the pros and cons as objectively as you can and make the wisest choice for your situation.


Salary Negotiation Trends

It used to be that we said, “The first person who mentions a number [for salary] loses.” Is that still true today?

Not according to Liz Ryan, whose article on Forbes titled “How to Negotiate A Job Offer” labels that advice as old-school thinking–true maybe as recently as 1995 but not anymore. As Ryan says, “For the most part, job offers today are surprising on the low side, if they’re surprising at all. Once a lowball offer is lobbed at you, you’ll have a tough time getting the hiring manager to budge more than a few thousand dollars. You’re better off communicating your target range early and letting the hiring manager deal with it then. If it’s not a fit, better to know that early, right?”

Why Bring Up Salary–and When?

Ryan suggests strongly that you should introduce the subject of compensation reasonably early in the process. “When somebody calls or writes to invite you for a second interview, that’s the moment to share your target range.”

I can think of one potential drawback that Ryan’s article doesn’t even mention. What happens if the prospective employer brings up the salary question very early in the process–such as in a telephone prescreening interview. It happens…and all too often, based on the stories I hear from clients and others. (More on that in a moment or two.)

One aspect of Ryan’s suggestion that at least merits careful thought is the idea that you want to avoid wasting your time and the company’s time by going through one or more additional interviews for a position that turns out to be too far out of your financial ballpark–the range you have determined you want or need to target.

Assuming you’ve been able to get to the end of the first interview without encountering the subject of salary expectations or salary history (not necessarily one and the same thing), you might want to look carefully at the situation before moving ahead. As indicated in the quote from her article near the beginning of this post, Ryan believes you’re better off knowing where things stand financially before you try to take the next step.

Bring Up Salary or Don’t Bring It Up

I mentioned above that you might not be the one who brings up the subject of salary. This is something I’ve touched on in the past as well. Employers do prescreening phone interviews that determine, to a large extent, whether you get invited for an in-person interview, and it’s not uncommon for them to raise the subject then. This is generally done in one of two ways: “What salary are you looking for in your next position?” OR “What salary are you receiving in your current position (or have you earned in past positions)?”

I agree with Ryan that you should have a realistic range in mind, before you begin interviewing, which of course means you should have done your due diligence on what your market value is likely to be (as well as what your income needs are). However, I tend to believe that salary negotiation trends don’t necessarily mean you have the option of being the first to bring up the subject of salary. I still suspect that many employers will preempt your choice of the timing. If it turns out that you do get to choose, Ryan’s warning about not going too deeply into the interview process before you discuss salary might be a point well taken.


Biased Interviewers in a Job Search

All of us as human beings have biases. Some people just have more or stronger ones than others. That’s not always a problem. However, if you’re engaged in an active job search or planning one, biased interviewers can definitely pose a huge problem.

Ways in Which Biased Interviewers Can Hurt You

An article by Greg Moran on RecruitingTrends.com, “Three Tips for Managing Biases that Destroy the Interview Process,” points out some critical elements of this situation from the perspective of HR and hiring managers, but it’s worth reading as a job seeker.

Moran asks some pertinent questions, such as, “Did you ever feel like you were asked questions that had more to do with the personal interests of each interviewer versus the job itself? Similarly, did you ever sense you were selected to interview not because you had all of the right skills for the job but because the hiring manager liked just one characteristic on your resume…?”

Biased interviewers could keep you from being seriously considered for a position that’s a great match for your qualifications. On the flip side, if they like something about you, they could help you land a position that you really aren’t that well suited for–which is almost sure to end up as a disaster. Either way, the outcome of those interviews hasn’t done you any favors.

What About Your Interview Biases?

Not only do you have to contend with possibly biased interviewers in a job search but also with your own interview biases–or biases that have affected other key aspects of your job search.

As Moran’s article puts it, “For example, candidates may unintentionally overvalue or undervalue their performance accomplishments on a previous job [on the resume or in an interview]. Hence, such miscommunication is likely to inaccurately rank a candidate because the interviewer will either wrongly disqualify or qualify them….”

How to Overcome Interview Biases

Moran offers a few tips for interviewers in this regard:

  • Adequately Leverage a Comprehensive and Job-relevant Profile.
  • Construct and Utilize Interview Questions that Verify Job-relevant Criteria.
  • Organize Data and Verify It to Improve the Decision Making Process.

From your standpoint as the job seeker, I suggest considering at least the following:

  • Review posted job requirements as impartially as you can, to make sure you’re not fooling yourself about your chances. If you don’t feel able to do this on your own, consult someone whose opinion and objectivity you respect.
  • Conduct the thorough research you should already be doing for companies and positions you want to pursue, but consider the information specifically in the light of the interview process. What kind of questions might the interviewer ask you that you haven’t yet figured out a realistic answer to or that your research hasn’t yet revealed an answer to? How does that play against your personal biases?
  • Take advantage of the pre-screening phone interview as an opportunity to gather a little advance information yourself, instead of treating it as a one-way street with the caller asking all the questions. If what you learn sends up a red flag for you, maybe you have a bias you need to be aware of and work around or possibly you will decide not to pursue the position after all.

Resumes, Interviews and Job Offers

Sometimes a job search lasts much longer than you’d expected–even a year or more. If you’re sure your qualifications match well with the positions you’re targeting, what’s causing the delay in landing a new position?

It could be due to more than one factor, of course. Life isn’t often cut-and-dried, and that includes job searches. However, you could benefit from looking at three phases of a job search: (1) your resume; (2) the interview process; and (3) the job offers you receive or don’t receive that you expected to. The subject of job offers is complex and too extensive to go into here, but I do want to touch on resumes and interviews and their relationship to each other.

Resumes Can Lead to Interviews

If your resume doesn’t represent you effectively, you might never get to the stage of having job interviews. Even if you actively network to get close to hiring managers, it’s probable that you’ll need a good resume at some point to garner interviews. If you don’t generate potential interviews from your resume and are submitting it to positions whose key requirements are a good fit for what you offer, you need to take a hard look at the resume you’re using for your job search. Here are just a few questions to ask yourself:

  1. Does my resume look “dated”? In other words, does it give the impression it was created years ago and never really updated for current conditions (despite adding the latest jobs)?
  2. Have I rambled on with dense paragraphs and long bulleted lists that detail my duties and responsibilities, which could describe many people besides just me? A “job description” resume doesn’t promote you as a candidate; it just describes what someone in that type of position might be doing.
  3. Is my value-added/ROI message to employers communicated early on–clearly, concisely and compellingly? If not, what do I need to do to make sure it is?

Interview Mistakes You Can Avoid

Sometimes the mistakes you make in connection with interviewing are fairly obvious. You might, for instance, realize you didn’t give the strongest answer you could have offered for a particular question. Another example would be failing to listen carefully to what the interviewer was saying, so that your comments and answers were off-target.

Other mistakes might be more subtle and hard to pinpoint. For example, you could have a visual habit you are totally unaware of but that is distracting to the person you’re talking with. I once had a college instructor who continually stroked his goatee while he was lecturing, and I couldn’t concentrate on what he was saying if I looked at him!

One way of identifying such mistakes and working out a way to overcome them is to have someone do a mock interview with you so he/she can identify and discuss them with you. A related idea is to record a video so you can view yourself as others would see you.

In a real interview situation, you can also request feedback at the end of the interview. You can ask whether the interviewer had any concern about your responses, which might give you a chance to address whatever the issue was. You could also contact the interviewer after you receive the “sorry” letter and indicate your genuine desire to understand what might have kept you from being perceived as a good fit. Although companies are cautious about saying too much (due to legal concerns), you could get lucky and elicit helpful feedback.

It doesn’t hurt to ask, as long as you ask politely.

Long job searches might sometimes be unavoidable, but often there are things you can do to help reduce them.