Salary History and Negotiations

At a recent resume writing conference I attended, participants were able to query a panel of HR experts from leading companies about various job search topics. One that struck a cord involved salary negotiation. You see, for years we’ve been told that “he who mentions money first, loses” so it’s best to sell your value and let them broach the question first. That makes sense.

But here’s the caveat. For years job seekers have been told to answer the question of “what kind of salary are you looking for?” with more questions. And according to one panelist, the interviewers hate that. They feel like you’re evading the question they asked, which is understandable. Most of the jobs I’ve interviewed for told me right up front, “here’s what the job pays…..” and then I have the option to accept, decline, or negotiate. I like that. Honesty up front.

But I had a client who didn’t want to waste the employer’s time and did this: he said up front, “can you tell me what kind of range you pay for this position? That way I can tell you if it’s in my ballpark or not, and we won’t waste each others time if its not.” He ended up getting hired. But that doesn’t necessarily mean it will work for everyone.

Personally, I still get annoyed at employers who want to see my salary history. There are some jobs I’ve held that paid a lot! Sadly, I didn’t care for the work and/or the company so that had to pay a lot to keep me motivated. And then there were others where I would do the work for no compensation because of the passion behind it (but I wouldn’t reveal that to my employer either!) That’s why I think salary histories should be irrelevant.

Frankly, I think all companies should have a trial period, with a written agreement that states if in a certain period of time you are kicking butt and taking names that you will be compensated at a higher rate. Getting locked in a low salary for stellar work creates animosity and a disloyalty from the employee. And it works the other way too if the employer pays too high a salary to the employee who over-promised and under delivered during the job interview.

This is not the same as a 90-day probation period. What I am proposing is a starting wage to get the employer up to speed, and then a higher salary for outstanding performance within the first 6 months. Employers–are you listening?

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