Friday, February 16, 2007

Show Me The Money!

When an advertisement for a job asks you to include your salary requirements, how do you properly go about doing that? Thank you! -- Diane A.

by Townsend Belisle, former professional headhunter

Few people like to talk about compensation. As an expected reward (the finite exchange of money-for-your-services), both your livelihood and ego are often dependent on such a conversation. It’s no wonder you can hear your own heartbeat when the subject arises.

Most employment experts agree that quoting a salary is never a benefit to the candidate. The rule states that whomever quotes a salary first, loses. If the employer quotes a salary first, they can only expect the number to go up (Yea!). If the candidate quotes first, they can only expect the number to go down (Aww!). Therefore, unless you’ve gotten to the interview stage and all other factors of employment have been discussed, it is in your best interest to avoid the subject of salary until an offer of employment. Some people at agree.

Let me state that I have a bias here. I studied economics in a former life (let’s just say I was not a big fan of the statistics course), and I’ve found that when it comes to job compensation, it is still a case of supply vs. demand. An employer will compensate an individual based on their need and assessment of that individual. For example, if there is a sudden shortage of plumbers out there, regardless of previous salaries or how well he fixes the sink, the value of a plumber will go up. The salary level is also dependent upon the employer's means to compensate. For example, one company may not be able to afford to offer the same salary as another company.

For this reason, when asked to provide a salary requirement before an interview, I suggest to people that they state their value is not only dependent on their skills and experience, but also on how valuable such skills and experience are to that employer. And they should also welcome a discussion to determine what their employment is worth to the employer. Some of the people at put it more succinctly, advising you to say, “My salary requirements are negotiable.”

You need to get paid what you believe you are worth. In the end – regardless of where you are in the hiring process, go with your intuition. Then quote a salary requirement that feels right for you, and not just what you think is right for the employer.

Good luck!

Townsend Belisle spent years as an agent in the entertainment business before joining a design-industry recruitment firm. He left that industry 4 years ago… and yes, his salary requirements are negotiable. Just don’t make him do any statistics.

Susan Ireland’s Two Cents
Check out Expected Salary to read a variety of views on this question.

Job Lounger, do you have a question? Email it to me and I’ll post your question and an expert’s answer here in The Job Lounge.

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