The Salary Game

Local career expert Lisa (a.k.a. Recruiter Uncensored) shares some of her knowledge with us every Monday. You can read this post in its original form along with comments here.

Many job seekers believe salary negotiation is a game. There is a thought ‘he who speaks first loses.’ In truth, the loser is always the job seeker who doesn’t understand and clearly communicate his value. Discussing compensation should be about getting both parties on the same page in terms of what dollar amount is fair to pay an employee considering what he brings to the company.  This is more the job seeker’s responsibility than the employer’s, yet job seekers often fail to take ownership in this area.

To establish value, both parties must have a clear idea how the relationship will benefit the employer. How likely is it the employee will add/recapture/retain customers, solve a problem, improve efficiency, broaden diversity (thought/skill/social), cut expenses and better position the company for future success and growth? All of the above translate into dollars.  Job seekers have to be aware of what they bring to the table in order to negotiate effectively. Leaving it to the employer to see the value on his own is risky business.

Let’s go back to the ‘he who speaks first’ myth. Many job seekers I know want the employer to be the one to throw out a number first. They are afraid to say a number below what the company might have been willing to offer. Interestingly, these days the number companies throw first tend to be disappointing. More employers are actually pressing the job seeker to take the lead. Gee, do you suppose they too believe speaking first puts them at a disadvantage? Maybe they don’t want to throw out a number that’s bigger than what they would have needed to retain you.

My Grandpa would tell people straight, “don’t be greedy…know what you feel is fair and go with it.” It’s true you may find yourself walking away with less than you could have, but you at least have a number you can feel good about and that you know is reasonable. It’s like those who are afraid to cash out on a stock because it’s growing and they don’t want to sell and find the stock climbs even more tomorrow, never mind the return they are getting on the investment has already met or exceeded their expectations. So the decision is made to hold out to see if it can be better and then the stock tanks. Draw a line in the sand in terms of what return you’d be happy with and stick to it. You’ve won at that point.

Just to clarify, I do think it’s important for a job seeker to have a complete idea of the situation before committing to a number. I’m not suggesting anyone commit to a number based on a two line job posting by a company who is largely unknown. Asking a company to give you time to fully assess the opportunity and what you can bring to the equation before suggesting an appropriate compensation package makes sense. The point is, once you know the scope of the job and how your skills, talents and connections can positively affect the bottom line of the company, don’t be coy about putting a price tag on your forehead. Show your buyer you know what you are selling is worth.

– Lisa W-P, CADL Guest Blogger

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