Mediabistro picked up my first post on salary negotiations the other day. Although they seemed to support my approach to this conundrum, they didn’t think it was realistic that one could make it through three interviews before the salary question rears its ugly head. They believe that this question is one of the first thrown out and they’ve got a point.
Statistics have shown that approximately 9 out of 10 candidates get a job through networking. If you don’t have to go through a recruiter or an HR department as a first interview, then you just might make it to that third interview before the question of salary comes up.
If your first interview for a potential job is with an HR person or an external recruiter, you can bet that the salary question is going to come up immediately.
Before I discuss this, I need to broach something that I just don’t understand. A resume is the be-all and end-all document that a hiring manager uses to decide whether or not to interview a candidate, right? Well, if I’m a VP of a department and I’m looking to hire someone at the mid-level, with 5-7 years experience, then my pay is going to be commensurate with that experience. If I get a resume of someone with 10 years’ experience, chances are this candidate is going to exceed my budget. If you don’t have any wiggle room in your budgets, why interview someone who is clearly more senior? What’s the point?
Of course I have a story to share on this. A Producer I know who has nearly 20 years of experience under his belt recently sent in his resume for a job that required 8+ years experience. (Why? He thought the job looked interesting in terms of the responsibilities and description.) To my surprise, the head of the editorial division called him in. I surmised that she had the ability to shift money around for someone more senior and that’s why she was open to meeting him. At the end of the interview, she asked him what his salary requirements were and then gawked at the number he threw out. What was she thinking? The guy had 20 years’ experience under his belt. He wasn’t going to be asking for $80 grand. This was just plain stupid and a waste of everyone’s time.
Here’s what I think needs to happen. HR departments need to do a better job understanding what salary standards are in their industries and then educate their hiring managers as to where these ranges lie. Obviously part of the HR Director’s job is to pre-screen people and forward the right candidates on. However, with networking, often times candidates skip thru the HR process and go right to the hiring source. If these managers had some sort of guide to follow perhaps there wouldn’t be as many surprises and the interviewing process could move forward more efficiently.
In terms of recruiters, you can bet they are going to ask you straight out what you are making, how your pay is broken out (base vs. bonus) and what kind of salary you are looking for next. Recruiters are paid handsomely to find the perfect candidate for their clients. If you don’t fit within their salary range, you’re not going to make it through to meet with the client.
As a recruiter, if I was working on a job for a Sales Director and I called you in for an interview, I would not reveal the salary range of this particular job. Instead, I’d ask you to tell me what your requirements were. Then I’d tell you if this was going to be a fit. Here’s why. Clients usually say something like this to me: “I can pay a base of $90K to $125K but the $125K candidate has to be stellar.” I then can’t very well say to the candidates I’m interviewing “well, this job pays between $90K and $125k” because everyone is going to tell me they want the $125K number, regardless if they are qualified for it. It’s my job to find out if the candidate deserves that higher offering,which means I need to get the candidate to talk first.
What do you do with this information I’m giving you? Not much. I’m just trying to give you the inside scoop on how recruiters work in hopes that a deeper understanding of the process will help you to determine how to negotiate through it. I’ll close by repeating my main point. When it comes to salary, pick a range that’s going to work for you and stick with it. This way, no matter what a job is, if it’s not within your range, it ‘aint for you!