Career Corner—Advice and Resources for Alumni


Salary Negotiations - updated 8/22/2013

Information, Salary Calculators and Articles on Negotiating Salaries and Responding to Salary Requirements

SALARY DISCUSSIONS

Following is some information and resources for attorneys who are in salary discussions with a potential employer, either before or after receiving a job offer. This information includes some content from external sources which we are not endorsing – simply providing for your own information.

Quick Tips on Negotiating Salary

Salary Discussions Before Receiving the Job Offer, aka “Salary Requirements” or “Salary History Required.”

When a job application requires that you submit your salary requirements or salary history, you are cast into a negotiation probably before you are ready. You may choose to comply, or you may ignore the requirement and submit your application materials without addressing salary. The danger of course is that some employers may consider this as a sign that you fail to read/follow instructions, or that you may be over or under-qualified for the position and therefore not worth pursuing. See the article “Salary History” below.

Researching Salaries and Responding to Request for Salary Requirement

If or when you decide to disclose your salary requirements, it generally helps to base your number on some market research. You may do this informally by polling friends or connections that hold comparable positions or are in a position to know, for example, current employees, managing counsel or recruiters. Factor in differences in cost of living between different markets if applicable. NALP has a number of resources regarding compensation for attorneys including both private sector salaries and public sector salaries. Note that some of this information is a few years old and does not reflect more recent trends.

You may also consult numerous salary calculators and resources on the Internet. Here are some links:

Private Sector – Legal:

  • www.roberthalflegal.com - See Salary Calculator under Salary Center).
  • Internet Legal Research Group (ILRG)

Private Sector – Non-Legal:

  • Jobstar
  • Simplyhired
  • Salary.com

Nonprofits:

  • Guidestar (for nonprofits)

Government:

CA State employee salaries are public information: http://www.sacbee.com/statepay/

Federal government salaries are also public information and almost always disclosed in the job posting on the federal hiring site, www.usajobs.gov. See Part 6 “Compensation and LRAP” in the 2009-10 Federal Legal Employment Opportunities Guide for detailed information on federal government grade levels and salary information.

Providing a Salary History

There is no magic to the formatting presentation of this information. Typically you will provide the information as part of your cover letter or as a separate document, but not as part of your resume. General practice is to provide annual salary listing employer, title and dates in reverse chronological order (use the same format as your resume). Also list bonuses, and benefits such as retirement and savings plans, insurance benefits, travel/auto if applicable. Here is an example:

Counsel II
BigBank Law Dept., Los Angeles CA
June 2004 - May 2009
Annual Salary: $118,000

(or)

Senior Associate
Mid-Law LLP, Oakland, CA
June 2004 - May 2009
Beginning Salary: $85K, plus max 20% bonus, full medical benefits, insurance, 401(k) matching to $5K
Ending Salary: $155K, plus max 20% bonus, full medical benefits, insurance, 401(k) matching to $5K

Negotiating Compensation

This is mostly applicable for when you have been given a number by the employer and need to respond. A good neutral question is something like “can you tell me how you came up with that figure?” This hopefully leads to a discussion about compensation (and tells you something about the culture of the organization). It also gives you an opportunity to put forth your own research about salaries (see Researching Salaries and Responding to Request for Salary Requirement above). Here is an excerpt from an alumna who did a great job in working out a salary she felt was fair:

“Hi Robert, when I was negotiating with XXX, I provided them with the following three bullet points below to justify a higher salary than the salary they first initially offered.
• According to a managing director/recruiter who frequently places attorneys as legal counsel in large Silicon Valley technology companies, the average market rate base salary for in-house counsel at my level is $155K. In addition to this base, the compensation includes stock options and on average a 15-20% annual bonus. She has informed me that a salary of $140K is considered low and below market. (http://www.dubingroup.com/about/clients.html)
• According to the Robert Half Legal Salary Center, the 2010 salary calculator indicates that an in-house attorney with 1-3 years of experience in Redwood City (zip code 94061) earns between $90K to $143K. (www.roberthalflegal.com - See Salary Calculator under Salary Center). I am in my fourth-year of legal practice and attorneys with 4-9 years of experience earn between $116K to $216K with a midpoint of $166K in-house according to this website. When you click for additional details for the salary above, Robert Half specifically states that "bonuses and incentives reflect an increasingly large part of overall pay at this level and are not included in the salary ranges above. . . Salary does not reflect overtime or bonuses, which are significant portions of compensation for these positions." The salary figures above therefore are only base salaries.
• According to a law.com article (link), in-house attorneys in the Bay Area earned an average $188,616 with a bonus of $52K in 2007. While this is somewhat dated information, it provides perspective into San Francisco in-house salaries and the study was conducted specifically by the San Francisco Bay Chapter of the Association of Corporate Counsel about the San Francisco Bay Area legal market.

I also did some research and asked a friend about her in-house salary at a large oil firm in Texas, I learned that her salary was around $160K. I also learned from my friend who is an attorney at Boeing that they compensate their attorneys in Chicago around that amount as well for mid-levels so I tried to reach at least that amount since I would be in SF with a higher cost of living. And I obtained a salary close to that amount when I negotiated my salary at XXX. “

Articles on Salary Discussions

Following are a few articles on salary discussions which may be helpful to you:
• Negotiating Your Salary, J. Murray Elwood, Law Crossings
• Salary History, Brian Braiker, Salary.com
• Salary History And Salary Requirements, Sue Campbell, 1st-Writer.com
• Salary History; Disclosing Your Salary History to Employers, Alison Doyle, About.com Guide
• Frequently asked questions about Salary, Nick Corcodilos, Ask The Headhunter

 

Negotiating Your Salary

By J. Murray Elwood

Some scripts and strategies to facilitate the process and help you leverage your compensation package.





ONCE WHEN FLYING TO A MEETING, I began talking to the man seated next to me on the plane. He told me that he had been downsized about six months earlier from a senior management position and was on his way to a job interview. My seatmate said that he had made the final cut in several previous interviews, but had never been offered a job, and hoped that this interview would result in an offer. When I asked him what kind of a salary he was seeking, the man reached into his briefcase and pulled out a carefully typed sheet that he said he always showed a potential employer at the beginning of the interview.

On the top of the sheet was the heading "Employment Terms" and below was a list, as he described them, of his job "requirements." I read down the page and saw that he was seeking a salary of $125,000, equity participation, 31 days vacation a year, tuition reimbursement for graduate courses, a private parking space, and so on. I had read enough to know why he would be still looking for a job after his interview. He was innocent of even the elementals of salary negotiating.

Negotiating a financial package is every job seeker's final hurdle. It is also their nightmare. The topic of one's own worth can make even the most secure person apprehensive. Further, many people are so happy at having received an offer that they fail to take advantage of their leverage at this critical time. The temptation is strong to settle salary questions as quickly as possible and be willing to accept an employer's first offer. However, this may not be the best way. Your negotiating strength is never greater than at the moment the firm invites you to join their team. This chapter will suggest several ways to prepare yourself for salary negotiations.
Guidelines for Salary Negotiations

1. Avoid Premature Disclosures

We have already seen that questions about salary requirements can surface early in a job search, particularly in newspaper advertisements or during phone screening interviews. In a perfect interviewing scenario, the question of salary requirements should occur only after the employer has made the decision to hire. However, today the salary question is often raised early in the hiring process. But just as you would never show your cards before sitting down to play poker, it doesn't make sense to commit yourself to a specific figure before you have a better understanding of the job requirements and the employer's expectations of his or her employees. What do you do?
• You reply in one of the ways suggested earlier:

I'd hesitate to give a specific figure until I have a better understanding of the job description and your expectations for the position . . . .
• If you have researched local legal salaries, respond with a range:

I believe that figure is in the low end of the range for this position in the San Francisco Bay area. . . With my credentials and this job profile, I would think that a salary of $ ___ , at the higher end of that range, might be more appropriate.
• You can shift the focus away from the salary to the topic of the job fit:

I'm honestly not comfortable discussing money right now because I don't want to box myself in prematurely . . . First, I'd like to know a little more about the position and what it's like working at your firm . . .
• You can say that you are flexible, but put the burden on the employer:

My salary requirements are negotiable . . . I'm interested in finding the right opportunity and I'll be open to any fair offer when I do . . . What's your salary range for this position?
2. Research Pay Levels

Instead of underselling yourself or overestimating your worth, before you go into a job interview research levels of legal compensation in your area. You can, of course, obtain this information informally from your networking contacts and from friends at other firms. However, today more precise legal salary resources are available on several Internet salary calculators.

3. Consider All Pay Elements

If the initial offer of the base salary seems low, do not decline the job in haste. Rather, take this as a clue to negotiate for other forms of remuneration. In some situations, it might make sense to trade a lower salary for a company car, more vacation time, flexible working hours, or child-care benefits. For example:
Sara, a senior associate, leaves her well-paid position with a law firm to be director of a law school career planning office. Although her level of compensation at the law school is well below the compensation level of her firm, she accepts the offer of her new position partly for the tuition benefits that will greatly assist the education of her two teen-age daughters at the university.
Weigh carefully the value of a medical, dental, and full optical benefits package. Sometimes, when bound by salary-scale restrictions, employers will have the flexibility to sweeten a seemingly lower offer with retirement, stock options, or profit-sharing plans.

4. Request Frequent Performance Reviews

A position that pays a premium salary, but is reviewed only annually - if at all - may not be as good a deal as a law job starting with a lower salary, but where the associate's work is reviewed, say, two or three times in the first year. This offers the opportunity to negotiate salary increments based on performance. Terms some employers might accept. Say:

I would be willing to accept your offer if my salary is reviewed in six months.

5. Place A Value On The Job Itself

If the initial salary offer is low and you feel you have little "wiggle room," try to calculate the position's real value to you in terms of positioning, that is, in terms of improving your skills, broadening your work experience, building your resume, or providing access to a particular professional network.

6. Make Notes on Verbal Understandings

In informal compensation and benefit discussions, particularly when the salary figure has been negotiated, well-meaning employers, anxious to conclude the hiring process, will sometimes "sweeten the pot." They will add elements to the total package in areas where they have a certain amount of flexibility. A new hire, for example, may be promised three weeks of vacation, rather than the firm "policy" of only two. Again, a lawyer who brings significant business portables to the firm, may be assured of the full-time assistance of a secretary or paralegal. Or a promise may be made of remuneration for continuing legal education.

However later, when work piles up, or vacation time comes around, these pre-employment assurances may be forgotten. Not necessarily through malice, or duplicity, but through an oversight on the part of the head of the firm's hiring committee. Again, another employer, after salary negotiations and discussion, may call to say that you are hired and your starting salary is at certain amount, but the follow-up letter confirming your employment will quote a figure several thousand dollars less.

These true-to-life examples, and other similar experiences, illustrate the necessity of not trusting memory alone and the need for making careful notes of any pre-employment verbal assurances. This does not mean a tight-lipped stenographic record of the conversation, but a casual noting of figures and promises at the time they are enunciated. This can be done very easily, in a self-deprecatory way by saying, "That's great! I'll probably forget to tell my wife the details when I get home, so I'd better write them down."

Wait for all the terms to be stated, when an offer is made, and be sure to clarify any areas or arrangements on which you are not completely clear. Assumptions, especially when talking about working arrangements, can be dangerous.

Most employers will follow up their verbal offer with a letter containing the salary and other employment agreements. If your informal understandings are not included in this letter, then refer to your notes. Write back your acceptance, including the terms as they were negotiated at your meeting and as you understand them. Your notes will make sure that no items are overlooked.

7. Always Request Time To Think Over An Offer

When you receive an offer, just as when you are invited in for an interview, stall. Ask for time to consider the offer before accepting. Say that you want time to "crunch some numbers," or need time to "run it past my financial advisor." But no matter how hard you are pushed, especially over the phone, never accept when the position is first offered, and always play for time.

You need the opportunity to reflect in the clear light of day and want to avoid making a serious employment decision impulsively. Business practice today seems to be to offer about a week to think over an offer, but you can stretch that for a couple of more days by asking for it in writing. Then decide whether you want to accept or make a reasonable counter-offer.

8. Make A Counteroffer

Your approach to salary negotiations will usually reflect your personality and your communications style. For some people, everything is on the table, everything is negotiable. But others, believing that salaries are preset, hesitate to negotiate anything and accept an offer as soon as it is made.

As general rule, it is safe to assume that the first salary figure quoted is probably the minimum. After all, with an eye to the bottom line, law firms want to control costs. So, when a managing partner quotes a figure, it is probably at the low end of the range and a place to begin negotiations. Therefore, after a salary figure is stated, the Legal Career Guru suggests a simple negotiating ploy that threads the way between asking for everything and asking for nothing.

When you have the offer in hand and have waited a few days, call back and express your enthusiasm and appreciation for the offer with words that, at the same time, contain praise for the company, but are also a request for a higher figure, or some additional perk. Here is the simple formula: " I like X . . . I like Y . . . I like Z . . . However . . . "

An example:

Mr. Bramante, I deeply appreciate your offer . . . This is the kind of position I'm been seeking . . . I'm impressed with the quality of people at your firm, I like the idea of working with Mr. Angelo . . . and the benefits package is excellent . . . However . . . I was thinking that with my experience and the job profile a figure of $ ___ would more appropriate.

Alternatively: However . . . the offer is lower than I anticipated. . . perhaps we should consider a one time signing bonus of $10,000.
A Final Word

Most employers, except those who are hiring new law school graduates, expect a counteroffer. A salary offer is a window of opportunity. You have nothing to lose by asking, but your goal in negotiating is to reach a mutually acceptable agreement with a colleague, not to squeeze every possible dollar out of the firm. Remember, if you do not ask, you will not receive.

Salary History
- Brian Braiker, Salary.com contributor
At some point in the job application process, you might find yourself in a tight spot. What do you do when asked for a salary history? It's especially harrowing if you are hoping for a significant pay increase over your last job. You may be gunning for a job with greater responsibilities than in your last one, or making a transition to an industry that pays better than the one you're in now. Or you may even be willing to take a paycut if you believe you've truly found your dream job. Either way, revealing your salary history could compromise your position of advantage when it comes time to negotiate your pay.
Besides, what you've earned in past positions is not the relevant measure of what you're worth in a new job. The relevant measure is the fair market value of the open position.
Divulge your worth, not your past
Think of divulging your salary history as akin to underbidding in a salary negotiation. Just as you wouldn't want to tell a prospective employer how much you want to make, you wouldn't want to undersell yourself if your salary history was not indicative of your worth. (This goes both ways, incidentally. You similarly wouldn't want to scare off a prospective employer if your previous income was significantly higher than what you suspect they'll offer you.)
What is relevant here is finding an appropriate job against which to benchmark the open position. Find a market price for the job you're applying for, then determine how close to that median you think you should be paid given your experience and accomplishments. What you made yesterday doesn't matter - what your colleagues and peers are making today does.
Once you've found what the job is worth to the market, save the information until the employer has made you an offer. You will have a good sense of what they will have to pay to meet the market, and you'll be on the firmest ground if you negotiate from that informed position. If the company tries to get you to say what you've been making at any time before making you an offer, use it as an opportunity to showcase your diplomatic skills. Then steer the conversation back to the value of the job to them.
Companies may ask you to disclose your current salary at any time during the search process, especially at the following stages.
1. In the ad for the job. Some advertisements for jobs stipulate that candidates must disclose a salary history, a current salary, or a salary expectation in order to be considered for the job. If you choose to apply anyway, stipulate in your cover letter that your salary expectation is the market value of the job. You may or may not get an interview this way, but you won't be forced to yield the negotiating position to the prospective employer.
2. In a telephone screening interview. Before you set foot on company property, someone from the human resources office might screen you over the telephone and ask you to disclose your salary expectations or history. Companies do this to ensure that you are in the right range for them. But you can set them at ease without saying a number by saying, "I have researched the fair market value of this job and, at the appropriate time, provided that we agree on the appropriate benchmark, I think we could find common ground."
3. During the interview. If the question hasn't come up before you get to your first in-person interview, that does not necessarily mean it won't be asked. Many times an employer - it could be a human resources representative or your potential future boss - will ask you about your salary history as part of the interview. You should feel comfortable handling it the same way as you would in the written or telephone versions. In some respects, it is easier to handle the question in person because you can read the interviewer's response to make sure your story is being properly interpreted.
If the company pushes you harder for a more detailed response, try to come up with a few variations on the same answer. Tell the company, with all due respect, that you don't think your salary history should affect your prospective salary future at a different company - especially if it's in a different industry. You could try deflecting the question to focus on what the new job requires and why the old pay would not be a good match.
Of course, this all means that you have to do some preliminary homework. Visit Salary.com and research the position in the Salary Wizard as a good starting point for finding the right job match. Be sure to benchmark the position you're applying for by job content, as opposed to the job title.
It is worth noting that some organizations - civil service organizations are one example - have requirements to disclose pay. But they usually have more rigid pay structures than other employers, so even when you show your pay history, you're not risking as much as you might elsewhere.
Once you've mastered the art of being your own agent, the rest will follow. Remember that the employer is the only one who benefits when you say a number first. And your salary history, simply put, is history.
- Brian Braiker, Salary.com contributor

Salary History And Salary Requirements
By Sue Campbell, 1st-Writer.com
How to handle: Ads requiring Salary History / Ads requiring Salary Requirements
Until you interview for a position, chances are you'll have only a limited understanding of the details and responsibilities of the position being targeted. So how can you address fair compensation when you don't have all the information?
Equally, the interviewer needs an opportunity to learn what you bring to the table (what you have to offer - the potential values and benefits of hiring you), or he or she can't effectively address appropriate compensation with you. Instead, he or she can only address what has been budgeted for the position. (For a primer on salary negotiation, or to determine your current market worth, see article on Salary Negotiation.)
This lack of information on both sides makes salary negotiation ineffective and premature, prior to the interview stage.
While it's tempting for some candidates to include a salary range or expectation ("It will save me from interviewing for jobs for which I’m overqualified"), doing so can severely limit your opportunities. If you provide a salary range that’s too high or too low, prior to an interview, you reduce your negotiation power and possibly remove the opportunity of being offered the position altogether. The bottom line is this: if it’s not asked, don’t volunteer.
Most companies will have an established salary budget for any available position, but these budgets can be flexible, depending on a particular candidate’s unique skill set and offering. For example, a candidate who brings unique skills to the table, skills that can be utilized and will benefit the company (outside the duties already established for the position), may see the budget range broadened to include these skills and their potential benefits.
Yet, some ads will require that you provide “salary history” or “salary requirements” with your resume submission. This indicates that the salary budget may be more fixed, and that salary requirements may be a major factor in the mind of the hiring manager. This doesn’t mean the budget isn’t flexible, just that it may be less so – initially. What to do when a job ad requires that you provide this information?
“Salary History,” and “Salary Requirements” are two very different things, and need to be handled in different ways:
Salary History
For companies that require salary history for consideration of a position, create a separate document that matches the layout and format of your cover letter and resume, or CV, using the same letterhead, font, format, and stationery. Following the reverse chronological layout of your resume or CV as your guide, present your entries as such, beginning with your most recent position:
Your Title
Company Name
Dates of Service
Annual Salary:
(or)
Beginning Salary:
Ending Salary:
(to show growth)
So that it would look something like this:
{Your contact information on letterhead that matches your resume and cover letter}
SALARY HISTORY
Director of Sales & Marketing
ABC Corporation, Cleveland, OH
June 2004 - January 2008
Annual Salary: $78,000
(or)
Director of Sales & Marketing
ABC Corporation, Cleveland, OH
June 2004 - January 2008
Beginning Salary: $75K, plus insurance, 401(k) and travel expenses
Ending Salary: $78K, plus insurance, 401(k) and travel expenses
You can (and should) include other compensation information, such as insurance benefits, 401(k), bonus packages, and commissions - either as individual items or as an added financial figure in your total salary amount.
Why do potential employers want to know previous salary history? Unfortunately, this information is used in two ways:
1. To weed out individuals who appear to be over or under qualified (whether this is actually true, or not).
2. To gain an advantage at the negotiation table.
For a position that has been budgeted in the $45K to $50K range, the candidate above will appear to be "overqualified," and will probably be less interested in pursuing the position. If the candidate has shown a previous salary history well below the budgeted range, the hiring manager may assume that the candidate will present a great opportunity for salary negotiation, and the hiring manager may actually be able to come in under budget.
Obviously, disclosure of salary history is to the hiring manager's advantage.
Do you have to provide salary history? Only if an ad states: "only submissions providing salary history will be considered," or other wording to this affect, and only then if it is a job you truly want to pursue.
Without this strict wording, you can make your resume recipient aware that the information is available, and recognize the request, without actually disclosing the information at this disadvantage point, by indicating: "Full salary history will be made available once mutual interest is established," or "Full salary history will be provided at interview."
Remember: only mention salary history if it is a stated requirement of the ad. Never disclose this information openly without it first being requested.
For more information on salary negotiation, see Salary Negotiation Skills. This article will also give you good resources for researching pay scales within different positions and at different locations. (Back to top)
Salary Requirements
Unless an ad states that "only submissions including salary requirements will be considered," your best option is to address the question without actually answering it, by using a statement such as: “Salary is fully negotiable,” or “Salary is negotiable, dependent upon the responsibilities of the position.” If your skills and background are an obvious fit for the position being targeted, this will probably be sufficient. It also shows your reader that you did recognize the question and didn't simply ignore the answer. You'll place this statement toward the end of your cover letter.
In situations where an ad states “only submissions including salary requirements will be considered," respond to this request in your cover letter, not the resume. Provide a salary range rather than a single set figure. This will maintain room for negotiation during the interview and salary negotiation phases.
The lowest salary range should be the minimum you would be willing to accept in this position, as you understand its responsibilities to date (limited knowledge) - to the highest compensation you could expect to be paid in this position, within the industry and location (different locations provide different salary ranges). For more information on salary negotiation, see Salary Negotiation Skills - For Navigating The Tough Terrain. This article will also give you good resources for researching pay scales within different positions and at different locations.
If you don’t know what the location averages are for individuals in your position, it’s time to do some research. Talk to local recruiters or other hiring managers from companies in the industry. Research local statistics in your library. Utilize salary calculators online - I have a list of great ones on my Career Resources page. Join a professional association or organization and do some networking (a good idea anyway). Or check out the Occupational Outlook Handbook to get the statistics you need on the targeted position, including educational requirements, national salary levels, working environment, and more. Just keep in mind that national salary levels may not accurately reflect local salary levels or what the current business market can bear.
Again, you'll provide this information toward the end of your cover letter, right before you thank your reader for his or her time and consideration.

Salary History
Disclosing Your Salary History to Employers

By Alison Doyle, About.com Guide
Many job postings ask you to include your salary history when applying for the position. It's important to be careful how you disclose your salary history, so you have flexibility when it comes to negotiating salary.
If the job posting doesn't mention it though, don't offer any salary information.
Salary History
If you are asked to include your salary history with your resume, you could ignore the request, but, that means you could risk not getting an interview. There is nothing employers like less than candidates who don't follow directions.
An alternative would be to include a salary range rather than a specific amount. If you do include your salary history, be honest. It's easy for potential employers to verify your salary with previous employers.
However, you can also say that your salary requirements are flexible. That may help keep you in the running for the position and will give you some flexibility when negotiating compensation later on.
How to Provide Salary History
What's the best way to provide your salary history? You can list your salary history in your cover letter without itemizing. For example, you could say, "I am currently earning in the mid-fifties." That gives you some flexiblity when it comes to discussing compensation if you get a job offer.
Or, your salary history can be listed on a separate salary history page and enclosed with your resume and cover letter.

Frequently asked questions about
Salary
Nick Corcodilos
Ask The Headhunter

________________________________________
Salary
Topics including:
Divulging salary history

Entry-level salary

Taking a cut

 

Back to FAQ Categories

Q "Divulging salary history"
I am in the process of looking for a new job. One of the things I frequently see in various advertisements is a request for salary history. I am hesitant to give out my salary history because I am looking for an increase in salary. Also, I am not sure how to include salary history. If I provide a prospective employer with this info, do I include it on my resume or in the cover letter?
A You've brought up one of the more serious flaws in the Employment System.
Employers have no business asking for your salary history. It's confidential. It has nothing to do with hiring you. Imagine what they'd say if you asked to see the history of salaries they've paid for this job over the past ten years. Or, if you were to ask the manager what his current salary is. Sorry, Mr. Manager, but what's good for the goose is good for the gander.
The excuse employers make is that your past salary helps them determine your experience level, it pegs your value, and it helps them establish a new salary for you.
Hogwash. By that logic, they don't need to interview you. All they need is your salary history and you're off to the races. By using the figures other employers have used, they'll know what their job is worth and what you are worth. And they'll win the lottery, too.
Salary is a judgment of value. It's incumbent on an employer to figure out what the job he wants done is worth, quite apart from who you are, what you've done, or what you've been paid before. In the interview, the employer factors in his judgment of how you would contribute to the success of that job. That's how an offer should be derived. It shouldn't matter what you were making at your last job, especially in a world where 17-year-olds who were earning five bucks an hour flipping burgers last year are earning $40k this year designing web pages, and where $100k executives are seeking $50k sales jobs.
Bottom line: when you divulge your salary history, you put yourself in a corner that's very difficult to negotiate your way out of.
Here are my suggestions about how to deal with the "salary history" problem.
Skip the classifieds.
The ads are the subtle beginning of an employer's effort to gain an edge in negotiations. If you're dealing with ads, you're made to believe that if you don't submit all the information that's requested, you won't even be considered for a job. And know what? That's true. How do you deal with this? Don't respond to the ad at all, because your resume and application essentially go to resume jail -- in some personnel jockey's drawer.
Don't be afraid of forms.
If you must fill out a form, list your salary as CONFIDENTIAL, to be discussed only with the hiring manager. (Alternately, cross out the "salary history" title on the form and replace it with "required salary range".) If a company insists on your salary history to determine where you'll fit, they should divulge your boss's salary so you'll know where you might "fit" in the future. (Funny how this logic works once you think about it.)
Deal with managers directly.
Ask The Headhunter is devoted to teaching people how to control the job search, not how to follow some administrator's "processing rules". If you're going to divulge your past salary at all, gain an edge in the process. There's nothing wrong with saying to a personnel rep, "My salary history is confidential, and I will discuss it only with the hiring manager." Could it jeopardize your chances? Sure. If you don't want to rely on "chance", don't talk to personnel jockeys.
Lead with your requirements.
What does your past salary matter if you won't accept an offer below $X? (Understand that this cuts both ways: you've got to be willing to figure out what your abilities are worth.) If you decide to divulge what you've earned in the past, do so by firmly stating that your current salary is one thing; your required salary range is another. This is how you level the playing field: by getting them to divulge the range they're willing to spend. If there's no agreement on the range, you probably don't want to interview. Don't feel you're "pricing yourself out" of the job by doing this. An employer knows what range she can pay; you're not going to materially change that by "avoiding the salary discussion until you can impress them".
There is no pussyfooting around on this subject: When you provide your salary history, you give up your negotiating leverage.
If this sounds extreme, consider how you're going to feel when you're offered less than you want and you've already spent hours of your time in interviews, and weeks waiting for an offer. It's a simple fact from the world of behavioral psychology: the more the employer puts you through, the more likely you are to rationalize accepting a low offer. (The phenomenon is referred to as "cognitive dissonance".)
Now let's get to what's really troubling you: all employers seem to require salary history at some point or other. How can you buck that? You stand up for what's right. To steal a little from Arlo Guthrie, imagine if 10 people a day refused to provide salary info. Then 50 people, then a thousand people a day, all challenging employers to figure out for themselves what a worker is worth before hiring them. The world will change.
Any company that rejects a good candidate because he or she refuses to divulge salarly history isn't a very smart company, and certainly not a competitive one.
You will clearly need to make a judgment about each situation as it arises. This need not be an adversarial approach: you'll find that many managers will respect your position if you present it candidly, then immediately turn the discussion to how you can help the company be more successful and profitable.
Making an issue of salary history does not require being rude or presumptuous. It requires that you be polite and firm.
But, don't be afraid to make an issue of it if it's important to you. It may cost you some opportunities, but you've got to draw a line for yourself.
Best wishes,
Nick Corcodilos
Ask The Headhunter

 

12/19/2011