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Tuesday, February 26, 2008

When it comes to salary, he who says the first number loses!

When applying for work, I recommend trying to avoid sending your salary history whenever possible. If the job posting says it’s required, you might eventually have to produce it, but it is never to your advantage to do so. Typically, a company has budgeted a certain salary range for a position and will do their best to stay within it. The budget for the position has likely been a source of discussion for several months by the time the company is ready to start interviewing. The manager likely petitioned for the position with the VP who sat in on budget meetings with the CFO and pitched salary numbers and job duties.

Disclosing your salary history could cost you thousands. For example, if the budgeted salary range for the job is $100-120k/yr, and your salary history indicates that you'd likely accept $90k/yr, you've just "lost" $10k due to disclosure. If you hadn't disclosed, they'd probably have offered you something in their budgeted range.

On the other hand, if your salary history indicates that you made $130k/yr on your last job, they may think you are either 1. Too expensive, or 2. Will leave soon after taking the "cut" in pay for the next opportunity to make more money. Had they not known your salary history and offered you something in their range, you may have been thrilled with the offer for a variety of reasons other than dollars, including commute, love of the company, job duties more in line with your interests, etc.

This is a dance that I see becoming less popular as time goes on. Employers are becoming more transparent about salary range, often posting it on the ad or disclosing it when people ask, and candidates are able to decide for themselves if the offer has value. Aim for companies with solid bottom lines and the number you start with can easily rise in a short time when they've fallen in love with you.

Do what you think is best. My suggestion is that if you are applying for public or private industry jobs, omit the salary history even if asked. Follow up in a week to inquire if they received your resume (attaching your resume/letter again) and ask if they need any additional info. If they ask for it again, send it. If they don't, don't. Adding a vague line to your initial email such as, "Salary expectations commensurate with job duties and experience," should suffice when salary history is listed as "required" in the ad. For government jobs, I'd cough up the info right off the bat. They'll likely have a published range anyway.

On job applications, where it asks for salary, some applicants write “negotiable” or “flexible”. In my experience, this has NEVER kept a great candidate from moving forward in the hiring process. You’re already there and they’ve had a chance to meet you. If you’ve indicated flexibility about salary, chances are they are onto more important considerations such as goodness of fit.

If you are asked about salary requirements in the screening or interview process, I recommend politely asking what the budgeted salary range is, look calmly expectant and wait for their reply. Then state that you are inside that range (assuming you are) and you’re sure something can be worked out that works for everyone. Smoothly change the subject as soon as possible to talk about aspects of the job itself. When they decide they can’t live without you, you can decide whether their offer is good and how it compares with others that you’ve received. Does it drive HR up the wall when you do this? Absolutely, it's their job to find this information out; but they are not usually the final decision makers. You don’t want to irk them, but a pleasant, “I’m sure we can work something out as the process continues”, should take you far in most situations. A good recruiter will push back. Accept this and remain pleasantly vague. Change the subject gracefully.

Benefits like vacation or level of health coverage are very difficult for most companies to negotiate. If they have a top performer in a similar role and they offer you more vacation, they’ll have a very dicey situation on their hands. It can be much easier to negotiate a one-time signing or performance-based bonus.

When you have become an expert in your industry and have skills they can’t get from the next ten people that apply for the job, your negotiations take on a completely different flavor and you can often get away with boldly leveraging one offer for another. Even so, that tactic is never really appreciated, leaves a bad taste in the mouths of the decision makers, and can backfire if you’ve miscalculated.

While your ability to navigate this landmine diplomatically will be closely watched, you really do have the employer over a barrel on this point. They have to put a number on your offer letter.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Are You Linked In?

When you join LinkedIn, you can see who you know from current and past jobs and add those people to your contacts list. Add your friends, neighbors, and family members. As you meet new people, add them. Soon, when you need the inside story on a company, you can easily see who you know that worked or works there (or who your contacts know). Then, email or call them to get the scoop! Be sure they know you'll be there for them too and be very respectful of their time.

A recent resume client wanted to get into Google, but didn’t know a soul there. I told him about LinkedIn, he added people he knew, and sure enough – one of his contacts was friends with a manager at Google. This manager offered to walk my client’s resume through the process. Without LinkedIn, he would never have gotten on an inside track at Google.

Here are some facts you should know about LinkedIn:

- 19,000,000+ professionals and growing by one million members per month
- 750,000+ senior executives
- Executives from all Fortune 500 companies
- 46% are business decision makers
- Average age: 41
- Average household income: $109,000
- Over 450 million page views per month
- Over 560,000 professionals visit the LinkedIn homepage on a typical day
- Average of 42 page views per member per week

Joined LinkedIn. Today. Really, I mean it!

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Is it a good idea to use recruiters in my job search?

Using recruiters from staffing agencies can be a great resource, with one major drawback and potentially one great advantage. The good ones have met the hiring managers of the companies they represent and can offer some insight into personality types of the hiring manager and team, what works and what doesn't to get love from that company, etc. If you don't know anyone at the company who can give you this type of insight, outside recruiters can be a great way to get it.

The drawback is that their services come at a price to the employer, sometimes up to 25% of your first year compensation. For this reason, if you were to approach the same employer yourself (especially encouraged if a willingness to cold call and/or "sell" yourself are core competencies of the job you seek) you'll be more appealing than if a recruiter were to present you. It's also much smarter to apply for a position before the hiring manager has gotten so desperate for talent that they're willing to pay a premium for it.

The potential advantage of going through a recruiter is if the company only staffs certain positions through a particular staffing firm. I've been in this role myself as an agency recruiter where if someone wanted a particular job at a certain company, they'd have to impress me to even get consideration because the hiring managers didn't have time to post ads, wade through resumes, etc. Even so, if you landed on the hiring manager's doorstep without representation, and before she got so desperate for talent that the recruiter's fee was worth it, you'd be 25% less expensive.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Workforce Explorer

I'm driving to an industry meeting the other day, the Puget Sound Career Developers Association (PSCDA), and I'm dreading the speaker. It was raining, freezing cold, and I have to drive INTO traffic to get there (an anathema to a work-from-home type like me). But I go. True to form, traffic is horrible. It takes me 45 minutes to go 5 miles. Remembering my commitment to networking (gotta walk the walk), I soldier on.

Our association president bravely talks up the speaker, an economist with the State of Washington. I'm thinking, man, he's really putting his heart into this introduction; it's not going to be pretty. What could a dryer-than-my-chapped-lips economist, a state employee no less, have to tell me about employment? I was a corporate recruiter after all, I'm out there on the cutting edge, blah, blah, blah. I was dead wrong.

Jane Field, our speaker, opened my eyes about an amazing website that I will use and talk about for years. You’ll get sick of hearing about it, really. Apparently, unbeknownst to me, the state has put together a website using actual data from employers. Quarterly, each employer reports information including salary, hiring forecast, job duties, etc. to the state for each position they employ. has compiled these facts into a *free*, easy to navigate and extremely useful website.

Want to know the average hourly wage for a Purchasing Manager in the State of Washington? It's $45.97. Wonder what their top work task is? It's maintaining records of goods ordered and received, according to the employers who complete the state's paperwork.

Ever wondered what actors make in King County? About $35.11 per hour, on average.

How cool is that?

The site is packed with helpful information. Want to sell paintbrushes in SE Washington? The biggest hobby, toy, and/or game store employer in Asotin County is Wasem's Artist Supply and their phone number and address are provided.

The site is perfect for career changers who want to research an industry and equally great for someone moving from one part of the state to another, to learn the lay of the land.

I'm sure as I explore Explorer further, I'll find even more things to love about it.

My apologies to Jane. I misjudged you. Economists from the State of Washington ROCK!! And while I'm not sure if Jane's personality is representative of others in her occupation, I found her downright entertaining.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Welcome to my blog!

Welcome everyone! This blog will include my thoughts on interviewing, resume writing and job search strategy. Your comments and input are welcome!