During a job search one of the more challenging encounters is not dealing with the tough interviewers or interview questions, but it is responding to the question: What is your current salary? This question typically comes at least twice during a screening and selection process: First during the call when a recruiter is screening you for a possible fit and finally during the offer stage when you have already been cleared because of your success through various stages of the interview process.
Of late, there have been many blogs and articles by various career professionals imploring those in job transition to not disclose their salary information so that it is not held hostage to their next salary. In their writings or messages they provide various ways to dodge this question, some of which border on the ludicrous. Some even suggest cracking some kind of joke around this issue, while others provide a rather rude script of what to say, not just when the recruiter asks such a questions during initial screening, but also during the offer stage when your potential hiring manager is trying to put a reasonable package to hire you!
What prompted me to post this blog is some recent examples I encountered when some of my clients not only got screened out from the get-go, but a few C-level candidates did not get an offer they were expecting after going through a long interview process. Some, who concealed their compensation history got offered considerably lower packages than their current compensation, which resulted in shutting down to process after considerable investment of everybodys time and others ended up having to take lower salaries because they were about to lose their current job, which they did not disclose prior to the selection process getting underway.
This blog is about an alternateand provenapproach to how to look at this whole issue of compensation and how to deal with it in a way that not only gets you what you deserve or want, but also puts you in a strong position to negotiate what you want in your next salary. The approach I am suggesting here is not just an idea or an experiment, but something I have repeatedly used to coach my clients transitioning out of a current job to their next.
The Screening Call: Before we get into how to handle this salary question from the get-go, let us first examine the reason why the salary question is relevanteven importantstarting with the beginning stages of the selection process. In almost all cases, including the C-level situations mentioned above, a recruiter first makes a call to screen potential candidates to present to the hiring manager. These recruiters are given the job specs, which include salary parameters.
Recruiters know that anyone looking to change jobs will seek a bigger salary package than what their current or recent job offered them. So, when the recruiter asks the salary question in the initial screening call it is best to have a good answer that protects your ability to go to the next round: a call or meeting with the hiring manager or team. At this stage the recruiter is merely assessing if your price point allows them to present you to the hiring manger based on how the screening went during that call. Thus, lack of this salary information can be a show-stopper despite how well qualified you were for that job and how well you did during that screening call, making you a blind candidate. A recruiter will not typically present a blind candidate to the hiring manager for the fear that they may look less than diligenteven sloppyin how they present candidates to the hiring manager.
The second reason why this information is important, even if you do not get to the next step of the selection process, is that it provides the hiring company where the market is. HR departments constantly update their salary-range information from this data to stay competitive in the market. So, disclosing your salary for a given position helps the hiring company compile salary data to keep market parity. Although this may not be a direct concern of yours, it is an act of being a good citizen, who also benefits at your current employer if you never even contemplate leaving your current employer. HR departments constantly revise salary ranges based on such date to keep current employees at their company happy.
The third reasonperhaps the most important reason of allto disclose your salary is the strategy you use to decouple your current or recent salary from the one that you want or deserve in your next job. To many, this concept may appear foreign, but it is commonsense. The salary you earn in your job must be derived from the value you create for the employer in that job. What you earn(ed) or were paid in your previous job is not relevant to what you must be paid in your next. So, even though you have disclosed your current (or most recent) salary to the recruiter during that screening call, it should not be hold hostage to what you can negotiate based on how the interview process reveals the value you create in your next job. This is the single most important factor that decouples your past salary from your next. This is also the most important reason why you must disclose your salary information with confidence from the get-go!
Now that we have laid the rationale for why salary information should be disclosed when asked let us develop a script of how to conduct these conversations during the various stages of the interview process:
During the screening call with the recruiter: Recruiters ask this question in a variety of ways, so be careful to listen to what is asked and provide a response to that question ONLY. For example, if the recruiter asks what salary are you looking for in this role, your answer should (only for this stage of the process): My 2016 W-2 (employers tax reporting document) reports total wages at $xxx. The reason for stating your W-2 (or such) numbers is that it provides instant credibility. It also precludes any temptation of exaggeration you may have at this stage. Many companies require you to later submit such documents as a part of the final checklist before hiring. So, make sure that you disclose this number truthfully and with alacrity. Sometimes, the recruiter may ask you for the breakdown of the total number. In such cases provide what is on that form.
Once you disclose this data the recruiter is satisfied that they have what they need to decide if you are within the salary range of candidates they can present to the hiring manager. If they then ask you what salary you are looking for in the job you are after, the best answer to that is: I am open to what works for us both and Im not attached to any number at this stage. All that the recruiter is now looking for is how much risk they are taking in presenting this candidate if they get to the offer stage and the company is not able to make a winning bid.
During the interview with the hiring manager: At this stage this can happen in two different ways: Early in the process the hiring manager has calibrated you as a viable candidate and wants to know if they can present you to their chain of command for the next round of selections. Although this is not still reached the negotiation stage, your best response to this question is: I have already disclosed my W-2 numbers to the recruiter during the initial screening, so you know my current price point. In this role I expect to be compensated based on what value Im able to deliver to you and hope that we can make that equitable. So, if the hiring manager is now all excited about you then they are going to read this as: If we can match or better the W-2 numbers we can win this candidate. So, they are going to move you to the next stage. At this stage you must not be too specific about your demands.
Final round before the offer: When all the interview rounds are done either the hiring manager or recruiter loops back with you and asks what will work for you if they were to put a package together. At this point you must bring the value concept to the fore and say something like: After these rounds of interviews I am confident that I bring and can deliver the following value to this role. Based on that assessment you provide a number that is above the number you disclosed from your W-2. How much higher this number is, will depend upon your ability to make a cogent closing argument to your hiring manger based on what you learned from your interview rounds.
Once you have reached this stage it is time to start negotiating what you can settle for and let them go ahead with packaging you a formal offer.
This process is something Ive coached my clients to use and in many cases we practice this script many times until they feel confident of able to navigate through the process to get what they set out to achieve. In many cases they were able to achieve 20-40% jump in their total compensation with this approach. The only hurdle to getting what you want is your own conviction of value you bring to the job and your ability to convince the hiring team that you can deliver that value!
Dilip has distinguished himself as LinkedIn’s #1 career coach from among a global pool of over 1,000 peers ever since LinkedIn started ranking them professionally (LinkedIn selected 23 categories of professionals for this ranking and published this ranking from 2006 until 2012). Having worked with over 6,000 clients from all walks of professions and having worked with nearly the entire spectrum of age groups—from high-school graduates about to enter college to those in their 70s, not knowing what to do with their retirement—Dilip has developed a unique approach to bringing meaning to their professional and personal lives. Dilip’s professional success lies in his ability to codify what he has learned in his own varied life (he has changed careers four times and is currently in his fifth) and from those of his clients, and to apply the essence of that learning to each coaching situation.
After getting his B.Tech. (Honors) from IIT-Bombay and Master’s in electrical engineering(MSEE) from Stanford University, Dilip worked at various organizations, starting as an individual contributor and then progressing to head an engineering organization of a division of a high-tech company, with $2B in sales, in California’s Silicon Valley. His current interest in coaching resulted from his career experiences spanning nearly four decades, at four very diverse organizations–and industries, including a major conglomerate in India, and from what it takes to re-invent oneself time and again, especially after a lay-off and with constraints that are beyond your control.
During the 45-plus years since his graduation, Dilip has reinvented himself time and again to explore new career horizons. When he left the corporate world, as head of engineering of a technology company, he started his own technology consulting business, helping high-tech and biotech companies streamline their product development processes. Dilip’s third career was working as a marketing consultant helping Fortune-500 companies dramatically improve their sales, based on a novel concept. It is during this work that Dilip realized that the greatest challenge most corporations face is available leadership resources and effectiveness; too many followers looking up to rudderless leadership.
Dilip then decided to work with corporations helping them understand the leadership process and how to increase leadership effectiveness at every level. Soon afterwards, when the job-market tanked in Silicon Valley in 2001, Dilip changed his career track yet again and decided to work initially with many high-tech refugees, who wanted expert guidance in their reinvention and reemployment. Quickly, Dilip expanded his practice to help professionals from all walks of life.
Now in his fifth career, Dilip works with professionals in the Silicon Valley and around the world helping with reinvention to get their dream jobs or vocations. As a career counselor and life coach, Dilip’s focus has been career transitions for professionals at all levels and engaging them in a purposeful pursuit. Working with them, he has developed many groundbreaking approaches to career transition that are now published in five books, his weekly blogs, and hundreds of articles. He has worked with those looking for a change in their careers–re-invention–and jobs at levels ranging from CEOs to hospital orderlies. He has developed numerous seminars and workshops to complement his individual coaching for helping others with making career and life transitions.
Dilip’s central theme in his practice is to help clients discover their latent genius and then build a value proposition around it to articulate a strong verbal brand.
Throughout this journey, Dilip has come up with many groundbreaking practices such as an Inductive Résumé and the Genius Extraction Tool. Dilip owns two patents, has two publications in the Harvard Business Review and has led a CEO roundtable for Chief Executive on Customer Loyalty. Both Amazon and B&N list numerous reviews on his five books. Dilip is also listed in Who’s Who, has appeared several times on CNN Headline News/Comcast Local Edition, as well as in the San Francisco Chronicle in its career columns. Dilip is a contributing writer to several publications. Dilip is a sought-after speaker at public and private forums on jobs, careers, leadership challenges, and how to be an effective leader.
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