Executive Careers Blog

Salaries: Q and A on How to Negotiate the Best Deal


From the recent Vault.com and SixFigureStart Ask Anything teleclass, here are some questions on salary:

Lisa asks: What’s the best way to approach a recruiter about salary negotiation…I’d like to know a) how someone new to the workforce should approach negotiation, and b) how that changes when you’ve got a few years of experience.

Recruiters will demand to know salary before they present you to the client. They need to know that you are in the ballpark of what their client is expecting. It also is good market knowledge for them to have. So you need to know that whatever you say goes to their client.

David Lees | Digital Vision | Getty Images

When you are new, you might think you have no negotiating leverage. It is true that the big management training programs or analyst/ associate programs at banks and consulting firms have set salaries with little negotiating. But for everywhere else, and that means most other jobs, there is no standard salary. You are paid what the employer has in their budget and what they think you are worth.

So look at the market value of your skills (computer, languages, analytical, coursework), your internships and part-time jobs, and your degrees. Know what benefit you will bring to your employers bottom line and what comparable people doing these same roles are making. When you are new, employers will try to pay you based on your years of full-time experience because you have relatively little. You want them to focus on skills and results.

When you are experienced, it’s trickier because there are more variables but the essential lessons remain the same. Know your market and how you contribute. That is your value and that should be your price.

Bhavani asks: Due to the recession, I committed to a job offer which paid very less(peanuts) but was offered a good job profile. As time progressed I realized that the company did not deliver on its promises and I plan to quit soon. As I apply for jobs, I am expected to quote a salary based on my current salary. The current salary is very little and I believe that with my experience and education I should be able to quote a higher salary. How can one deal with this situation?

Your current salary is a very strong anchor to what employers think they need to pay you. So you need to do whatever you can to establish your value before divulging how little you make. Focus on what you are bringing to the job and what comparable people in these roles are making. See the points above.

Now that you have established that this is the correct anchor you can explain your salary as an anomaly and one of the reasons you are leaving. Employers are happy to get good hires at a fair price even if that means paying a lot more than what you happened to make before.

Gordon asks: How do I respond when a job posting (application) asks for salary history and minimum salary requirement?

This is why I don’t recommend that people spend a lot of time responding to job postings. There is very little room to maneuver as some employers will toss out applications with missing information, such as salary and salary requirements. I won’t even move ahead with presenting candidates to my clients/ hiring managers without salary info. So you have to respond with the truth, and boom, the salary you name anchors how the employer perceives you.

If you don’t want to respond (such as Bhavani might not give his question above) you need to find another way to apply that circumvents the application. Network into the decision-makers and bypass the recruiter. Make a pitch that focuses on your value so that salary is a secondary consideration.

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Caroline Ceniza-Levine is a career coach, writer, speaker, Gen Y expert and co-founder of SixFigureStart (www.sixfigurestart.com), a career coaching firm comprised of former Fortune 500 recruiters. Formerly in corporate HR and retained search, Caroline most recently headed University Relations for Time Inc and has also recruited for Accenture, Citibank, Disney ABC, and others. Caroline is Adjunct Assistant Professor of Professional Development at Columbia University, School of International and Public Affairs and posts at CNBC Executive Careers and Vault.com.

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