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Slippery Salary Slopes

Keep Your Salary Expectations Current

Job Seeker's Story

After 10 years as a stay-at-home mom, Alice decided to return to work full-time. She was a Registered Nurse and had been working part-time as a volunteer Emergency Medical Technician for a small, local fire district. Concerned about the length of time that had elapsed since she worked as an RN, Alice wondered whether she would even be considered a viable candidate.

Due to her concerns, Alice decided to hire a career coach to help her in preparing for interviews. In a role-playing session with the coach, Mina, she was asked what she expected in pay. Not anticipating this question, Alice blurted out, “I was thinking maybe $12–13 per hour. It's been so long since I worked that I would need to catch up on the new technology.

In response, Mina asked, “Alice, do you have any idea what the going rate is for a nurse these days?

She said, “Apparently not; what is it?

The coach replied, “At least $19–30 per hour in this geographic area.

Alice's immediate retort was, “Oh, I don't think they would ever pay me that.

The coach advised Alice not to bring up the salary question at the interview, but wait until the interviewer did. Knowing what the possible going rate could be, Alice was to ask the interviewer what range they were offering and where the interviewer saw her in that range.

At the interview, Alice followed the coach's advice and nearly fell out of her chair when she heard the interviewer ask, “Alice, we'd like to get you on board quickly. Do you think you could start next week at $30 per hour?” Alice realized she had more than doubled her salary before even starting the job by following the coach's skillful negotiating advice.

Job Seeker's Stumble

Alice did not realize the current demand for nursing services in her area or know the going rate of pay for RNs at the local hospital where she had her interview. Because of this lack of information, she very nearly under-priced herself by a substantial amount in the salary negotiations phase of the interview.

Job Seeker's New Strategy

Before going on any interview, do your research on the going rate of pay for the type of position, the years of experience, the industry, and the geographic location. These are all variables that impact the rate of pay to a significant degree.

Start by investigating salary comparison sites online (such as salary.com and payscale.com). These will yield figures to help you determine a ballpark range. Then, informational interview with others in the field to find out not only the going rate, but also the benefits typically included in a total compensation package. Do not assume it is the same with all organizations in the industry. As Alice discovered, do not assume it has stayed the same as it was 10 years ago!

Making Demands Can Leave You Without an Offer

Job Seeker's Story

Yvonne, a Retail Sales Professional, had the chance to go to the next level in her career by interviewing with a very upscale retailer. She breezed through two interviews and received an offer. The interviewer proudly offered Yvonne $10 an hour. Shocked at what she felt was a low offer, Yvonne did not ask any questions but asked for time to consider the offer.

She went home to discuss it with her husband, who told her to tell the employer that she could not accept the job for less than $15 an hour. Yvonne called the employer and smartly asked for a time to meet to discuss the offer.

In the meeting, Yvonne confidently expressed her requirement for $15 an hour. In response, the interviewer did not hesitate to thank her for her time and to tell her that he was rescinding the offer. Surprised, Yvonne said, “You're rescinding the offer? Aren't we supposed to negotiate or at least talk about other compensation options?

In response he said, “While we might have found some common ground, we are not looking for someone who makes demands or is unrealistic about wages for the retail market. Since I know your demands, I realize we cannot meet them and even if you were to agree to a lower number, I have to expect you would not be happy and you would not stay with the company long.

Yvonne took her bruised ego home with the realization that she needed to learn more about negotiation.

Job Seeker's Stumble

Instead of negotiating the offer to achieve a possible win-win, Yvonne lost the job opportunity because she gave an ultimatum that was unrealistic in terms of the employer's budget. Because her requirement left no room for negotiation, the employer took the offer away in order to offer it to a candidate who would fit in its range and therefore be more likely to stay longer with the company.

Job Seeker's New Strategy

You should never give an employer an ultimatum or absolute regarding salary! They call the process salary negotiation for a reason: because you negotiate. If you find yourself in this situation (of being offered less than you were expecting), you should attempt to explore options with the employer. When negotiating, it is important to be face-to-face.

First, thank the interviewer for the offer, state that you are very interested in working for the company, and ask if the base is at all negotiable. If it is, do not say what you are looking for, but instead ask what more they would be willing to do for you, based on the track record of performance you bring to the company.

If you are told that the base is not negotiable, do not quit yet! Now is the time to investigate others options that might better fit the employer's budget. Ask if the company would consider quarterly reviews with performance bonuses or another form of performance-based compensation.

Always remember that almost everything is negotiable, so avoid making demands and instead make queries. Sometimes it can taking hearing “no” to the first several options before you hear “yes,” but you will never know until you pose the question of just what is possible.

Additional topics

Job Descriptions and Careers, Career and Job Opportunities, Career Search, and Career Choices and ProfilesJob Search, Job Interview Questions, & Job Interview TipsSlippery Salary Slopes - Keep Your Salary Expectations Current, Ask And You Shall Receive More Salary, Avoid Locking Yourself In To A Low Salary