Hands down, salary is always the most sensitive part of any recruiter/candidate conversation. A little more than a year ago, I wrote about how important it is to know what you want to be paid. I still think that is vital for each and every job seeker to know so that they are able to answer the question…
“ What is your preferred rate?”
It’s always okay to add on to your preferred rate, as a qualifier, if you will. For example, I prefer to be making $50/hr but I’m negotiable. For the right role, I am open to negotiation, but it’s got to be the right role.
Granted most applicant tracking systems don’t allow for the qualifier, so if you’re entering your preferred rate into a system, do so with care. This qualifier conversation is better to have face to face.
With that, what is your reasonable rate? My preferred rate might be $50/hr, but the clerical job I’m applying to may only pay $15/hr. As important it is to know your value, it’s also important to know that every job has a value too.
I write all of this to share with you where my head is as a recruiter. I’m really open and transparent when it comes to the salary discussion with all candidates. I truly don’t want to waste my time or yours if the salary I can pay is not within the realm of your preferred pay. Is that frank discussion a luxury because I focus on temporary hiring? Maybe it is. I prefer to think it’s good recruiting. Lately, I find I am running into more and more candidates that talk about a preferred rate and then do two things:
- Accept a role without finalizing the rate first
- Come back to negotiate
Ugh. Don’t ever, and I mean ever, go down the path of interviewing for a job without assessing the rate. And never, never accept any kind of role without finalizing your pay first. I consider this phenomenon a weird take on that old TLC show “Say Yes To The Dress.” People hunting for THE “dress”–the dress that is so important to them for that very huge day. It’s an event, and it’s not taken lightly. The dress(es) are tried on and viewed from a variety of angles, and the price always plays a huge part. How much debt are buyers willing to take on? Will they be resolved to stick to their budget?
No one buys the dress and then says “hey, I’d really rather pay $200 rather than $2,000.” They talk budget and price ranges from the get-go.
Your pay negotiation is along the same vein. You’re not going to win if you’ve already had pre-acceptance conversations detailing the job, discussing your background, and noting your preferred rate, just to come back and request several thousand more after accepting. Especially if it’s not realistic for the role.
You’ve also lost your power at this point.
There is always power in negotiating, and it shifts from one person to the next. If you’ve already accepted the job and then say, “hold up, I need more money,” I’m thinking that’s not entirely true. I’m thinking your game was to come in at the rate offered, but then someone in your life, not privy to all of your conversations with the recruiter, has told you to negotiate.
There’s one sure thing you need to prepare for before these conversations, and that is for the recruiter to walk. As amazing as the unemployment rate is, it has forced recruiters to have a “silver medalist” candidate for every role. There is always someone waiting in the wings for that position you think is so amazing.
What’s the absolute best practice for candidates? When you get to that initial screening call, start closing your recruiter. Yes, you, close your recruiter. Talk about your preferred rate, find out if that’s reasonable, and then, determine if it’s really worth moving forward. If you find a job you love, and the rate’s not right, find a way to make your peace. We all take jobs at one point or another in our careers for the experience, and that experience is often what increases our ability to navigate and negotiate higher pay when we move to our next gig. Know your value, know the job’s value, and navigate the pay conversation before you accept that awesome job. There will be no regrets.
Kelly is the Recruitment Manager for Westat, a leading social science research organization headquartered in Rockville, Maryland.