You’ve been told that you are going to get the job offer. You think to yourself, “I should be after the three weeks and the 15 interviews I have gone through.” But before the offer can be delivered the recruiter says that she just wants to get a few pieces of information so that they can make you a job offer that you can accept on the spot when the hiring manager calls tomorrow.
“That sounds great,” you say. “Almost there”, you think, “Just don’t let me blow this now.”
The recruiter asks, “How much was your salary at your last job and what are you expecting in this position?”
You freeze. “Oh no, what do I say now?” Your heart pounds so loud that you think they must be able to hear it on the other end of the phone. All of a sudden your conscience says to you loud and clear, “Tell it like it was, and tell the truth!” But that other little guy on the other shoulder whispers in a voice that is only your own, “Inflate it by ten thousand dollars, they are only going to negotiate you down to where you were before anyway.”
The pause seems like an eternity, until the recruiter says, “Are you still there?”
This is the moment of truth and you will be forever judged by the recruiter by what you do at this moment. Your choices are to tell the truth and take the chance that you are underselling yourself. Or to inflate, not tell the truth and if found out in a reference check, either don’t get the job after all, or have the recruiter always remember that you didn’t tell it like it was.
Here’s what you need to know: you need to tell the truth. So many people don’t that the recruiter comes with the assumption that you are inflating the truth anyway. How many times have I been told, “Well, I make XXX dollars a year, but I am up for an increase next month where I am expecting an increase of X%, which is the highest that we give at my level.” I am consistently amazed at my timing to recruit people who are all one month away from their next pay increase.
I am advocating today, here and now, that the truth and nothing but the truth, will win out every time.
Secondly, I am advocating that transparent, needs-based salary negotiations are the way to go. Needs-based salary is another way of saying the monetary amount you need to make ends meet – if you end up taking a job that pays less than what you need, you will have a bigger problem coming soon. One thing we all can agree on is that we have baseline needs to satisfy the bottom of Maslow’s hierarchy. Plus, you don’t really know what the company can afford as you don’t know if the job posting salary was a target, the top of the range or the bottom of the range. (You can better be informed of course today more than ever by looking at the thousands of salary reports on Glassdoor.com). But since there is still a bit of guessing going on, it’s best to lead with: “Here is what I need and why.”
I once had a person who I was trying to hire who desperately wanted the job, but the fact of the matter was that the salary we could afford to offer was going to be ludicrous given that he and his wife would need to move their five kids from Texas to California and keep any semblance of their current lifestyle. He wanted the job so badly that he was considering buying a 2-bedroom home to start. I don’t have kids but even I knew that 5 kids and two adults in two bedrooms were just not going to work. After evaluating his needs together, we both came to the conclusion that this wasn’t a good move for him. However, on the other hand, there have been many a situation where I have moved the salary up to accommodate real needs that are unique and personal that I never would have known had the person not been open and honest about their situation.
Bottom line is that there is always a bottom line and in this time of uncertainty, changing rules and shifting expectations, opening up “your books” and telling it like it is creates more of an opportunity for dialogue and finding more common ground than not.
Try it. What do you really have to lose?