Many candidates lose a job opportunity by negotiating salary too soon…and they don’t even realize it. The employer asks what you are looking for and you answer with a specific number. Yikes! Once you quote a specific salary, you have started the negotiations. Perhaps you quoted too low, and now they wonder if you are really qualified. Or, they do want to make you an offer but not they can keep you at the low end of the potential range. Even worse, you may have quoted too high, and they may already eliminate you from consideration.
How to prepare? First, understand that salary is only one aspect of your total compensation. Determine in advance, what your total needs are including salary, vacation, benefits, commuting costs, etc. Decide where you are able to be flexible. How to answer that question? First, ask the employer what the salary range is for the position and you can then affirm (or not!) that the range is within your ballpark. Of course, they may not be willing to provide that information to you. Alternatively, you can state that you would like to be paid fairly for the level of the position and try to avoid further discussion about it until an actual offer is on the table. Also, you can quote a salary range that you are looking for, based on a determination of your needs. Be cautious though – do not say it is based on your needs – state that it is based on fair market value and you can easily fine this info online beforehand (try www.salary.com). Do some research to see what average salaries are for your position and level, and now you will have factual info to quote to the employer as to what ranges are appropriate for your level. Let them know that the acceptable salary offered will be influenced by what is included in the rest of the compensation package. Remember, keep a poker face during these discussions and always let them know how excited you are about the position itself. You may be surprised how employers rise above their initially quoted range to close a deal when they can focus on your value and not get bogged down by the numbers coming up too soon in the process.
Do you use Facebook, Myspace, and other social media for having fun communicating with your friends? As many of you know, these sites have become very popular for connecting with friends including posting pictures (not all discreet) and sharing personal life events (some very personal!). What you may not know, is that employers are utilizing these sites as well to check you out! AND they are making hiring decisions based on this information. In addition to the usual reference checks, employers can visit these sites and learn all sorts of interesting things about you from a highly reliable source – YOU. Of course, you may protest that this is an invasion of privacy or that info posted there is personal and not work related. However, the cruel reality is this: whatever you post on the Internet is obviously no longer “private”. Information that you post will be accepted as reliable, even if you made it up to impress your friends. Employers will form judgments about your personality, your ethics, your trustworthiness, etc. to determine whether you are the kind of person they want working for them. By the way, employers are also Googling your name to see what type of cool info – or what kind of “digital dirt” pops up about you.*
So, what can you do about this? Well, for starters, if you are in job search mode, be cautious as to what you post on these sites. You may want to consider removing some of those pictures from last week’s keg party. Next, there are privacy controls on these sites – so learn what they are and how to use them. Another idea is to check out industry blogs (use technorati.com to search for blogs by topic) and comment intelligently on them – this raises your Google presence and can help promote a more professional image. You can also participate in LinkedIn to enhance your image, a business networking site considered reputable and professional. Guess it’s like anything these days – you may be frustrated by the information I’m sharing with you, but being informed allows you to make choices and have some control in the process. Happy postings!
*(A great resource for professionals on building your online identity – Career Distinction by William Arruda and Kirsten Dixson.)