Category Archives: Negotiating

The salary question is illegal in MA

MA just passed a law making it illegal to ask your current or past salary before they have made you a job offer!

Here is the article.

I have to admit, I did not see that one coming.

How to talk about money in a job interview

beggar on the street

You aren’t a beggar in a job interview.

Do you hate to be asked about money in an interview?  Are you afraid it will go something like this:

“I really like your background.  I think you would do well.  How much less than $55,000 will you take as a base salary?”

You probably won’t be asked that particular question. It is brutally bad. But it does happen.

Employers hate to ask any money question.  It isn’t polite.  But, you and the employer need to be in the same salary ballpark. Wouldn’t you feel upset if after 3 interviews over a period of a month you were offered a salary of half of what you are willing to take?

What makes the money question worse is that you cannot give a solid answer and win.  If you give a number too high, they may refuse to continue the interviews.  If you give a number too low, they’ll pay that low number and not a higher one you could have gotten.

There is only one way to answer the question.

  1. Compliment — Start out with a compliment.
  2. My now — Let them know what you earn now or in your last job.
  3. Best offer — tell them you want to hear their best offer.

Here’s an example:

“How much do we have to pay you?”

“(Compliment) I like this company.  The opportunity is just what I am looking forward to.  The team is a real winner too.

(My now) I currently earn a $63,000 base plus a bonus of $2500 last year.  I certainly wouldn’t want to earn less.

(Best offer) What I would like is to be able to entertain your best offer.

This answer gives them information to work with.  It is not a refusal.  The heartfelt compliments at the start make them feel good.  You tell them what your baseline for comparison is.  Finally you give them a chance to be generous.

Can I bring up money?

Don’t bring up money in any interview, ever, unless you get a feeling they are going to be way too low. Even then, use the 3 step formula. You can discuss your expectations with an outside recruiter/headhunter any time, but not with the company’s internal HR recruiter or a company interviewer until they bring it up.

If you have questions about benefits, vacations, the 401K program, relocation payments, or other benefits you can ask the internal HR recruiter when you are interviewing face-to-face with HR. You can ask the external recruiter/headhunter any time.

So, what do I do?

Wait for them to mention money, then 1. Compliment them, 2. Tell them your “now”, 3. Ask for their best offer.

Never, ever suggest they don’t have to pay you.  What they pay for, they’ll value.  What they get for free, they’ll take for granted, and then demand as a right.  Hold them up for all the market will bear.  (Lois Bujold)

Something To Do Today

Most people cannot clearly state what they earn.  I don’t know why.  Before you go on an interview write down the clearest, shortest way you can state your current earnings.  Then practice answering “the money question”.

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Next:     Why are you leaving your job?

Later:     Will you do anything we ask?

Where else are you interviewing?

Why don’t they give you an answer, Yes or No?

$250,000 too proud

bus wreck

Over negotiating can be a wreck. Watch out.

How hard do you negotiate? If you are critical to a project’s success, shouldn’t you be really well paid? The job market is hot.  A lot of employers are not finding the right person.

Here’s an example I was part of:

Mike’s expertise selling into FEMA was critical.  Their product was more than an idea, but not a proven solution.  Mike was already calling on FEMA contacts even though he wasn’t officially on payroll.  The feds wanted their product.  This would be a big win for everyone.

Mike had been unemployed for 8 months and was running out of money.  This was juicy.  If Mike quit or was fired the day after he started, he’d still get $250,000.  The commissions would double that. Still, he was worried he wouldn’t get everything he deserved.  The contract wasn’t tight enough.  What about bonuses in year 4?  He brought in the best lawyer he could find.  The company balked at his demands, his lack of flexibility.

Then the lawyers and the dragging negotiations wounded Mike’s pride.  A venture capitalist said the wrong thing.  The CEO didn’t want to completely get rid of the non-compete agreement since there was a one year severance guarantee.

Mike quit the negotiations. The product was cancelled.  The company was closed.

A cynic is not merely one who reads bitter lessons from the past, he is one who is prematurely disappointed in the future.  (Harris)

What hurt the most was that it took Mike six more months to get a different job.  That job paid half as much with no commissions or bonuses.  He had to clean out his savings accounts and sell his cars to survive.  Mike told me, “My pride cost me $250,000.   That was the best offer I ever had. What was I thinking?”

This was an extreme case.  The problem was pride.  When you know you are essential to a project, you want to be treated with respect.  Sometimes that respect kindles the flame of overarching pride.

The job market is really heating up.  I am seeing more examples of this destructive pride.  A manager once told me his policy is, “If two people are absolutely critical to a project and they disagree violently and refuse to compromise or go down one of the two paths, FIRE THEM BOTH.”

Don’t forget, even if you are irreplaceable, the project can be cancelled.  There are always alternatives for an employer.

Don’t let destructive pride make you expendable.

Something To Do Today

Have you ever withdrawn from a job or promotion pool because it took too long to get a decision?  Realistically look back.  What did you gain?

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Later:      How fast?

Daydream

Audible

Down by 20 at halftime

One fully preventable way to lose a job offer

Men running across dollars

Are you killing your job search with impatient speed?

When the fit between a candidate and the job seems perfect, and there is a delay, I often hear:

“I’ve been waiting two weeks to hear back from them since my interview.  What is wrong?  They are so rude.  Don’t they realize I am losing any desire I had to work there? Why can’t they make a decision about me?  I wish they’d just call it off.  Look Bryan, tell them no.  Withdraw my name from consideration.  I don’t want to work with wishy-washy know nothings.  Take me out of the job pool.”

Did you notice the focus on “I”?  The whole tirade is about “my needs”.   Not a word in there about what the company needs.  Nothing about due diligence.  No concerns about the company being sure they can keep him on payroll.

A cynic is not merely one who reads bitter lessons from the past, he is one who is prematurely disappointed in the future.  (Harris)

Companies postpone decisions for a lot of valid reasons that they never tell candidates. Some winning candidates can’t take it.  They can do the job.  They’d love the job. They just can’t believe that the company doesn’t love them enough to make an immediate offer.

A while back I took a guy out of the running for a $200,000/year job.  He was perfect for it.  He just couldn’t stand waiting.  The CEO was surprised because he was at the point of making the final decision.  Of course, another guy got the job.

Are you the guy who meets a girl and after an hour says, “Let’s cut to the chase.  I’m hot.  You’re hot.  Baby, if you won’t MARRY me tonight, you must not like me. Let’s just call the whole thing off.”

What does it hurt to wait?  If the company puts you on the backburner to keep you warm, why not just stay warm?  If another great job comes up, take it.  But why get mad?  Is your ego so big that you can’t let a situation gel for a month?  Are you such a hottie that you can’t be ignored?  Get real.  The company you are applying to is not being run just to offer you a job.

Prepare for success.  Be presentably persistent.  Then take all the time you need to win.  That’s how careers are built.

Something To Do Today

Have you ever withdrawn from a job or promotion pool because it took too long to get a decision?  Realistically look back.  What did you gain?

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Next:   Job security – what permanent means

$250,000 too proud

How fast

Daydream

Audible

Down by 20 at halftime

How to heal a project or job search before it breaks: Dr. No

Doctor No can heal a case of pebbles. It can fix a project or job search before it breaks. How?  You make the people giving you a pebble, one more little thing to do, fix the problem they create.  They become Dr. No.

stacked rocks

Is your to-do list impossibly tall?

The team leader I disliked personally the most was a good project manager. I loved working for him. One redeeming social skill was that he knew about Dr No.  When he was asked to add just a little more to a project he would agree and then ask what he got to drop to make up for adding that little bit.  He did it religiously. He didn’t just say, “No,” he used the Doctor No approach. He asked the person adding work to heal the problem he was causing. He asked the manager, boss team leader, or project manager, “What can I now say “No” to? My team can’t do it all, so help me say “No” to another project, specification, or task. He turned the person giving him the work into Doctor No, a healer.

I hate firefighters–people who commit a project to disaster.  The most difficult problem for firefighters is to say, “NO!”  It is hard to refuse to carry a mountain as it is thrust upon you one pebble at a time by smiling friends.  Still, you MUST gently refuse the pebbles.  The best way I have found to refuse pebbles of additional work is to require the person handing you the pebble to tell you which other pebble you can drop. They become Doctor No and fix your time and resource problems.

The velvet glove on the steel fist comes in handy here. As the person trying to hand you the pebble tells you how small it is, you have to clearly tell them it will not get done unless they tell you what else to drop. When they say, “You decide,” tell them, “I won’t do your task unless YOU tell me what to drop.” If you absolutely can’t get them to let you drop something, you then decide to drop something.  Tell everyone by voice AND memo what will not get done due to the specific additional burdens placed on you by this specific person.  Then “don’t do” what you said you wouldn’t do.

Circulate a list of unfinishable projects. Put them in order of importance. Let everyone else fight for the priorities on the list. Make it clear they will probably not get done. When you or your team gets lucky and finishes something unexpectedly early, you look like a wizard.  Remember Scotty in the original Star Trek series?  That was his management style.

The best defense against the atom bomb is not to be there when it goes off. (unkn)

Does this apply to job hunting?  Absolutely.  My blog and books can give you more information on job hunting than they can possibly apply in a day, week or month.  Doctor No is about prioritizing.  If you ask me what order to do things in, I’ll tell you.  Otherwise I expect you to figure out what is most important and drop the rest. For your job search, demand that you, yourself be Dr. No.

The team leader I disliked the most personally, was the best manager, and I really appreciated it.  He could get me to go the extra mile because he used Dr. No.

Dr. No is about setting priorities.  It is a nice way to get the people overloading you to help unload some of the burden.  Turn those people into Doctor No. Let them be the healer.

Something To Do Today

Most people are afraid to try the Doctor No approach.  Try it out the first time with a smaller project, something thrust on you that really is not that significant.  Don’t say, I’ll try to get that done and then stay late to finish it.  Ask the person to help you figure out what to drop instead.  If they won’t tell you what to drop, tell them it won’t get done until they open up a hole in your schedule for you to do it.  Then don’t do it.  Your pebble pushers need to find out you are serious.

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Later:               Dead fish

Poisons

Liars

How to work a convention

Non-compete agreement abuse

Nothing more completely baffles one who is full of trick and duplicity than straightforward and simple integrity in another. (Colton)

Non-competes

For a year Jim did a two hour commute-one way, every day.  What a horrible thought.  He did it to get out of a non-compete agreement.  Do you think he will ever sign another one?

Lawyers in Pennsylvania are expressly prohibited by law from having non-competes for lawyers.  It is unfair, they say, to do that to lawyers and their clients.  A lawyer leaving a law firm SHOULD be allowed to steal clients.  So why do non-competes apply to everyone else? Because lawyers are paid to write them.

There are reasons to sign a broadly applicable non-compete agreement:

  1. You will be trained from total ignorance to blinding expertise and will be paid lavishly with a guarantee of 1 year of pay after you are fired or quit.

Not a long list.  Is it?

Here’s a list reasons to sign a limited non-compete agreement:

  1. You will learn crucial trade secrets
  2. You might steal customers or employees
  3. You will receive some training and the costs need to be repaid

A simple non-compete clause is the most dangerous. You can be barred from every job in an industry or area if your contract only says, “You will not compete.” Make sure any contract you sign clearly states what specific things you are not allowed to do.  It should list:

  1. A reasonable period of time that you cannot compete (never more than a year)
  2. A precise group you are not allowed to work for or call on
  3. Specific jobs you cannot do for someone else
  4. A geographic area it applies to (within 35 or 50 miles of where you worked)

If you don’t like a contract, change it.  Cross out sections and write in the margins.  Initial the changes.  Handwritten changes on a contract take precedence over the typeset text.

Take control.  You want a job, not a prison.  You need freedom to take another job in order to make this one worthwhile.  Have the guts to change a contract that is too restrictive.  You’ll be surprised how often your changes are accepted.  If they are not accepted, leave.  Value your freedom.

Something To Do Today

Time to gossip.  Ask people you know or strangers you meet at bars or the gym about non-compete agreements.  Get them to tell you horror stories they have heard of.  You will be appalled.  It is an education you need.

 

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Later:

Coyote traps – when to gnaw off your arm

Glass ceilings

The hours game

How much do we have to pay you? – The correct answer

It’s your first interview.  Things are going well.  The wall clock says you’ve been here 45 minutes.  That’s good.  Then the hirer sits back in his chair and asks, “How much do we have to pay you?”

This can be a disaster.  If you come up with too big of a number, they won’t hire you.  If the number is too small you won’t earn as much as you could.  Is there any way to win?

Your answer needs to show a great attitude.  It can’t sound like you are greedy.  It must leave the door open for negotiations.  It has to get you a job offer so you can really start negotiating. Try this:

 “I really like the opportunity you have described to me.  This is a great company.  I would love to come to work for you.  In my last job I earned (amount), I certainly wouldn’t want to work for less.  What I would like… is to be able to entertain your best offer.”

Show them your attitude first.  Let them know you like the company and the job.  Give them the historical fact of what you last earned.  Then defuse the question by saying you want to see their best offer.

This line works.  Most of the time they’ll stop asking you for a number. If they ask you again, repeat the line. Eventually you’ll be negotiating wages, but try to put it off until they really want to make you an offer.

Use the money question to show your attitude.  You’ll get more job offers. You’ll also make more money.

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Something To Do Today

Put this question and answer down in your interview preparation notes.  Practice saying it five times before every phone interview or in-person interview.

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Later:             My last job stunk

Fired!

Salary negotiation and gender judo for women (and men)

Women have to be careful how they ask for a raise.  Sorry, there are just some prejudices that can cause trouble.

In this article they give several salary negotiation tips that work great for women, and also great for men.

Your job search: the poker game

If you look at every job search decision, action, and result as a measure of your worth, you are setting yourself up for massive failure.  In this article a world renowned poker player talks about evaluating decisions based on the information you had at the time you made the decision.

There may be absolutely nothing you can do to win a job you are perfectly qualified for.  If one of the other candidates is married to the boss’s daughter, you lose.

In survival, you control what you can control, and let God take care of the rest.  In job hunting, interviews, negotiations, and job performance, you control what you can control and let go of the rest.  You can’t win every hand.

This is a great article on poker and business.

What can I do to double my income?

Here is the truth no politician, few economists, few teachers want to tell people, and that few people want to hear: certain jobs are only worth a certain, maximum number of dollars per hour, whether you’ve been there doing it for one year, ten years, or thirty years. Longevity does not necessarily merit more money because the individual’s length of time on the job does not necessarily increase the real value of getting that job done. (Dan Kennedy)

Many helpdesk people would be happy to get their income up to $35,000 per year. They are doing a helpdesk job that requires a few months of education and some ability with computers. 

I am doing a search for a helpdesk person who will earn $75,000.  If I can find the right person, they will be hired in 2 weeks.  There will be no quibbling about the salary.  It really is just a helpdesk job.  But this job requires experience setting up security between servers and applications.  This helpdesk person is going to be helping experts. 

I know CPA’s who are Controllers earning $45,000 per year and others earning $250,000 per year.  Some of those $45K Controllers work longer hours than the ones earning $250K.

The difference is that the people earning less are easy to replace. They have prepared themselves only so much, and demand only a little from their jobs and themselves.  Those earning the big bucks have taken risks, educated themselves, taken responsibility, and proven that they will make or save a lot of money for their company.  

How you double your income is to prepare yourself for a job where you will be hard to replace.  And you will have to be willing to change jobs, if not companies. You have to become a people person and a problem solver.  If someone believes you will make them $4,000,000 in profit this year, they will pay you a $250,000 salary without blinking.  If you work for a company with total revenue of $250,000, you couldn’t possibly be worth that much in salary.  If you can be replaced by a smart person with a month’s worth of training, you will probably earn less than $40K, no matter how good you are.

You can double your income.  I have seen it done in one or two years by people earning $20K and $100K.  It took, training, people skills, hard work, focus on what’s important, and earning or saving their company a lot of money.