Category Archives: Negotiating

Why do I make less (or more) money? And how do I get more?

A raise is like a martini: it elevates the spirit, but only temporarily. (Dan Seligman)

Harrisburg, PA is a money pit.  Washington, DC is a cash mountain 2 hours away.  Many jobs pay twice as much in Washington, DC.  Let’s make it worse.  An hour north of Harrisburg, in beautiful rural Perry County, pay is even less than in Harrisburg.

I have moved people to Harrisburg for less than half their previous pay.  Those people were thrilled.  Their commute was cut from 3 hours a day to 20 minutes.  They got to choose a great school district for their kids.  They sold their highly mortgaged 3 bedroom house on a postage stamp lot. By moving they got the option of buying a bigger house free and clear or getting a mansion with a mortgage.

State government jobs pay pretty well around here.  This is the state capital.  Corporate management, computers, sales and other jobs pay less.  Here’s why:

You get paid what is necessary to keep your job competently filled.

In Washington, DC highly skilled people only have to think of switching jobs and they have 3 offers.  The cost of living and commute times are so horrible that no one really looks forward to moving to DC, except from Boston or San Francisco.  If DC companies don’t pay a fortune in salary, everyone will leave.  DC residents will quickly go to another company or move to Omaha.

In Harrisburg, PA a project manager, marketer or COO will have to really look for a job.  They may get lucky, or they may look a year. There is no feeding frenzy by employers.  Of course if you want a lot more money you can move to DC.

Where you live, companies pay what is necessary to keep your job competently filled.  That is all.  A few companies demand greater results and pay more. Your salary is really dependent on the cost to replace you with someone who is competent.

So how do I get more money?

Get so much better than competent that you can’t be replaced at your current salary.  Raise the benchmark performance for your job. Get a promotion or at least get recognized as exceptional.  Make sure your boss knows how much you are worth.

Something to do today

Find out how much you should be earning from several sources. Google “salary” and try three different services for the exact same job. Then think about why all three came up with different numbers.


Daydreams, plans and the future

Inventing your next job

Religion, politics, sexuality and job hunting

Don’t say these things when you ask for a raise

Asking for a raise can get you more money, or damage your career.  At times it can get you fired.  Here are 9 things not to day when asking for a raise.

8 steps to start a salary bidding war


No, $82,500 plus free healthcare.

We’ll pay $85,400 plus healthcare plus 401k matching.

Recruiters hate it.  Job hunters love it.  I’m insane for telling you about it.

2 or 3 simultaneous job offers can be exciting and pay well.  How do you get people making offers to keep raising the salary and benefits? Luck is only part of it.  Here are some other ways to make it happen:

  • Make a list of companies you want to move to.
  • Submit resumes 2 months before you plan to quit. Call hiring managers.
  • In interviews let them know when you want to start your new job.
  • Always ask what the next interview or job hiring step is.
  • Stay on top of every potential job.
  • Let the recruiters know what step you are in at other companies.
  • Be fair.  Disclose the offers to everyone.
  • When you make a commitment, stop accepting offers.


A lot of companies refuse to play the bidding game. They make their best offer first.  They also offer more than just more money.  They offer a career cannon that will propel you where you want to go.

Don’t get so caught up in a bidding war that you forget that a quality offer at a quality company is a better long term bet.

Something to do today

Make a list of 10 or 20 companies you want to go to work for.  Make an action list so you can do a great job of applying to all of them in a week.


Later: Top secret job hunting

Read want ads even if you are NOT job hunting

Free career intelligence

How to turn your dishwasher into a snowplow

Most people REALLY don’t negotiate salary

The survey says that most people are scared to negotiate salaries.

Read here about the worries and hope that people REALLY feel when negotiating salary.

How you can accidentally make job search success impossible

This story relates directly to your job search, phone calls, interviews, writing your resume, and getting a job offer.

Complete panic, worry, and unhealthy fear were created by my 17 year old daughter as she graduated from high school. In an hour she was going to get her wisdom teeth removed. She’d kill me if I use her name, so let’s call her Gina.

Gina and a friend spent a few days swapping stories about cowardice in the face of needles. They talked about it often enough to amplify their concerns. So Gina was panicked about getting the IV before they put her under. The thought of getting near a needle is horrible to her now. Her friend was bragging about cowering against a wall while she was restrained two years ago to get an inoculation. Gina was fantasizing about how badly she would react when the needle gets close.

Gina came back from the oral surgeon alive.  She had tears streaming down her face before the needle even touched her. She had three holes in her arm because they didn’t get it right. I think part of the problem was hers. Competent nurses became incompetent when faced with her dread and complete lack of faith.

People who need to leave their job are often the same way. They focus on visions of starvation and divorce for months and years before they leave.  All the horrors stories they have ever heard play through their mind over and over.  The will to better themselves is frozen and then shattered by fear.

Even worse than mere fear, you can attract all your worst dreams to you.  As you concentrate on horrible possibilities, you will be drawn to those situations.  The characteristics you concentrate on, will be in your new company.

I don’t know the exact mechanism, but most people get the job they think about the most.  If they concentrate on finding a great job, they usually find at least a good one.  If they concentrate on avoiding horrible, mean spirited, lying, deceitful people in their new company, the usually join below average or horrible companies.  They get the coworkers they dreaded. They are trapped in job after job in companies of despair.

Instead of spending your time talking to someone unemployed who lost their job in November of 2011, talk to someone who just got a new job. Talk to people who have made great job choices. Reminisce with folks who did things right.

Look for a job while you are still employed.  Find out about the company you are moving to.  Talk to your new coworkers before you take the job.  There is a lot less danger than you have been worrying about.

If you concentrate on the positive, you will find the good in every experience.  If you concentrate on the negative, you won’t have a good experience, no matter how good the experience is. You can make good things possible or impossible.

Something to do today

Make a list of the people who tell horrible war stories about job changes.  Stay away from them.  Stay away from everyone who teaches you fear and panic.

Buy The New Psycho-Cybernetics by Maxwell Maltz, or Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill.  Read it. Absorb it.


Later: The rubber band solution for nervousness

10 salary negotiation myths

Well, almost 10 myths.  I would say myth #5 is a myth.  See my column for today.

The others are pretty good if taken in context that some companies just do not negotiate.

Read the 10 myths here.

Can you get away without saying what you were paid?

Last week, a suspicious person wouldn’t tell me what they make.  In an unusual move, I didn’t just slam the phone down.  The job they applied for was in the offer stage to another candidate, so it wasn’t worth arguing.  Besides, they may change their mind about sharing their salary.

No, I won’t tell you what I make.  If I do, you will base my offer on my past compensation.

I put up with that as a beginning recruiter.  I got burned in three ways:

  1. I made offers that were offensively low.
  2. I put people in jobs they couldn’t do.
  3. I looked like an idiot when I couldn’t say what my candidates earned.

Now, I understand that the real problem is trust.

If you really think you are horribly underpaid, why should you trust me to pay you what you are worth?  If you don’t trust me, you will also be hesitant to tell me why you are underpaid.  You are sure I will use that information to underpay you again.

Coming into a new area with a lower wage scale, switching jobs to one with lesser pay, not being appreciated, or just being incompetent are all scary.  If you have been on several interviews and don’t believe they told you the truth about why you were not hired, you won’t want to tell anyone your old salary. You don’t trust them to evaluate you without worrying about your past pay rate.

If you’re afraid to let someone else see your weakness, take heart: Nobody’s perfect. Besides, your attempts to hide your flaws don’t work as well as you think they do.  (Julie Morgenstern)

Get over it.

You will be hired and paid based on your past wages and your job interview.  Those are the facts.  I helped a programmer get a 50% pay raise going to a new job.  He interviewed well and was obviously underpaid.  I helped another programmer take a 50% pay cut.  He was moving from one of the highest wage areas in the US to a modest one during a recession.  In both cases the last salary was significant, but the interview made the difference.  In both cases the hiring manager believed the candidate.  The manager didn’t want the candidates to leave for another job, so he offered the best possible wage in both cases. He offered an appropriate wage.

I will no longer put up with that lack of trust.  If I can’t get a candidate to trust me by the second time I talk to them, I give up.

Why it really keeps you from being hired

People who refuse to trust don’t interview well.  They are scared about what will happen when the question of past salary comes up.  They over-promise.  They hide other things. Interviewers feel the evasion and lack of trust. Even if they can’t name the problem, they won’t hire the person.

Get over it.  Learn to discuss your salary or you will do yourself more harm than can possibly be fixed by your new pay rate.

Something to do today

If you can’t stand talking about salary, you’d better practice.


Later: 3 kinds of death

20 second interview prime time

Should I trust an HR recruiter?

Should I trust an agency recruiter?

How to be ruined or win with the money question

Alice came in and told us she wanted $110,000 per year minimum or she wouldn’t even consider another job.  We tried to get her to be reasonable.  Because of her previous salary, $95,000 or less was much more reasonable. As recruiters we decided to send her anyway.  When it got to negotiations the company was not willing to go anywhere near $110,000.  We called Alice and told her to forget it.  She panicked, “What do you mean you turned them down for me?  I would gladly take $92,000.  What were you thinking?”

We were thinking exactly what she told us.  Therein lies the problem when you are looking for a job:

Ask for too little and they will pay you too little. Ask too much and they might not even make you an offer.

Alice was lucky on two counts, first that we let her interview for the job, and second that the company made any offer at all.

How to win (or not lose) on the money question

Be honest with your recruiter.  Tell him the truth so he can negotiate for you. If you change your mind up or down, tell him immediately.  Give him a chance to negotiate for you in good faith.

Give the employer a sandwich.  Soft bread slices with meat in-between.  The soft bread on each side of the meat is a compliment on their company and job.  The meat is to tell them what you have made in the past. Tell them the facts.

Try saying, “I really like this company and job.  I would love to work for you.  In my last job I earned $58,000 last year.  I certainly would not want to work for less.  What I would like is to be able to entertain your best offer.  I certainly want to work for you.” Did you notice the bread, meat, bread lines?

Then let them go back and discuss what to offer you.

Telling people the truth is the way to get the best offer.  Tell them what they need to hear, not necessarily what they ask.

Something to do today

Try to figure out what other people are making at your same job.  It can be a real eye opener.  I have seen people paid half of what they should be earning sho are happy as clams.  Others earning 20% more than anyone else in a similar job feel underpaid.


Later:          I refuse to say what I get paid

3 kinds of death

20 second interview prime time

Are you too stinkin’ meek?

Are you too stinkin’ meek to get a job, a raise, or a promotion?

One PhD student conceived, executed and documented an experiment that was amazing. He also finished several other lesser experiments.  A week later the professor who supervised his PhD program came back from a trip and said, “You’ve come up with some wonderful results here.  Why don’t you publish most of these experiments in your dissertation, and I will publish this one as my own.  Don’t worry, you will get a footnote for your work.”  The student decided to be what he thought was “meek”.  He let the professor steal his work.  The professor got a Nobel Prize.  The student got a footnote. He resented it the rest of his life.  He became a respected professor of Physics, but never got a Nobel Prize.

Let’s redefine meek.  Meek does not have to mean you let others take advantage of you.  It does not mean you refuse to stand up for yourself.  Meek is not afraid, shy, scared or worried. Jesus Christ was called meek but he used a whip to clear the temple.

One definition of meek includes, “seemly and forbearing…yet strong enough to resist aggression.

My definition:

Meek: someone who knows his place.

I don’t think scared, quiet, shy, and reclusive is meek. It is “crushed” instead of meek.  The “crushed” who do not believe in themselves will not inherit the earth.

The meek person who knows and fills his place WILL inherit the earth.  A King, CEO,  Senior Secretary or Mechanic who knows his value can be meek well paid and rewarded. If you know your place and capabilities, you will not accept less than you should.  If you know your place and value, you will expect and demand to be recognized and rewarded.

Be meek.  Find your place.  Fulfill it.  Accept nothing less than you deserve.  Don’t expect to be a Nobel Prize winner if you haven’t done the work.  Don’t accept being a footnote in a paper you wrote.  Be the author.  Be what you are.

Something to do today

Ask a spouse, friend or coworker if you undervalue or overvalue your own work.  Then just listen and thank them. Don’t attack them or defend yourself.  Just listen and say, “Thank you.”  Be meek. Your job is to listen.



Later:             How to quit

The old boy network

Exploit the old boys

The money question

How to get more vacation at your next job

One of our candidates was offered six weeks of vacation and personal time per year.  It wasn’t a matter of begging, pleading and negotiations.  It was just offered. To tell you the truth, I’m not sure she did anything special in the interviews.  She was just worth it to the company that hired her.

Put on the brakes and read that last sentence over. The way to get more vacation is to be so valuable to the company that they offer it.  I’m always pleased when a job offer comes in with three, four or five weeks of vacation. It means that the job and the candidate matched well at a highly skilled level.

Vacation is what you take when you can’t take what you’ve been taking any longer.  (The Lion)

A recruiter is the best person to get better benefits for you.  He can tell the company exactly what you currently have at the beginning of the process.  He can suggest an extra week of vacation will sweeten the offer.

With or without a recruiter, the time to negotiate for vacation time is after the company has decided to hire you.  If you ask for an extra two weeks of vacation in the first interview, you won’t have a second interview.  A key question you may be asked is, “What is your current compensation package?”  That means they want to know the full cost of hiring you.  It is a very different question from, “What do we have to pay you?”  When the company is asking about your current full compensation you can give them the whole story including pay, vacation, personal days, car allowance, 401K matching and healthcare costs.  Telling the HR person or the hiring committee in your second or third interview your full current pay and benefits is not threatening. Telling the first person you talk to that you need 5 weeks of vacation along with a 30% pay raise and every other Friday off is a mistake.

So, getting your recruiter to get that fourth week of vacation is the best idea.  The time for YOU to ask for more vacation is when the company already knows your current vacation time and wants to hire you.  Then you have some leverage. And the most important point is to make sure you are worth the extra vacation time.  If the company wants your skills enough, they’ll give you all the vacation you want.

Something to do today

Find out from your HR department what your full benefits package is worth.  You need to know vacation days, personal days, sick days, pension contributions, 401K matching, their healthcare costs and what exactly is your contribution to healthcare.  You can add your salary, bonuses and expense allowances to the list.  You may be surprised at the cost of your benefits, and it will be a great thing to know when asked in your job interview.

It is just about the end of the quarter.  Monday would be a great day to give your supervisor a list of your major accomplishments for the quarter and year so far.


Later:                         Moth traps

                                    Slitting your throat with your own teeth