The January jobs report, with its 227,000 new jobs, confirmed that the economic recovery has traction.
However, you realize there is still stiff competition for executive level positions. In many fields there remains a talent glut. Of course, you want to do everything right in applying for jobs.
Now, online ads ask for salary numbers
That’s why you become uneasy as more and more online help-wanted ads request you put in black and white your compensation expectation. In addition, they might require a salary history. .
This is the new reality. Recruiters are getting “down to business” fast. That’s because they do not want to invest time vetting applicants whose compensation requirements turn out to be beyond their budgets. The hiring process is expensive.
On the one hand, you fear that your number will be beyond what the job pays. That means your application will be tossed. Or, on the other hand, you could underprice yourself. Research and experience show that it takes about 2 years to renegotiate compensation. During that time, you lose financial ground.
4 Options to Consider
Well, in this turbulent marketplace for talent there are no longer absolute right answers. However, there are 4 options which successful job applicants can leverage to navigate and negotiate the compensation issue.
(1) Do your homework. Before beginning a job search research compensation trends for the kinds of jobs in the kinds of companies you approach. That includes websites such as salary.com or payscale.com. Also, contact trusted colleagues and acquaintances on professional networks such as LinkedIn about salary patterns.
If you did due diligence comprehensively, you can calculate what you could request in various scenarios:
• Large companies, midsize/small ones and startups.
• Enterprises known to be generous with compensation and those whose culture values frugality.
• Successes flush with cash and the bankrupt whose executive compensation is monitored by the court.
When it’s a blind ad, that is, the company is not identified, sift through the details to see if you can find clues about its size, culture and finances to help with negotiation positions.
(2) Insert the number “0” or insert word “negotiable, if you cannot leave the field blank. This is permissible, unless there is an explicit statement such as “Applications not accepted without specific salary figure.” This tactic gives you time to learn more about the particular job. Also, if you wait, it’s possible the company will put a number out there first, which is a preferred tactic. That’s exactly what you want.
That’s the numbers part. The rest of your cover letter or “pitch” should present your strongest evidence why you are the best fit for the position. Quantify recent accomplishments which would be similar to what you can achieve at this company. It’s no longer adequate to position yourself as capable of performing the job. Companies are moving toward the lean model. That means that every hire has to create unique value.
To get recruiters attention immediately, front-load that data in the email subject line and first few paragraphs. Use the phrase “the edge.”
(3) Provide a range. Remember that, just as in selling real estate, you can always go down but never up. That range should not be so broad that it does not indicate to recruiters your general expectations. Narrow parameters such as $230,000 to $250,000 tell them you are ready to start the conversation about money.
Some contend that using precise numbers such as “$233,500 to $245,500” signals that you have given serious thought to the calculation. You can try A/B testing your stated range.
Now that you have given the range, your pitch must explain, in detail, why you are worth that amount of money. In essence, you frame your past performance as evidence that you can achieve the results needed for this job. And better than the other job applicants. A fundamental of game theory is that you anticipate competitor moves. Then you create yours to out-maneuver them.
For example, based on your experience or competitive intelligence, you expect the other applicants only will play the innovation card. You do that but also highlight a track record in project management. The latter is “the edge.”
(4) Framing compensation history. Providing what you have earned in the past can be a neutral issue. That occurs when your job search follows a traditional pattern. Positions you apply for offer at least a 10 percent increase.
In providing this data , as Benjamin Franklin observed, honesty in the best policy. Companies are likely to verify. For example, they can require tax records.
The subject of previous compensation becomes problematic when you are applying for positions which pay less. For companies this can be a red flag. Will you bolt when there is a higher-paying job? Will you be dissatisfied with the lower-paying job?
Here are 4 ways to try to reassure recruiters you will be committed:
• Explain you are trading off money to learn a new skill. Once you prove yourself, in several years, you hope to renegotiate compensation.
• You understand wage differences in this region versus your previous location.
• Compensation consists of more than money. You value the culture and benefits.
• Your family’s financial situation has changed. You do not need as much money as before and can choose a job you love.
Focus on selling yourself and the value to bring for the request compensation, not just the numbers.
Beware. Dealing with the numbers so early in the job-search process can distract you. That is why you have to push yourself to stay focused on the purpose of the cover letter. That is to sell yourself. Persuasive cover letters can motivate recruiters to offer you more than planned. Nothing, especially compensation ranges for executive positions, is cast in stone in these disruptive times.
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