Telephone Interview: salary question

Friday, November 13th, 2009 - Employment, Job Application, Job Interview Questions, Telephone Interview

Telephone Interview: salary question

Stack Of 50 EUR Bills

Mike asks: I just completed a telephone interview, my first interview with that company. I was asked what my salary was in my previous position. I explained that I did not wish to disclose that at this time, but would be willing to discuss compensation should we move further along in the process. He explained that he wished to know up front in order to avoid issues later: “If you are looking for something much more than we are willing to offer . . . ” I replied that the position I’m seeking is similar enough to my previous position (it is) to where we would not end up too far off from one another, and that I consider my comp to be a negotiating point for later. I haven’t interviewed in over 5 years, so I’m not up on what is considered a “reasonable” information request during the first interview. Should I have complied with his request, or is it important for me to hold that close until salary negotiations have begun? I should add that the title, position, and duties of my previous job and the one he is trying to fill are nearly the same, and that the industry standard as well as the regional standard for compensation for that position doesn’t vary that greatly. Still, I’d like to avoid the situation where their proposal is based off of my previous comp rather than a number I propose once I get a better idea of the full scope of the position.

In answer:
I come at this with two hats on – a recruiter who also writes CV’s – and I have the two sides of the answer for you.

Telephone Interview: salary

Here’s the real question: why ask you at the Telephone Interview in the first place? The purpose of the Telephone Interview is to continue the vetting in/out process, and ensure that the skills, qualifications and experiences you claim are actually real and relevant to the position being advertised. Hence, the sole reason the recruiter or employer should be asking this question at the Telephone Interview stage is to ensure that you are within budget at that stage, and they can afford you. They don’t want to waste your time or theirs.

Telephone Interview: negotiation

Secondly, rule number 1 in negotiation is NEVER be the first party to state a numbered price! So, task1 is to get them to state a range: either in the advert or by calling them before applying – you don’t want to be wasting your time either. If they stated a salary range in the advert, or you now have one confirmed before submitting your application, all you need to do when asked is to state is that: “The indicated package seems within the range I would expect for the defined position, and am happy with (their number X) for the defined role. As they are a company that I would really like to work for, I will be flexible and hope they will to, but from their stated number, I am wholly confident an agreement can be struck if I am the right person for the job.”

You have now:

  1. Stated their number back to them
  2. Tied it to the defined role scope, so if that changes so does the package
  3. That you are happy with the scoped role/package combination.

Now some – and I am recruiter, so I will press – will go around the houses trying to get you to state a number. If they chuck you out of the process because you focus on fit and they focus on salary, then just be happy to conclude that you didn’t get employed by a company or boss who is TOTALLY driven by numbers and probably wrong for you. They probably have a high staff turnover, low base wages and high bonus racked compensation. Further, if they are basing their offer on your previous salary, then why would you move to a role which probably is a promotion with more responsibility? Simply, they are trying to get you on the cheap! Again, be happy to walk away from such an employer with a probability of high staff turnover.

Telephone Interview: answer

There is a point when you will need to negotiate to a number, and its the package word you use over the salary word to defer these “what were you paid” questions until that point. Your package should consist of a base salary, probably a bonus, some holiday, a car, health benefits, etc. Never as the candidate focus on salary, always focus on total package. The moment you focus on the number as a candidate, you dismiss all the other points of negotiation, which are normally easy give a ways in the HR budget. So once you have got to a number, before agreeing the final contract add in the extras you want in the package and close the deal.

Hope that helps – Good Luck!


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