The Case For Fair And Reasonable

Q. You’ve asked how much I’m currently earning, but I don’t want to share that information.

A. Sorry, but it’s impossible for us to work with you as a candidate under those circumstances. Total honesty between a candidate and his or her recruiter is as important as total honesty between a recruiter and the client company. No one is asking about your salary so they can finagle a way to hire you on the cheap. Actual salary is, however, one indicator that a candidate is, indeed, at the professional level the company is seeking. Moreover, any attempt to hide (or misrepresent) salary information is a red light that you might be misrepresenting other details, as well.

Q. I’ve received an offer, and several people at the hiring company have let me know how much they want me on board. But the salary mentioned is nothing spectacular. Can I parlay their interest into another ten or fifteen percent, as least?

A. No company wants to under employ a person. They know that, the minute a better offer comes along, an unhappy person will be out the door. At the same time, however, most companies operate with highly structured salary ranges or “bands” for each employment level. Very, very few are willing to make an exception that would throw the department off budget or, worse, alienate other employees. Perhaps another part of the package, such as vacation time, could be negotiated in your favor without making you appear greedy. Go carefully here. When you became a candidate for the position, you were, in effect, agreeing to salary range associated with the job description.

Q. What do I say when a hiring authority asks how much I’m looking for, and I have no idea how to answer because I don’t know the salary range for the position in question?

A. Shame on you for not knowing the range! If you’re working with OPUS, you’ll have been told all the specifics of the job, including the associated salary. If you’re not working with us, you yourself should have done a great deal of research, including library and Internet research, on the company and on average salaries for similar positions. Don’t forget that IFT publishes a food industry salary survey in Food Technology every other year. You cannot leave the question unanswered. If a recruiter or an employer asks you a direct question, you must respond.

Q. How should I respond when I know the range is much higher than I’m currently earning?

A. Playing games casts suspicion on your honesty and can get you into trouble. If you’re earning $50k and the range is $65k to $75k, don’t expect to be offered $75k. You might, realistically, look for a twenty percent increase if you’ve been “recruited,” fifteen percent if you are on the job market. You could couch your answer thus: “I’m earning $50k, but I understand the position pays between $65k and $75k, and I would be interested within that range.”

Q. Is it realistic to depend on an annual bonus?

A. Don’t discount the role of bonuses when negotiating compensation. Companies that have a proven track record of paying consistent bonuses consider those monies an integral part of the pay package. They also feel that, if the company is to run lean and mean, employees should feel ownership of the corporate bottom line. FYI, it is fair for you to ask how bonuses are calculated vis-à-vis company and personal performance.

Q. How should I respond if I earned more in the past but now, because I’m being laid off, or I want to relocate, I’m willing to accept less?

A. During times of lay-off and “deselection,” everyone understands that people need to work to pay their bills. No employer of professional scientists, however, is going to offer a scientist substantially less than he or she has been earning. Employers hire for the long term, not just until someone better comes along. At the same time, you want to maintain your dignity and avoid the “will work for food” attitude. But you can certainly let the employer know that other aspects of the position, such as opportunities for growth in the company, the challenge of creating or learning something new, and/or the geographic location, weigh heavily in you decision to accept a position.

Q. I still say that employers shouldn’t peg salary offers to my current earnings. Shouldn’t salary be commensurate with the scope of the new job?

A. If you are dealing with an honorable company, such as any of the major food manufacturers, they are going to pay you in line with what other employees doing the same job are earning. No company thinks in terms of pennies when hiring a new employee. A company will be fair and reasonable, but you must be fair and reasonable, too.

Whether you’re a candidate or a client, we’d love to hear from you!