“I’m not afraid of death,” Woody Allen once said. “I just don’t want to be around when it happens.”
The same is true when we talk to our candidates about money. We’re not exactly afraid of the topic, but we find lots of ways to avoid it.
If the issue of salary makes you squeamish, take heart: There are a number of great techniques to break the ice, get good information and help your candidates meet their salary expectations.
For starters, I never ask, “What’s your current salary?” because the question might come across as being too abrupt or somewhat clinical. Instead, I ask, “Can you give me a sense as to what you’re earning?” which is a bit softer and tends to put the candidate at ease.
If the candidate seems reluctant to provide full disclosure, tell him that the deeper your knowledge, the more it will actually strengthen his position, as it gives you more to build on.
Do you reveal the employer’s salary range when discussing the job opening? If so, you’re probably making a mistake. First of all, it’s nobody’s business what the range is, only whether the candidate is qualified for the job based on a number of different criteria. And second, as soon as you commit to a number (which may or may not reflect the total package), you run the risk of either turning the candidate off if the salary is perceived as being too low, or dangling a carrot that’s not realistic.
In a situation where a person’s performance review is on the horizon, hold off setting up any interviews until after the review is complete. That way, you’ll have a refreshed version of the candidate’s motivation and sense of urgency with respect to changing jobs. By being patient, you’ll not only minimize the candidate’s leverage, you’ll be able to update the candidate’s salary, if in fact an adjustment has been made.
It’s always prudent to ask the candidate what he would like to earn if he were to change jobs. If the expectation is reasonable, great. On the other hand, if the figure seems too high, you can’t automatically assume the candidate has an overblown ego. Instead, you should ask the question, “Tell me what I should say to the employer as to why your salary needs are on the high side.” For all you know, the candidate can justify an increase that would otherwise seem out of whack. If he can’t, you might need to help the candidate adjust his requirements—or find a more realistic job seeker to work with.
One last caveat: When a job offer morphs from an abstraction to a reality, everything changes. Suddenly, the salary requirement the candidate initially gave you might be way too high or way too low for the job, now that the candidate has seen the job, met the prospective employer and has a sense of what’s required in terms of travel, commute time, benefits and so on.
The more precise your communication with the candidate regarding money, the fewer the surprises. And the fewer the surprises, the greater your odds of putting together a deal.
Bill Radin is a top-producing recruiter whose innovative books, tapes, CDs and training seminars have helped thousands of recruiting professionals and search consultants achieve peak performance and career satisfaction. Bill’s extensive experience makes him an ideal source of techniques, methods and ideas for rookies who want to master the fundamentals—or veterans ready to jump to a higher level of success.