CorporateLand: How to Handle Salary Negotiations.
TL;DR: If you are working in CorporateLand, read this. If you are not, good for you, but read it anyway. This also applies more to moving from one job to the next and less so your first gig, b/c you will have more leverage when you are already a CorporateLand resident. Until then you are basically an illegal alien with no rights.
Note 1: If you are a total noob, like fresh out of school, they may ask about your ‘other offers’ which are, of course, none of their business. Everyone has a pretty good idea how to value fresh talent, or at least what the going rate is for noobs, so you’re not going to have a ton of leverage
Note 2: I was going to write a longer piece on interviewing, generally, but then saw an askTRP question that DEMANDED that I Strike Back in the Name of Justice, immediately, and that reply formed the basis for this piece (which is, to the candidate, the IMPORTANT part of the process, anyway), which I thought I should get out there.
[EDIT1: There isn’t an edit yet, but there will be. I’m good for about 4 each time, b/c I suck at formatting, I suck at adding flair, I want to add pertinent information, or I commit some crime against the English language so heinous that it requires correcting.]
Once you have established yourself in your first job (note: that’s job, not career. Nobody really has a career anymore), you will eventually decide that the time has come to make more money. Or you’re going to decide that the toxic environment1 at whatever Corporation you are at has become too much for the amount of cheddar they are willing to trade for it. Either way, it’s time for you to at least test the waters and see if you can jump ship. The best time to find a new gig is while you are employed, b/c when you’re unemployed, you might as well have some horrible contagious disease that someone might catch from you b/c that’s how you will be treated.
Nowadays, the best way to not get totally ripped off on salary, once you have outgrown your current position is to bail. It’s that simple. Either take their
‘merit pay increase’ shitty 3% “COLA”2, or pack your bags. If they give you something more than a COLA it probably means that you should have bailed a long time ago. Most people will put up with known “medium shitty” over unknown anything and CorporateLand knows it.
There is always the possibility that you might find a company that does not have its head COMPLETELY up its ass, but that’s not very likely. Forward thinking just isn’t rewarded all that often, b/c of the tyranny of quarterly reporting. Quarterly reporting rewards “Results: Now” and squeezing every bit of
value life out of employees, or as they are sometimes called “cost centers”.
Okay, on to Salary Negotiations: Here is one Total Hard and Fast Rule, No Matter What Anyone Tells You:
Never Ever, EVER tell them what you are making now. Never Ever, EVER tell them what you are making now. Never Ever, EVER tell them what you are making now.
Got it? Good. Now repeat that to yourself a thousand million times. If you are asked this in an interview imagine that I am sitting next to you telling you that I will bash you over the head with a fucking sledgehammer until you are dead, thus taking your worthless self out of the gene pool. Then I will piss on your corpse. And I will be right.
Whatever Reason The Give You For ‘Needing’ to Know Your Salary History is Bullshit
How so? First, the motherfuckers you are dealing with have already budgeted for the position and thus, they already know what they’re willing to pay for it. So fuck them, they’re just trying to screw you.
Oh and it’s going to be the people who don’t want to tell you what their proposed salary range is that are the most insistent that you tell them, blah, blah, blah. Fuck them, they are just trying screw you (are you sensing a theme, yet?)
Sometimes you get some story about “managing equity in the department.” In other words, they expect you to be bound by someone else’s shitty negotiating skills, life problems (i.e. the got someone who desperately needed the job, has a shit-ton of alimony or child support, or was otherwise defective). This is NOT YOUR FUCKING PROBLEM! Keeping some simp who took less than he was worth happy is their problem, not yours. Your job is MAXIMIZING your own income so you can pop bottles and bang broads on the weekend.
Another variation is If they give you some bullshit about how “We need it to evaluate your candidacy.” That's bullshit--they are just trying to get you to give away all of your power and let them know how cheaply they can get you. I asked an HR drone how exactly they needed it to evaluate my candidacy? Tell me what they have budgeted for the position and I will evaluate my candidacy for them. What they need to evaluate your candidacy is your resume, an understanding of your talents and accomplishments, and a face to face interview to see if you have a Second Evil Head growing out of your shoulder. That’s it. Oh, and a background check to be sure that by “graduate school” you didn’t mean “prison”. It could happen.
Also, they probably think that your previous employer had your value pegged about right. Why they would think this when they suck at it is beyond me, but I can tell you for sure that HR departments are hardly overflowing with talent. As I said in my initial “CorporateLand” post, they are basically the “Elephants Graveyard” for people with No Fucking Talent.
”But Uncle Vasya,” you say, “What if they ask three times and won’t continue my candidacy if I don’t’ tell them?”
DO NOT TELL THEM. And don’t ask questions that make me look around for my sledgehammer!
Here’s the deal: any place that is this insistent is going to suck to work at. How can I tell? Because even their HR drones suck more than usual. Oh, and here’s another rule: Any place that demands W-2 or 1099 verification is going to suck so bad that they might as well have an “Arbeit Mach Frei” sign over the entryway. They probably will follow you around after hours to see if you’re violating the company’s “no sluts” rule.3
[EDIT2: A commenter who is in HR posted that this is now a compliance thing for government contractors. I've always been a private sector guy, where what I posted is still likely true.]
And don’t give them a range, either. It can work out badly for you in a number of ways.
“Three things can happen and two of them are bad.” -- Maniacal Football Coach and Pugilist Woody Hayes, on the forward pass.
Let’s say you are making $160K (I know, but the numbers are made up and the points don’t matter) comprised of $90K salary and a $70K bonus. Assume that the company where you are applying has budgeted the position you are applying for at $120K-$140K. If you say “I earn a package worth $160K” then you’ve priced yourself out of it (which is probably a good thing, but maybe you’re willing to take a $20K pay cut to get away from your soul-destroying boss, or something. This is just an example to keep the OCD under control). If you say “I earn a salary of $90K not including bonuses and benefits” then you are some loser who isn’t qualified enough for the position, otherwise you’d be making more.
Now, should they ask what your bonus is? Well, this is a trick question, because you never should have told them your base, but the secondary answer is “yes”, but HR is not known for having creative thinkers. It’s known for having “check the box” morons who just want to be done with you and go back to the 9-to-5 coffins.
Now, at some point, you may run into a hot chick in HR. They’re usually very junior and will do things like show you to the conference room where your interview will take place, or fetch coffee for you. They should, of course, be out locking down a man and having babies. What they are doing instead is working in some worthless job, doing nothing of real value, and complaining that they aren’t paid enough. They’ve bought into the “Big Lie” about “GRRL POWER!” and will work that shitty gig until, around 28 or 29, the first stirrings of rebellion escape from their uteruses (uteri? Who cares, the Romans are all dead b/c they fucked up by rotting from within) and lay siege to their brains. Why these chicks don’t figure out sooner that all of the women telling them how wonderful being an “Independent Career Wymyn!” (read: loser) is so awesome are all single, post-Wall, no-man-having Cat Colony Owners is beyond me. But I digress….
How to Handle the “Salary” Question.
As an initial matter, if you are applying anywhere that requires an application (and some corporations are still stuck in the 1950s in this way), leave the “salary history” bit blank, or put a “-“ there. It’s none of their fucking business.
When you get asked in an interview, answer this way:
Once you have decided, I am the right person for the job, I am sure we will arrive at a number with which we are both happy.
Really, this should be the start and the end of it. But it likely won’t be. Nevertheless, you should stick to this position, i.e., that discussing salary is premature at this stage. If they want some comfort, tell them to tell you what they have budgeted for the position, and then you can decide whether it’s worth your while to continue with the process.
Alt (early in the process): "Let's keep an open mind on that for now." If they press, use the line above.
I had someone say to me once, “I understand what you’re trying to do.” “Good,” I thought, “that means you’re not retarded.”
You can also point out that “If you and I were playing poker and I said "Hey, how about you show me your hand, while I keep mine hidden?" would you? I am going to go with “no” on this. And you’d be right.”
Things I Have Actually Said
“I negotiate for a living” [which I do]. “If I actually answered this question, you should disqualify me from further consideration.”
“I am not interviewing for my last/current job; I am interviewing for this job, which has more and different responsibilities.”
“I’m a lawyer…how much do you have?”4
“Do I look like a beautiful blonde with big tits and an ass that tastes like French vanilla ice cream? No? Then why are you trying to fuck me?”5
Good luck. And go learn to be an entrepreneur. I need the consulting fees. If I ever get into consulting, that is.
[EDIT3: I have stuck to negotiation of salary, here. There can be other elements of compensation, of course, but in my biz, the bennies are going to be relatively the same, and I view the raison d'être of my corporate job as funding my lifestyle, i.e. letting me bang bitches and pop bottles on the weekend, or in some exotic locale.
Everywhere has a 401k, I doubt a dental plan would be a difference-maker, and guys getting stock options don't need my help. You can always ask for more time off. That's the only other thing I care about but in my case, I stopped going into the office about 7 years ago, and haven't been fired for it, yet. /shrug. They pretty much let me do what I want, so long as my work gets done. Also, for some folks, titles are important. Since the Phoenicians invented money, there's only one thing I care about in terms of compensation. ]
1 If I were less jaded I would wonder about why fewer leaders, er, excuse me, I meant CEOs do not try leading through something other than fear and terror and why they undervalue employees that would be painful to lose. Then I remember we’re talking about CorporateLand and I drive that hopelessly naïve thought from my head.
2 These are even more awesome when they’re less than the published rate of inflation. Like the government doesn’t lie about the rate of inflation anyway. My personal favorite is “Excluding food and energy costs, the core rate of inflation is…” What do people spend money on again? After housing, it’s food and gas. Maybe something else slips in there, but come the fuck on.
3 I think Ross Perot used to have this done. Didn’t like anyone getting more tail than him, and just have a look at that evil little hobbit. Money only makes up for so much, even if you can put a “B” in front of your “-illions”
4 I actually am a lawyer, by training, although I do different stuff a lot, now. I sometimes describe myself as a “reformed lawyer” or “Mary Magdalene, 2nd phase” although you and I both know that’s not true. Usually people get it and laugh. Sometimes you get a particularly dense drone who doesn’t. Under no circumstances should you say “My lawyer says to ask how much you have” In job interview situations, the slightest innocuous remark, even one intended as humor, will often take on an “IMPORTANCE” vastly disproportionate to its merit, ESPECIALLY if some hugely negative and completely unwarranted inference can be drawn for it. In this case, they will start wondering about whether you will sue the company someday. So not a whisper about lawyer jokes. Except maybe how you’ve hated lawyers ever since you found out that your lawyer was fucking your 2nd ex-wife during the middle of your divorce proceedings. No, save that one for Reddit.
5 Ok, I didn’t say this one. It’s from True Romance. I did, however, say it in a negotiation for a client, years ago, when I was young and impetuous. As soon as we sat down in the meeting, someone from the other side said that “they’d been thinking” (never a good sign) and “they wanted to tweak the deal a little” (ALWAYS a bad sign). They then proposed a rework that took all the benefit away from my client and shifted a lot of the burden to him. I could tell he was going to explode, so I did it for him. For some reason, they weren’t anticipating that we’d freak out when they tried to rip us off, so we actually made it out of the room. They chased us down the hall and to the elevator. I hope that bitch got fired. Oh, whenever someone “thinks about shit” overnight and the next day wants to change 95% of things that are all settled and done? That person invariably has a vagina.
Conclusion Do not ever disclose your salary history, do not ever mention a range, always make them put the first offer on the table and go from there, or I will hunt you down and kill you, and everything you love.