Salary Negotiation
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Salary Negotiation: Don’t Disclose Your Range Too Early

Employers may use one or more tactics to get you to supply your salary requirements early in the application process. Here’s how to counter them and protect your negotiating position.

By Jack Chapman

These days, salary negotiation skills are not just a luxury. They are critical in a competitive job market.

Many people complain about being screened out of contention for jobs because they're "overqualified," when the real issue is the high salary they can command. So how do you respond to a prospective employer’s aggressive tactics around salary?

The first rule of salary negotiations is to avoid providing any salary information until the employer offers the job. Why? Talking about salary too early may lead the interviewer to determine that you’re one of the following:

  • You’re a low-priced candidate—so low they think you can’t do their big job, resulting in no interview.
  • Your salary is too high, so there’s no reason to start the interview process.
  • You’re in the salary ballpark, but now it’s hard to negotiate for significantly more.

Here are three ways that organizations harvest your salary information.

The application demands your salary history. Many job application forms have boxes for you to fill in your previous salaries. Likewise, job ads sometimes request a salary history. Often, these ads threaten that you will not be considered if you fail to comply. 

Solution: Don't provide the information, but be professional and polite. Leave the salary boxes on the job application blank, but put an asterisk with a phrase like, "I would be glad to discuss in an interview." If you are responding to an ad, write in your cover letter, "I am making a competitive salary for [insert position title] of a [size] organization, and I’d be happy to discuss salary in an interview." 

The first rule of salary negotiations is to avoid providing any salary information until the employer offers the job.

This move does carry the risk that you will be screened out, but if the fit is good, odds are high that you’ll get an interview.

The organization screens by telephone. Some employers screen candidates by phone before agreeing to a face-to-face interview. During the screening, the employer will abruptly ask about past salary or current requirements.

Solution: As in a face-to-face interview, your strategy is to convince the interviewer that salary will not be an issue. You might respond, "I'd like to fit into your salary structure, if you think I'm the best candidate. Can we talk about the job?" Another variation: "Could you give me the range you have in mind? I'll tell you if we're in the right ballpark."

The website forces salary disclosure. This tactic is new. Some organizations’ websites now present a screen that demands a candidate’s desired salary range. Without supplying that information, applicants cannot advance to the next screen and complete the application.

Solution: Give a salary range that you believe will not get you screened out for the position. Negotiate for what you are worth later. This carries some danger of being boxed into a low salary, but good negotiations can compensate for any damage done. Unfortunately, the only alternative is to abandon the application.

Finally, don’t despair if the employer pulls the numbers out of you. As long as you press for an interview, you’ll have time to show your worth, and you can negotiate a salary from that platform whether or not you have disclosed current earnings.

Jack Chapman is a salary coach and author of Negotiating Your Salary, How to Make $1000 a Minute.

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