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More Money: What to ask for in a talent shortage

In the November 14, 2017 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter, an employer makes a lousy job offer and a job seeker misses the point: Ask for more money.

Question

more moneyAfter three interviews that included a lengthy presentation on how I would do the job, I was made an offer for a director-level position in a major city. I expected the salary to be upwards of $70,000. My current salary is $63,000. I also get good health benefits that cost me nothing out of pocket.

I was stunned when the offer came at $45,000, and I’d have to pay for health insurance. I literally cried. I am 33, 11 years out of college, and my resume rocks. Do they think I’m stupid? Are employers really so clueless? In this booming metro area, new grads get $45,000 for entry-level jobs. What they offered seems like a joke!

Should I even try to negotiate for an additional $20,000 to $30,000?

Part of me wants to tell them to screw off. The problem is that this director-level job sounds really great. But I would lose my apartment because average rents in the area are $1,800 a month. I couldn’t afford it, and I wouldn’t have enough for gas or  food. Maybe they think I live with my parents?

Where do they get off offering entry-level pay for a director role to someone with 11 years experience? Any advice? My family, my friends and I are in shock. Help!

Nick’s Reply

Employers complain there’s a talent and skills shortage, and that good workers are hard to find. But wages are not going up enough to reflect such claims.

Greedy employers and the talent shortage

I think it’s clear employers are doing three things:

For more about cheapskate employers, see Wanted: Top talent to work for dog food.
  1. They’re bargain hunting.
  2. They’re keeping more of their profits while productivity is increasing.
  3. They’re avoiding sharing profits in the form of higher pay for hard-to-find employees.

What does this tell us? If you’re a talented, hard-to-find worker talking to a company that’s facing a talent shortage, you should ask for more money because you can.

In July 2017, the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) reported that “CEOs of America’s 350 largest firms made an average of… 271 times more than a typical worker in 2016.” (In 1965, the compensation difference was 20X.)

If you don’t think there’s any error in the offer you received, then consider that it may be how the company operates. It’s greedy. So ask for a higher job offer.

Don’t contribute to the problem

Now I’ll reprimand you. I imagine you did not ask the salary range on the job before you invested your time inteviewing. That’s a huge mistake. Make sure you and the employer are on the same page from the start. When job applicants fail to test a salary range before interviewing, their wishful thinking contributes to wasting time. On the other hand, if you tried to assess the salary range and the employer declined to tell you what it is, see The employer is hiding the salary.

I give you a lot of credit for using the interviews to demonstrate how you’d do the job. (See The Basics.) That’s how to interview, and I’m guessing that’s why they chose you! But the salary offer is another issue.

Don’t rationalize

I’m concerned that you are already rationalizing taking a job for half what you think it’s worth because “this director-level job sounds really great.”

Really? Many employers try to substitute impressive job titles for fair salaries. They count on candidates talking themselves into an undesirable deal.

The problem now is that you may be confusing monetary compensation with the lure of a fancy job title. I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt and assume this really is a director-level role. Please be careful not to sell yourself short during a talent shortage. A title is not compensation for doing a job.

Accept the job and ask for more money

Learn from those highly paid CEOs. The EPI report notes that: “CEO compensation has grown far faster than that of other very high earners in the top 0.1 percent…” Why? EPI concludes it’s because of

“the power of CEOs to extract concessions.”

Pay attention! CEOs make big demands because companies perceive that there’s a shortage of great CEOs. You can play this game, too, if you have the nerve.

If you are ready to walk away from that job offer, then you have power because you have nothing to lose. So do not say “No” to the employer. Drive them nuts instead. (They deserve to have their cage rattled for playing salary games with you.) Treat them like desirable CEO candidates treat them. Accept the job, but extract concessions on the pay.

That’s right: If you still really want the job, why not try to get it on your terms? I’d accept the job, but I’d change the terms. You’re allowed to change anything you want in their offer before you accept it completely. Then it’s up to them to decide whether to agree.

How to Say It:
“I showed you I could do the job profitably for you, and I’m glad you were impressed enough to want to hire me. I want the job and I’d love to work with you! So I accept the job. But I cannot accept the terms you have offered. I’m ready to start work [tomorrow, or whatever day you choose] at $72,000. I will leave it up to you.”

Let the employer decide

Do not say anything more. (This is difficult, but keep your mouth closed past this point until they answer.) They already know all the reasons they want to hire you. Now let them consider whether they are willing to pay to get what they need, or whether they’re willing to lose you. (It can be a very long way to the next great candidate in a talent shorage!)

They will probably say no. But when they realize you’re really ready to walk away, it’s now on them to make a decision. They may come back with a better offer.

If they don’t, and you really are looking for a $70,000 job, politely tell them the following.

How to Say It:
“I am worth upwards of $70,000 in today’s market, where employers are complaining about a talent and skills shortage. I’ve found that your competitors are determined to hire hard-to-find talent and to pay what I’m worth. I wish you the best – it was wonderful to meet you and to learn all about your company.”

You don’t owe them any explanations at this point, so don’t let them drag you into a debate. Remember: They’ve already settled the main question: They want you. Now they must decide whether to accept your terms. If they press back, decide in advance whether you’re comfortable saying the following — then say it and stick to it:

How to Say It:
“I’m ready to take this job because I want to work with you. But my salary terms are not negotiable.”

Note that you have not rejected ther offer. In fact, you made a commitment when you accepted the job. Now let the employer decide whether it accepts your terms.

“I want more money.”

If you think you’re worth it, let an employer know you want more — and say how much. Just keep in mind that if they accept your revised salary, it’s not appropriate to negotiate anything else. You already said you’ll take the job if they meet your terms. If there are other things you want to negotiate, do that before you take a stand on the compensation.

For every employer that pays its CEO more than 200X what it pays the lowest-level employee, there needs to be a job candidate who is smart enough to insist on sharing that kind of wealth and success. The CEO is just another employee.

When they need you, extract concessions

You ask how such employers “get off offering entry-level pay for a director role to someone with 11 years experience.” Don’t over-think this. They do it because they think they can get away with it. That’s also why CEO candidates demand more money.

When is the last time you accepted “Because I said so” as the justification for why someone wanted to take advantage of you?

For more on this topic, please read “How can I go back and ask for more money?”
I’m not suggesting that you should be greedy and expect more salary than a job is worth. But if you’ve come to a reasonable conclusion that this employer is being greedy, and you think you can get a good job that pays $70,000 or more, you should not waste your time considering an unsatisfactory deal. Do not waste time negotiating. Instead, extract concessions or move on.

Look – if you need to pay the bills, and you need a paycheck of any size, I’m the last person to criticize you for talking yourself into a lower salary. Do what you must to live. But if you feel as strongly as you suggest you do, don’t fall victim to a greedy company that’s bargain hunting.

On to the next!

Do you know when to ask for more money? When you know you’re going to walk away anyway, don’t say “No” to a low job offer. Say “Yes, if you’ll pay me what I want.” Have you ever drawn a line like this?

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80 Comments
  1. In these circumstances, where they make a ridiculous low ball offer like that, I would also be wary of the fact that even if they eventually agreed to the $72,000, they might not actually pay it once you’re in the job. They’d just rely on the fact you’d left your old job and had rent due to keep you there at whatever they did choose to pay you.

    Also, they might offer you the $45,000 base and say the difference will be made up with some kind of profit share or bonus. Don’t believe it. Even top salespeople regularly find their companies mess with their commissions.

    In short, it’s hard for many job seekers to believe, but a huge majority of business people have no difficulty at all with just flat out lying to you!

    • You are completely correct.

      As for Sales commission structure, they do get messed with when salespeople make “too much money.” Of course I have never figured out if the pay structure is based on how much “stuff”gets sold, why companies would NOT want Sales to make lots and lots of money.

      • You’re completely correct. It’s basic math. https://1markgib13.blogspot.com/2013/07/basic-math.html

        • @Mark: I read the link you shared. I could not agree more. Greed of the most stupid variety seems to infect sales commission plans. I’d add one requirement before I’d accept any commissioned sales job:

          I want a spreadsheet that defines the commission plan so I can play what-if before I accept the job. And I want that spreadsheet incorporated in the signed job offer. And, as that blog article suggests, I’d want a statement in the offer that the commission plan is guaranteed for X period of time — no messing with it at least during the first 2 years, preferably longer.

          Very few sales orgs are willing to give a recruit that spreadsheet. So they’re not worth working form

          • Incorporating the commission structure with the job offer along with your other suggestions is great advice. I feel for anyone who is on a commission plan. After 25 years of sales, I’d had enough and am now quite content making a living behind the scenes freelance writing newsletters, blogs and such for clients.

    • The key point is to expect/request the final offer of employment in writing with the agreed terms and compensation. It’s not official or legal if it’s not in writing.

      • For example, when I had accepted a promotion/job offer in my organisation many years ago, I read the offer letter and noticed the compensation was not what I was told by the hiring officer who initially approached me to apply for the position. I said this is not what was agreed on and I would not accept the position based on the current offer. The same day, they wrote a new offer with the agreed pay. It turned out that they had planned on changing the job responsibilities and gave me two additional units to run/supervise. I’m glad I stood my ground as the initial offer was only 1,000 more than my current salary at the time…without supervisor responsibilities.

        Never sell yourself short and be ready to take on all challenges in a respectful/fact-based approach.

        Best wishes.

          • ABSOLUTELY get it in writing. Never, ever, ever accept anything less than a detailed written offer. The business sector is littered with smarmy folks :(

        • Getting it in writing helps, but it isn’t a guarantee that the employer will honor the offer he made. At my previous job, I was offered a certain starting salary when I was hired, and after I was on-boarded I received a second note stating my salary, which was lower than what I had been promised (verbally AND in the first note). I contacted my boss, who said “yes, I was supposed to be getting the higher salary”, and she contacted the other faculty member who hired me, and he confirmed it as well. They both immediately went to the dean, and all three wrote memos to HR and payroll to fix it. I was lucky–all three were honorable people who acted to do the right thing. The problem when you’re dealing with the world’s biggest bureaucracy is that people in HR and payroll don’t know the new hire and don’t act quickly. It took 6 months to fix that error, then another 8 months to fix another error.

          I can only imagine how awful it is when the hiring manager/boss doesn’t have your back.

    • I believe that you are not only right, but also see this company clearer than the candidate did!

  2. “The CEO Pay Machine: How It Trashes America and How to Stop It”

    The former top CEO examines the scandalous and corrupt reasons behind obscene pay packages for corporate executives–and explains how this hurts all of us–and how we can stop it.

    Today, the pay gap between chief executive officers of major U.S. firms and their workers is higher than ever before–depending on the method of calculation, CEOs get paid between 300 and 700 times more than the average worker. Such outsized pay is a relatively recent phenomenon, but despite all the outrage, few detractors truly understand the numerous factors that have contributed to the dizzying upward spiral in CEO compensation.

  3. I loved Nick’s response to this, but it started me wondering about another motivation in the minds of those making the hiring decision: Is it the final test? In a director level position I would assume some control over a budget, over hiring of those on the lower rungs, and of those salary decisions that drive cost/benefits to the company. If you are able to show what you are made of and demonstrate those steely nerves in this negotiation, then perhaps you are indeed the right candidate and you would have proven it by your insistence on getting the deal on your terms.

    – Lloyd

    • @Lloyd: “Is it the final test?

      I guarantee you, that low-ball offer was no test. I’ve heard people speculate that a crappy offer is some kind of test. I’ve never seen a situation where it was anything but a test of the applicant’s gullibility.

  4. I’m going to take a different approach. Of course this assumes you’re financially stable at this time.

    I would tell them no, and say that you don’t think the pay is worth the job title/responsibilities should be that low. Either they are misrepresenting the job, or they don’t know how to assess the job. I would let them know that as well.

    • @Dave: Thanks for taking a different approach and just saying no. But I’m not sure what that buys the applicant. You’re ending the discussion. Or, if your intent is to get the employer to improve the offer, why not just say “Yes, but only if the salary is $X”?

      The anchoring effect (in behavioral economics) tells us that by setting a high anchor, you push any possible counter-offer upwards. Assuming they even make a counter.

      My approach is driven by my basic strategy: I always want to make a good deal, so I’m always ready to state the acceptable/good version of the deal. If anybody’s going to say no, let it be the other guy — because I had a solution while they didn’t.

      • I agree with your logic but what I’m getting at is that OP and Employer are $25K apart and that represents a significant part of the (offered) salary. I’d question getting a job offer that low, and whether the company was acting in good faith.

  5. After three interviews including the one where you really had to jump through hoops for these people, they low ball you significantly. When I put it that way, does this illuminate anything? Many companies expect salary negotiation unless they have set salary levels. My take on this company is they are really scumbags. If they treat employees like they’ve treated an applicant, you will be worked to death and underpaid. Look at how they do health insurance as compared to your current job. Frankly, this shows me that they don’t value employees. Both my spouse and I have experienced this lack of valuing employees first hand. What happens is people don’t work hard or produce much work product when underpaid yet the CEO crows about how you are lucky to work there. Personnel problems are ignored so bullies arise and being late to work and taking extra long lunch break becomes the norm. You are too eager for this title! Be smart and strategic — do you know anyone who works there that you can ask about it? When I was interviewing for my last job, I thought it was great that so many employees including my boss had 10 years plus working there. Got a song and dance about how salaries were low but they worked hard to appreciate employees blah blah to make up for it. All lies. What that meant in real life was these people could not get a job anywhere else and this company didn’t care enough about the employees to get rid of problems and poor performers. Lazy was how’d I describe the general attitude of employees and my boss turned out to be a bully that they were afraid of and couldn’t make behave and wouldn’t fire. They had rules that kept you from being able to take another position (your supervisor had the power to not allow you to take another position and they did). The CEO was especially narcissistic and it trickled down.

    • When an employer suggests that an applicant’s main motivation to work there should be something other than money, RUN.

      This is one of the biggest mind games employers play, and goofy “career experts” and pundits write screeds all the time about why money must not be your main motivation — supporting the brainwashing. (Check the recent “The Job Interview” on CNBC, where a company owner expects applicants to “correctly” rank what’s most important to them in this order: Accomplishment, Financial, Praise. Gimme a break.)

      If the money’s not right, nothing’s going to be right. Money is a form of exchange and it should always accurately express an exchange of fair value. Employers who want to pay you less to do more are suckering you. Period.

      • Money certainly isn’t the only part of that decision. Contribution, work environment, employee empowerment, the feeling of creating something – all are important. But if the company screws you on money, they will probably screw you on the rest as well.

        I once read the CEO of a cafe chain complain of the salary demands of employees. There should be more to work, he said; the experience of working together, getting experience, and that cliche: Passion.

        Well, the next time I might walk into one of the chain’s stores, I am tempted to ask if I can pay with passion, since money isn’t so important?

        • ‘Passion’ is a cliche peddled to the young skulls full of mush. If their PR and HR peddles that line, run the other way. Find what you do well and are interested in, which has a real career path.

          Reserve your passion for historical preservation, car restoration, knitting, the local food bank, or other hobbies.

          Sometimes you do take a job for the challenge and for the growth, not the $–or to survive. But salary and comp paid is always a good indicator of your value to the organization, whether you’re an FTE, hourly, or consultant.

          Young companies often don’t have the money to pay either, so as a marketer I’m willing to take the lower end of the scale. But I scrutinize what the partners/founders take out too.

          • “Look, if we’re talking about your hobby, by all means let your passion lead you. But when it comes to making a living, it’s easy to forget the dirty truth: Just because you’re passionate about something doesn’t mean you won’t suck at it. And just because you’ve earned a degree in your chosen field, doesn’t mean you’re gonna find your “dream job.” But their imaginary existence just might keep you from exploring careers that offer a legitimate chance to perform meaningful work and develop a genuine passion for the job you already have.”

            Mike Rowe

            • Please don’t misunderstand my comments about money. Job satisfaction, quality of people and managers you work with, freedom to do your work — it all matters and counts. But when employers imply it’s inappropriate for you to focus on money, too, then you’re being played.

          • Granted, I do not remember the exact words (and cannot find it on the net now), but his main point was that empoyees should be thankful for learning skills like organization, food handling, accounting, being on time, work ethics etc.

            All true, but still does not pay your rent and groceries.

            • “organization, food handling, accounting, being on time, work ethics etc.”

              Those are basic skills we should have before we leave home. Mom, Dad, friends, relatives, Scouts, Adventure Guides, 4H, after school activities (unfortunately not Shop and Home Economics any more). And the stalwart “part-time job.”

              So I will give that employer credit. If he is teaching basic survival skills, good for him! Even better if they are getting paid for learning.

            • To me, the whole thing sounded more like an slimy excuse for not paying people fairly. Kind of like how companies will approach artists, ask them for free work because they “help you getting your name out”.

            • Depends on the cafe chain’s talent pool and who the company hires. For entry level jobs…well, it’s true. A fair wage and excellent service experience. Ask Walmart.

              And to Gregory, they may not have left home yet!

              If this is Starbucks, forget the above…

  6. This offer is a huge red flag. All that glitters is not gold. Nick gives good advice. There is also a significant personal price one pays when working in an environment t where your contributions are not valued. You would be surprised at how working in a situation like this can chip away at your health and self esteem. You deserve congruence. And, the employer needs a reality check on what the market rate is for the job. It is IMO very important for you to communicate this confidently. You can bolster your confidence by doing some of your own benchmarking on line. This can be helpful as it can take some of the subjectiveness and emotion out of the equation. Research and know the numbers, ranges and job responsibilities. Then incorporate the specific value you bring (knowledge, experinece, skills, exposer).

  7. I know that Nick picks extreme stories to illuminate points, and let’s keep in mind that the candidate is only 33–perhaps he or she has been lucky to date and not run into what KS correctly termed ‘scumbags.’

    Dear Candidate, do NOT leave your present job. Dry your tears. You’ve been lured and faked out, but you also smoked them out. This employer has wasted your precious time and effort. This is not a $5-10K difference. The title is BS and the salary is nowhere near director level, especially in a large city. I don’t know why you are so hot on this job, city, and company but REPEAT–it is bogus. Use this ‘offer’ as an exercise (repeat, not real) in negotiation and do exactly what Nick said. More than likely they will go completely silent on you. If they don’t, even if they offer you exactly what you want, and in writing, don’t take it. If they are like this at the offer stage, imagine when there’s a problem, or when times get tough there…you’ll be out on your filet mignons.

    I noticed you said nothing one way or the other about the people you’d be working with. What does your gut say about them? I bet it’s not good. Nick is right: Never Work For Jerks. Because you, not they, will pay, especially early in your career.

    Another piece of advice: stop talking so much about your career moves to family and friends. Zip your lip except for the most sage and trusted. People will guilt you and give you bad advice–and you never know if it will get back to your present employer. Loose Lips Sank Ships in WWII, and it’ll sink yours.

  8. The power of walking away from a bad deal is real and doing so can concentrate an employer’s mind in a wonderful way. Some decades ago, as a high school grad looking for his first job, I answered an ad for a “trainee.” When I interviewed, I discovered that what they wanted was a mailroom clerk. I said this wasn’t what I was interested in, thanked the interviewer and left. Five minutes after I got home, I got a phone call: I started as a trainee the next week

    • That was the way it used to operate in the days of company mailrooms! Now they’d tell you to watch the door hitting you on the way out and avoid the line of people eager for the job.

  9. Something doesn’t feel right. Sounds like neither you or the company did the due diligence required. After three interviews it seems to me that you and the company each should have had some idea if there is any reason to move forward. Learn from this experience and move on.

    • I agree, Retired. I think there was a bit too much wishful thinking on the part of the candidate. But as long is this is a good lesson, not much harm done.

  10. First off, at 33 this candidate is completely clueless and yes, quite stupid. I would have been embarassed to see my query to Nick, one so devoid of any degree of common sense posted here for discussion by so many others.

    I never let conversations get to this point without first checking the salary range and I always make a point to NOT disclose my earnings. If the range is too low and I know it up-front and also determine the role will never get to where I want it to be financially, I immediately inform the recruiter, the head-hunter or the company that I am not interested.

    Full disclosure: I am a Senior Strategic Sourcing Manager and I negotiate for a living and I have always lived by the precept that the first person or organization to put a number on the table all too often loses the negoiation in the end. When it comes to salary negotiations, I take the position that I am NOT negotiable, I am there to take as much as I can get going in the door because that is what my compensation going forward will be based on. My raises (if any) will be based on where I started, my paygrade, title and performance.

    As Nick has said many times before, companies are trying to get labor as cheaply as they can and we as the providers of that labor are trying to get as much as we can.

    I’m sorry, I have zero sympathy for this candidate and unlike Dee, who I am friends with offline, I believe this 33 year old is incredibly naive.

    To the candidate, some free advice: this employer is trying to screw you and you appear to be willing to let them do that. So, quit your current job for the lousy title, take the pay cut, get abused for your first three months until you pull your head out of your a** and realize you were taken and you’ll be BACK on the market. I guarantee it. But you may also learn a valuable lesson and it this:

    Some companies really do suck and if you’re lucky, you’ll find out quickly. Something else you should have learned by now and that is “it’s not personal, it’s business.” Get overr it!

    But please, spare the rest of us adults your inane questions, the same ones I expect from a new college graduate, not someone aged 33 with an alleged 11 years of experience. BTW, after 11 years of experience, why are you still earning a paltry $63K?

    • Paul, this person I’m sure lives in a more affordable metro area than ours, with a lower pay scale to match. Have the feeling that this person has been with their present company a few years. My recommendation would be to get promoted in the company he or she is currently with as a plan A (put their foot back in the door), and as a plan B, continue to look in a wiser way. Again, we don’t know the sordid details of the situation. ;-)

      • Dee,

        There are places that are more affordable than the NY metro area. That’s true. But I still can’t help but think that this question shows a complete lack of knowledge of both him/herself and the business environment at this point in history.

        While I admire Nick’s desire to help, as well as those of others, for me the end was this individual’s naive belief that a fake title “at a discount” was something to pursue.

        The offer this person received was absurd and told me in 10 seconds that the old saw re: negotiations is and always will be true. “In any negotiation, you must be willing to walk away.”

        This 33 year old didn’t even know that. That is the key in ANY negotiation, knowing when to walk away when the situation warrants. This insulting offer was that time.

    • @Paul: I hear your frustration, but the purpose of Ask The Headhunter is to help people learn. To learn, they must be frank even about experiences that might reveal they weren’t very quick on the uptake — but that should not expose them to ridicule.

      I’ve always got sympathy to offer, as long as a person shows they’re open to learning to avoid repeating their foibles. So I prefer to cut the OP a break, and I see no need to rag on him or her.

      • @Nick, we all get fooled sometimes, but your point is to not get fooled again (hat tip to The Who). This candidate is fortunate to not have to take this job and to use this as an exercise.

        I think Paul C. was also reacting to this candidate’s lack of emotional control and over-talking to others, which I noted as well along with nary a mention of the people and the fit there. Over-talking to friends and family often leads to the embarrassment of painting yourself into a corner after talking up your Big Glorious Career Move to The Big City and Big Job. Avoiding shame can put you into a bad situation.

        Thank you for scripting out an approach for this candidate and for us. Negotiation is scary for many people. Paul C’s been a good, if tough, coach in this area, as have you and the posters on this forum.

        • I agree, Dee. The other thing is that it sounds like the OP has only had one job since he graduated from college (he noted that he has been in this job for 11 years, and that he’s 33 years old). This isn’t someone who changed jobs every 3 years and thus hasn’t had a great deal of experience negotiating salary and benefits. I’m not going to come down on him hard for his questions, and as for over talking about it, well, I can understand that if he’s only had one job, he hasn’t experienced the nastier side of dishonest employers. But he has now, and I think your advice is sound. If the fancier title doesn’t come with a higher salary, there’s no shame in saying no and walking away. And you and Karsten are absolutely right–salary is often a good indication of how much a company values you (a nice benefits package can help offset a lower salary) and if they’ll screw him on the salary, they’ll screw him in other ways (changing the job description, not giving him the support he will need to do the job, etc.).

          • I also hope that this person has taken away a qualitative lesson–that they become savvier and sanguine in assessing the people he’d be working with as to their character, the overall environment, and to not yak about it so much!

      • Thank you, Nick.

    • Wow, you’re a negotiator and you are calling someone who isn’t one clueless and stupid for not having the skills of a negotiator or understanding negotiation. That’s like an engineer who designs cars expecting the people who drive them to know how to design them, too, so that when a major mechanical breakdown happens they can fix it. The scenario posed is a learning one for many of us. There is no need to denigrate someone for asking a question you perceive as being ingenuous for someone in your field, a field he is not in.

    • ” A paltry $63k?!?” Wow. I have a Master’s and 15 years experience in my field. I’ve never made that much, as my career is helping crime victims. And I’m fine with that. I’m in an expensive city too. Let’s not judge people’s motivation, intelligence or sophistication by their salary.

      • Ahhh, another touchy feely liberal weighs in. Good for you. You’re happy with what you do and the fact that you are underpaid. Great!

        Guess what? In another life, I was a Paratrooper and a Ranger and I was underpaid, too. What was my job? Getting shot at, so touchy feely liberals could castigate me for being insensitive and uncaring.

        Here’s some advice for everyone who posts here: Life isn’t fair, people don’t care and neither do businesses. I’m not saying do immoral or unethical things, but what I am saying is look out for yourself FIRST, foremost and always.

        The best lesson I ever learned as a Boy Scout was their motto: “BE PREPARED” because if you are, you can deal with just about anything.

        In every day life my working motto is: “Man up, ruck up and continue the march!”

        In the Airborne we have a saying: “ALL THE WAY!” It means we will go ALL THE WAY to complete the mission. It means never quit, never give up.

        Too much of our society, too much of daily discourse is now brought down to the touchy feely level of let’s not offend. I say BULLSHIT!

        It takes guts to stand in the door of an airplane and take that leap of faith jumping into the unknown. Grow a set and go out and conquer the world and stop crying in your beer!

        Here ends the lesson.

        • Yo, Paul C. — You are welcome to critique ideas and offer your own. But not to attack people.

          That’s not a lesson, but an unspoken rule of conduct that everyone on this forum recognizes. I know sometimes ideas trigger emotional responses, but no one’s up for a steady stream of attacks. Please stick to the topic.

          • Yo Nick, two other posters here said my comments were unprofessional. I replied in kind.

    • I live in Northern Colorado and with 12 years experience am making a paltry $56k a year. I also am 49 years old. Does that make me “adult” enough? I understand your comment and agree with most of it. I do not understand the attitude you have though. I think your message may be eclipsed by the unprofessional way in which you presented it.

      • It makes you underpaid.

        Gee, I’m sorry you’re offended. Grow up and realize no one guarantees us anything.

  11. An inflated job title can be a real obstacle in future job searches (unless it’s in an industry where fluffy titles are the norm–is there anyone at bank who isn’t a VP?). Based on what was described here, it sure sounds like a fluff title to me, even at the desired 72k (especially with the area’s cost of living).

    Future prospective employers and recruiters will see the director title and think you’re overqualified or overpriced for positions that are actually an excellent match. I know this from experience, having been desperate and taken an underpaid job with a fluffy director title.

    Oh, and be careful about downgrading that title on your resume to something that is more accurate–misrepresenting the job title on a resume or application will be forever be hanging over your head in that new job. All it takes is some new toxic boss or HR to want to get rid of you and they’ve got that ace in their files, where it’s been sitting waiting for them to use it.

    And if one makes the mistake of filing an online application, how is that “sophisticated algorithm” [funny how references to algorithms are always prefaced with the emotional “sophisticed” adjective, isn’t it?] going to treat that director title when you’re looking at Senior Analyst or Manager positions?

    • “sophisticated algorithm”

      I love it. Then there are “cognitive learning” algos, and “semantic” algos. Just choose your poison. :-)

      • And don’t forget ‘machine learning’ and ‘artificial intelligence’–which is what I believe some companies bring to bear on the entire hiring process, emphasis on the ‘artificial’. ;-)

      • Nick, you probably don’t want to encourage me. Next I’ll challenge whether the term “analytics” really has any content beyond good old-fashioned accummulation of data and “analysis.” But analytics does sound more hip, especially when talking about “predictive analytics.” The terms “model” (whether employed as a verb or noun) and “modeling” are also much in vogue. Model seems presumputuous to me, at least as referred to in the context most businesses, as it implies some sort of creativity on the verge of being an architect or artist–a veritable Frank Lloyd Wright or William Bouguereau. (That said, I think the term “business model” has a much longer history and IS a useful concept.)

        The logistics and transportation industries have suddenly latched onto the new buzzword, “digitization,” which really doesn’t mean anything new, especially in light of what the industry was talking about doing 15 years ago. “Visibility” probably tops to the list of overused buzzwords that mean everything and nothing at the same time, and the people who parrot it can’t even explain what they mean by it. 12-15 years ago, I recommended to a previous employer of mine in the container shipping industry that we provide estimated times of discharge and availability–on a container specific basis–to the customers and their vendors. This could have been done by all steamship lines years and years ago, and it didn’t require any new technology, “digitization” or “predictive analytics” and data warehousing. (It was much simpler–the guy who was in charge of working the vessel prepared a plan of the operations detailing in what sequence the cargo on the vessel was to be discharge, by crane and stowage bay. And it’s still done that way today, not by AI) Anyway, one of the steamship lines is finally going to give this idea a try. But they’re calling it their “predictive visibility tool.” That sounds so much more impressive than something old-school like ETA or “estimated time of discharge,” doesn’t it?

        Apologies in advance for my rant.

        • Oh god, “analytics”. I’m in an adjacent field (and I’m aiming to cash in on the analytics craze if I can) and the whole thing just screams “fad” to me. From what I’ve seen, many senior managers and executives are not educated in statistics and do not trust the results, especially when the results say something the exec doesn’t want to hear. And that is with basic statistics. But now all of a sudden they understand and trust complex models? And will base big business decisions on them? Not likely. More likely the “data scientist” will be expected to develop models that tell the boss that the thing he is going to do anyway is a great idea.

          There are already lots of examples of algorithms and machine learning and yadda producing terrible results – like the chatbot that learned to be racist in one day. And this is essentially the same technology that is “reading” resumes and deciding who gets considered for a job. God help us.

          Rant over :)

          • Data scientists live in the same world as the financial and marketing guys live in–you’re asked to ‘run the numbers’ again and told between the lines that management wants to see a certain result. So you think about it, look at your bank account, then cut the numbers to tell the story management wants to hear, knowing the real story all the time. I know as a marketer I was asked to tart up my results or I set ‘sandbagged’ goals, especially when VCs were involved. No fraud, but no falling on the sword either. At the end of the day, it comes out in the wash and it doesn’t matter 10 years later because you’re no longer there.

        • @Bill: I think someone could start a blog about recycled terminology. My favorite hot term is “the cloud.” AKA, a mainframe (of sorts). AKA, centralized processing (even if it is distributed in its own way). AKA, a kind of terminal connected to a big box where (most of) the code runs.

          Another favorite is from a radio show that featured a guest exec from Monster.com quite a few years ago. He was touting that job board’s “semantic search algorithms.” Another term for “keyword matching.”

          Has marketing taken over technology? To a large extent, yes. When we were kids we used to joke that we didn’t want to be garbage men, we wanted to be sanitation engineers.

          Titles and terms. Coin of the realm?

  12. The points here about using an inflated job title to attract candidates to a lower paying position may well be correct.I would look at the interviewing process with this company as a learning experience, nothing more. They may be using a negotiating tactic of throwing out a lowball number to anchor your salary expectations lower. However, the one they threw out was not just lowball but ridiculous. There is information in The Negotiation Book by Steve Gates about handling ridiculous opening offers. It is along the lines of what Nick has recommended:

    Quote: You can wipe their extreme openers off the table by attaching equally ludicrous conditions to their price. Imagine a seller said to you “the price is $150.” You respond with: “I can agree, subject to payment installments over 3 years and that the item is guaranteed for the duration of the payment plan.” In negotiation you never need to say no. You can always re-engineer the variables in such a way that you can say yes and yet with your terms which offset or counter the offer being made. Simply attach conditions that offset the implications of saying yes. (Gates, Steve. The Negotiation Book: Your Definitive Guide to Successful Negotiating (pp. 77-78). Wiley. Kindle Edition.)

    None of us here truly know why they gave you such a low offer. It could be they want to claim they could not fill the position with a viable U.S. candidate, and, therefore, are entitled to in-source a cheaper candidate from a low-wage country. It could be they are a terrible employer. I go back to this being a learning experience and playing it that way. I don’t see this employer as someone to work for even if you get them to come up in their offer.

    • Learning never to say NO in a negotiation is a great way to understand the other party AND your own objectives. NO is easy. A good alternative takes thought and work.

      For all we know, the offer was low because the job requires little or no skills or expertise — in spite of the title. I’ll go back to the point others have made: This may be a case of title inflation.

      On the other hand, I try to take such scenarios at face value, so I think it’s fair to assume the employer is being unreasonable.

  13. It was recommended I post this to this. So what would you do?

    Well thanks for hitting me between the eyes …… again. I was rationalizing a pursuit of a job offer.

    Its a great fit. I “did the job” with the CIO and director. The 30 minute phone interview turned into a 90 minute great discussion on where they wanted to be in 18 months. Now I have the technical interview.

    Problem is that I misunderstood the benefits. Originally I thought it was a wash in salary and the cost of living, benefits,retirement, and bonus were going to be a 20% bump. With relocation to a warmer climate it was a win-win. Then I got the benefit package.

    I completely misunderstood. Its about a 20% pay cut. There is no way I can/should absorb that. Its a small shop and moving up would not be possible for a while given the staff they have in place.

    So here is my question for you. Do I go through with the technical phone interview and see if I can work with these folks? Then before we put in any more time and money and a plane ticket, I see if they can make this worth what I think I am worth. Or do I call it off now saying that it is a waste of our time if they are going to stick with their current salary range?

    By the way, the recruiter for this company is absolutely amazing. She emailed me. She asked to call me. She completely vetted me before she passed me to the company. She asked for my resume and then recommended that I change the wording on a couple of things. She never had me fill out an application. Then she set up the preliminary phone interview. We discussed salary but I think I heard what I wanted to hear. Fortunately after that first interview I asked for the benefits package. She sent it to me while I was on the phone with her.

    • I take it that the package was introduced about midpoint in the discussion? That is not exactly a best and final offer. They haven’t made any offer yet and it looks to be in the distance.

      If it works for you, take the technical interview (whatever that is, as long as it isn’t free work) since it’s by phone. If you are asked to go further, at that point you’ll have to make a decision before investing any more time. Say you like it so far, but the holdback for you is the benefit package. May as well be honest that you need to be made whole here. Unless you have another lifestyle reason to make the tradeoff to a smaller, less expensive place in a warmer climate, 20% is a significant haircut.(You didn’t mention being made whole on a relocation.)

      See Nick’s advice above for the rest.

    • @Rick – Thanks for posting here the question and scenario you shared via e-mail. This way we can all discuss it.

      It seems you learned an important lesson – get the facts right before diving in. That means understanding the bottom-line terms, like benefits. But don’t kick yourself too hard. Companies don’t hand out benefits details before interviews – though they should. As you’ve learned, they’re a critical part of any comp package that can undermine even a seemingly good salary.

      My opinion: When a company’s lousy benefits have such an adverse impact on a comp deal, there’s probably something wrong with the company. Good employers offer goood benefits. And they don’t hide such information until well into the process. When they do, it’s the oldest psychological and sales trick in the book – they count on you to rationalize a bad deal because you’ve already put so much time into it.

      I don’t see any evidence that you misunderstood. If you didn’t have the benefits info, how could you have really judged the whole package?

      What’s amazing about the recruiter is that she did not disclose up front that the company’s benefits package is lousy. I assure you, she knows, because I’m sure other candidates experienced the same shock you did. And if she’s a really good recruiter, she reviews ALL compensation components before she recruits people like you. I’d never pitch a company with lousy benefits to ANY potential candidates. I’d wind up wasting their time and mine when all the facts come out. My guess is she’s lost other good candidates late in the process.

      Job seekers rarely ask to see benefits, retirement, vacation, bonus information before agreeing to interview. That’s a mistake. Employers don’t like sharing such info until they make an offer – that’s disingenuous. Any company with great benefits is more than happy to use them to entice good candidates to interview.

      It’s up to you, but I would not rationalize any more, or move farther into this process if you already know these surprise terms will be a deal breaker. Talk to the recruiter. Tell her your concerns. Tell her you’re very surprised and dismayed at the benefits info. I see no reason to blame yourself – if the salary range was acceptable and you based your decision to interview on that, I don’t think anyone can blame you. You SHOULD have asked to see all the benefits up front – but 99% of applicants never do that. I’d say that’s on the recruiter – not on you.

      So I’d let the recruiter know what’s wrong immediately. Don’t say NO to proceeding. Instead, tell her what the terms need to be so they’re acceptable. Don’t worry about whether the employer is likely to change those terms or not. The point is to establish what it will take before you are willing to proceed. Then let THEM say no, or let them fix the problem.

      I’d think twice about working with that recruiter again – unless she commits to vetting these deals more thoroughly for you in the future.

      I’d love to know how this turns out. Please use your own best judgment – I’m quite removed from the details of this deal. My comments are limited to what I know. You’re the one that must live with the choice you make – so use your best judgment.

      • Really good point here is being made about the benefits packages. We know enough about asking ‘what’s the pay like’ but asking about benefits early in the discussion is considered to be suspicious, according to the conventional job search wisdom. (How *dare* you ask about healthcare and how much you have to pay for it, bonuses, raises, reviews, vacation time!)

        • When asked about “pay range I am looking for,” I always come back with “I am a complete compensation guy.”

          A couple examples I give: A company that deposits 10% of employee gross pay in a 401k, before any employee contribution matching. Another company that has complete medical for a family for less than $5k a year.

          Usually the response I get is “They offer a standard benefits package.”

          The irony is some benefits packages really are good enough (especially large companies) that talent could be brought in at a lower annual rate, if HR/Recruiting actually did their job.

          I know of one case where someone went on board with a company where the benefits was worth an easy $20k to the employee. But it had been presented as “just your standard benefits package.” On occasion, HR ineptitude actually pays off.

          • @Gregory: I think employers use the phrase “industry-standard benefits” because job applicants really, really do not want to read pages of 9-point type describing benefits — so they nod and don’t worry about it. Big mistake on the part of applicants.

            But consider an analogy. Boards of directors don’t want to read reams of 9-point type describing federal employment regulations, so they nod and “let HR take care of it.” Big mistake, too.

            Anyone know what’s really going on in HR? If you want to know, pay careful attention to that written job offer and note what’s MISSING from it.

        • It is so important to ask about benefits as well as salary earlier in the process. Ideally, employers would make this information public, but too many employers will not disclose salary and benefits until they’ve made an offer of employment and you’ve accepted. It is ridiculous–we’re all adults and salary and benefits are important. If an employer thinks I should be grateful to work there and “not worry about the salary and benefits”, I worry because that tells me they’re going to be cheap and I won’t be able to afford to work there unless I live in a cardboard box.

      • @Nick:

        Several years back, while working as a Contractor at Mars Information Services in the FTZ in Mount Olive, NJ, I was beat out for an FTE position by an external candidate for the role I filled for a year as a contractor. I was then subjected to the indiginity of having to on-board this individual and while I thought it a classless thing to do on the part of my manager, I put up with it.

        A week after the new guy started, he took me to lunch and told me something I was not aware of (bit which interestingly supports your comments above) and that Mars REFUSED to provide him any real information on the cost of the benefits he would be buying for himself and his family until AFTER he accepted their offer.

        He told me in essence, that when all was said an done, “all I have effectively done is shorten my commute because the salary bump was modest, but the cost to buy the benefits was more than he had paid at my prior employer, Verizon Wireless.”

        Due to the working conditions at Mars IS and the way I was treated as a Contractor (no bennies, no PTO but EXPECTED to ACT LIKE an FTE and attend all of their stupid off-site events and training), I was not disappointed that I wasn’t selected because in the end, my tenure as a contractor provided me with a real time look at the company and I was able to make a determination that I did not want to continue to work there.

        The working conditions at Mars included a completely open office (something I detest) which is not conducive to conducting telephone negotiations, so as soon as I found another role, I had no qualms about leaving with only 1 week of notice.

        • @Paul C: That’s an excellent object lesson in “Comparative Compensation” and “Why They Hired Someone Else.” What an eye-opener that discussion must have been for you.

          I talk myself blue sometimes, telling people to ask to see all documents incorporated by reference in a job offer letter. Benefits, employee policy manual, NDA, NCA, etc. They are all part of your offer!

          BUT: Many employers consider benefits, etc. as “company confidential.” You can’t see it until you are an employee.

          BUT: How can you evaluate the offer without knowing all the details?

          Your story puts a fearful spin on that.

  14. Life is full of lessons and this is a lesson. Things like this happen to everyone, we misunderstand because maybe we aren’t listening but instead thinking of selling ourselves, ‘‘tis human nature. Just think of it that way rather than aching to make a bad fit become a good fit. Salary or benefits are important, plus you’ll have the expense of moving. Let’s be real, we must assume the salary may stay at that level for years, have seen it happen. You certainly should discuss salary in the next interview but do it Nick’s way! Go into this as it’s a no instead of thinking you can change them. That way your hopes will not be so high that logic goes out the door. Good luck!

  15. As someone who has hired people, I make it my business to know the market price for the position I am trying to fill. I would expect the candidates would know that price too. Also, I am the only person to make the offer: no HR, colleagues from other departments, or people on the team. I am the hiring manager and the candidate is my risk and responsibility.

    • Good for you, Jonathan. Nice to see a hiring manager take that responsibility.

    • @Jonathan: I doubt many job applicants have met managers like you. Because you’re already way ahead of the curve, I’ll suggest a little mind-bending exercise.

      Next time, rather than suss out the market price of a position, fire up a spreadsheet. Without checking salaries for comparable jobs and people, try to figure out what the job you want done is worth to your company. That is, where’s the break-even between the cost of a worker and the profit the job produces (it’ll be indirect in many cases, but let’s face it, if a job doesn’t contribute to profit somehow, it’s not justified).

      Based on that analysis (translation: best justified guess!), how much should you pay?

      Now here’s a trick question: Do you (or any manager in your company or in any other company) know how a specific job (and employee) contributes to your company’s profits? Consider what it means if you do not know this.

      In any case, I admire that you take personal responsibility for hiring. If we could get all managers to do at least that, then we could start talking about that exercise.

  16. This may be ‘off topic’ but it does not seem that anyone here questioned that ‘$60K – $70K/$45K’ given that corporate ‘Director’ positions pay from $120K up to about $160K.

    Prior to 2008, the low for a ‘Director’ position was $140K…

    It does seem odd to see someone referring to a ‘Director’ titled job paying in the sixties….or $45K…

    There are small hospitals (<150 beds) with Physical Therapy departments staffed by one registered PT that are referred to as 'Director' jobs but I don't think you are talking about a hospital job.

    So what the heck are you talking about?

    Paul Forel
    Executive Search

    • @Paul–I’ve seen marketing director jobs all over the lot from $80K to $160K, depending on the responsibilities, size of company, business, and the location.

    • “Director” can mean a lot of things, depending on the business. How much should a “Manager” make? Manager or Director of what?

  17. @Paul Forel: Nice to hear from a headhunter and I agree with you. This thread proves that the Director title offered to the OP is in fact a fraud.

    I am NOT at a Director Level and my base comp is well over the numbers discussed previously and I don’t have to supervise anyone.

    That said, I watched the movie A FAMILY MAN starring Gerard Butler as an Executive Recruiter. It is, IMO a great look at the recruiting business, the pressures found therein and a man so driven to succeed he has all but ignored his family – until his son’s leukemia changes everything. I recommend the movie to everyone who posts here as it provides an excellent study of one person’s transition into a better person.

    • It’s interesting how few books and movies there are about headhunters. Never heard of that one — thanks for the tip.

      (Did you ever notice that while HR is a subject/degree area in colleges, there’s no Headhunter area? I mention this because many people have asked me where they can take courses or get certified in headhunting. Lotsa luck. Any thoughts on that?)

      • True ‘Executive Search’ requires one to be adept at ‘social engineering’.

        Many people have a problem with that which would beg the question of who is going to teach people to tell white lies in order to execute a Search.

        Without social engineering, we have, nowadays and predominantly, masses of young and new recruiters dependent on Boolean search and what I call the ‘dead animal pits’ which are resume depots such as Indeed, Monster and LinkedIn. Without such resources, many and most of the newer generation of ‘recruiters’ would be sunk since they have been trained -if they have been trained at all- to call on resumes that are readily available at job search websites.

        In contrast, based on my formal training, I’ve been known to tell people I can recruit anyone, calling from the planet Mars with only a telephone booth and a roll of quarters.

        So, if there were such classes -and there are trainers in this regard- the question would be if they only teach how to sift already existing and available resumes of those advertising their interest in a career move, if they include how to execute a Boolean Search and whether or not they have the moral capacity to teach social engineering in order to discover hidden talent- those people who are buried under the layers of an organizational chart, e.g. Cost Accountants where there are five or more.

        IMO, eventually, all ‘old school’ headhunters like myself will be dust and the industrialized world will be left with predominantly resume database-dependent ‘recruiters’.

        Not everyone in our business has the stomach to claim they are calling from a Nissan plant.

        And, a classroom cannot convey all the risk, nuances and pitfalls that are inherently part of the Search process.

        So to answer your question, those who want to learn true Executive Search should simply get a job with a Search firm where the use of all available tools are taught.

        Paul Forel
        Executive Search
        Kansas City, MO

        • @Paul Forel: “dead animal pits”

          Now THAT is an apt term for the job boards! Thanks for shedding light on what recruiting is and isn’t.

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