How to Say It: Why are you leaving your old job?

In the June 7, 2011 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter, a reader asks what to say when an interviewer inquires why you’re leaving your old employer:

I work in a business where there is a constant flow of people in and out of our office, and a high volume of customers calling on the phone. We get a lot of complaints from customers, and quite a bit of verbal abuse. My co-workers and I don’t feel safe. Extreme as it sounds, we worry about someone walking in the door and going bonkers.

I began a job search this week, and I’ve read online comments about what to say when asked the reasons for leaving my old job. I’ve been advised never to say anything bad about the company, including that it’s not safe. So, I am not sure how to answer this question any more. I have an interview coming up. Can you please give me some advice about what to say when I’m asked the reasons I am leaving my current job? Thanks very much.

Here’s the short version of my advice: (For the entire column, you need to subscribe to the free weekly newsletter. Don’t miss another edition!)

You could be leaving your job because you don’t see growth opportunities, or because you have just grown tired of the work. Or, you might not get along with other employees, or with management. While any of these reasons are legitimate, how you express them could cost you a job opportunity. While some employers are interested in your motivations, I believe this question is almost always “loaded.” The employer wants to know whether you’re trouble.

As you can see, the real problem with this question is that you have no way of knowing the interviewer’s intent. And it’s not worth guessing and being wrong.

If you believe that explaining your reasons for leaving your last job will reflect well on you, then by all means explain. If you’re worried it will hurt you, then keep mum.

How to Say It
“I love my work, and I want to work in a better company where I am free to do my job effectively.”

If they ask you what the problem is with your current employer, be honest:

“I’m looking for a good job with a good company, but I never disparage anyone I’ve ever worked with… I came to you because your company seems to be one of the shining lights in this industry, and I’d like to talk about how I can help you be more profitable…” (…This is the missing part… Sorry, but you must subscribe to the newsletter to get the entire Answer and Commentary in the newsletter… Don’t wait til next week… Sign up now… it’s free!)

That’s the best way I know to approach any employer, and to get past that question. Focus on the company you’re meeting with, not on your past or your old company. And be candid about your policy of not bad-mouthing anyone, including your last employer.

I’m sorry you’ve been through so much. Look ahead, find a really good company, and explain how you’re going to help them be more successful. That’s what any good employer looks for.

It’s one of those tricky interview questions: Why are you leaving your old job? If you’re leaving because you’re unhappy, that opens up a can of worms in the interview. So, what do you say, and how do you say it? My suggestion in this week’s newsletter is one way to handle it. How have you handled this? Did it work? Or did it backfire?


Ordering at the interview bar

In the May 31, 2011 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter, a reader asks how to handle job interviews… in a restaurant or bar:

The company I’ve been talking with informed me that our next interview will be at a nearby bar where we can all sit down and relax. The manager also mentioned that he and his group will have some specific questions this time. (In the first interview, I listened more than I talked.) What’s the protocol for interviewing in a public place? I guess they want to see how I act and how I would fit in. Can you offer any Do’s and Don’ts for a “relaxed” bar interview?

Here’s the short version of my advice: (For the entire column, you need to subscribe to the free weekly newsletter. Don’t miss another edition!)

There is some conventional wisdom about interviewing over a meal or over a drink. All of it assumes such a meeting is a clever ruse where the employer is watching your manners and your eating habits, and possibly trying to get you “loosened up” so they can find out what you’re really like.

I caution you: Don’t make any of these assumptions. It’s a business meeting. Be businesslike.

A long time ago someone taught me to take others at face value and to always assume the best. It’s good advice. If it turns out someone is playing games with you, that should be enough to tell you what kind of people they are — and that you probably want nothing to do with them. As long as you are honest and sincere in your words and actions, the burden is on the other guy to act the same. I’ve found this personal policy works very well. If someone screws with me after I give him the benefit of the doubt, I never deal with him again. Word gets around.

Be yourself. Don’t get caught up in the meaning behind the interview location. Do what you would normally do in an interview. (If you don’t feel comfortable in bars, say so and ask for a change of venue.) If you are a woman and the interviewers are all guys and the bar is questionable, use your judgment and trust your instincts.

Order what you want to eat, but don’t spend too much of their money. Use common sense and be polite.

Don’t follow suit. If the boss orders beer but you don’t drink beer, don’t order beer. If you want seltzer, order seltzer. Don’t be someone you’re not…

(…This is the missing part… Sorry, but you must subscribe to the newsletter to get the entire Answer and Commentary in the newsletter… Don’t wait til next week… Sign up now… it’s free!)

…Respect yourself and respect the employer. No games. Discuss whatever they want to discuss as long as you’re comfortable with it. Hopefully, they want to talk about the work. If you’re the one introducing topics, talk about the work. Contribute whatever information you think will help them see how you will do the job profitably for the company, and how you will fit into their social environment.

If you and they don’t fit together, this is the time to find out. If the meeting gets weird, order take-out.

Do the rules change when your interview is in a restaurant? How about in a bar? Have you had such interviews? How did you handle them?


Your Internet Leavings: Do you leave a mess?

In the May 17, 2011 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter, a reader asks whether what we post on the Net can hurt us.

Now that I’m job hunting, I’m taking stock of things I’ve posted around the Net. I wonder if my online writing could hurt my chances of getting hired. I suppose a diligent background check could turn up things I’ve written that could be misread. I also see that certain companies have policies prohibiting their employees from publishing blogs or anything that might reflect poorly on the company. Are we supposed to keep our mouths shut and stop posting online because “Big Brother” might find it? Is it best to use a screen name and to avoid identifying myself?

Here’s the short version of my advice: (For the entire column, you need to subscribe to the free weekly newsletter. Don’t miss another edition!)

…the Net is a great way to hang out with people — there are some great discussion forums to participate in and blogs where you can comment. Done right, it’s a good way to make valuable new contacts, and a way to build a reputation.

I believe the main reason a person’s postings on the Net can create problems is anonymity. If we think we’re anonymous, we’re more likely to post stupidly. How can you seem stupid if you’re anonymous? It’s not difficult, for someone whose job is to investigate you, to map your silly screen name to a similar e-mail address, Twitter account or Facebook page, and through your online haunts, and to track it back to you.

So, don’t be anonymous. Use your real name, or don’t post. Clearly identifying ourselves helps keep us honest — and undoubtedly helps decrease the litter of Internet leavings (and the load of nonsense) on the Net.

I try to practice this not only when I post, but when I judge a posting. If a real name doesn’t accompany a posting, I give it less credence. I want to know who is behind the words. I want to know they’ve put some skin in their statements…

(…Sorry, but you must subscribe to the newsletter to get the entire “Answer” and commentary in the newsletter… Don’t wait til next week… Sign up now… it’s free!)

…In a time when intellectual property (IP) is the real asset, why do people (and companies) want to suppress the identities of those who create that IP?

There will always be dopes who make themselves (and their employers) look bad online. But the potential to build a good, solid reputation across the Net starts with accountability. Anyone who doesn’t believe they leave a persistent image of themselves online has a lot to learn — the hard way. Those who “get it” can prosper because the Net is a phenomenal amplifier of good IP.

I’ll put this more clearly: A consistent, responsible body of useful postings on the Net identified by your real name can gain you the kind of notice that leads to good job opportunities. (Please see this old gem of an article by Susan Raskin: Mining Candidates: How top recruiters really use the Net to fill jobs.)…

…Your privacy is of course valuable. That may be why you decide to use a pseudonym. But, if you have something worth saying, and if you are thoughtful and circumspect, then I suggest you put your real name on your writings. It’s the rare individual who can be proud of the trail he or she leaves. While that trail might attract nuisances, it also attracts opportunities.

You drop stuff all over the Net every time you post a comment on a blog or social networking site. Are your leavings making you look bad? Or, do you drop gold nuggets that suggest you’re a golden goose? (Okay, enough of that metaphor.) How do you account for yourself online?


How to get noticed for a C-level job

In the May 3, 2011 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter, a reader asks how to get noticed among all the competition when competing for a C-level job, especially when he doesn’t have 100% of the “requirements” on his resume.

I believe I have a good, detailed resume. I am trying to make the jump from SVP/Division President to COO or CEO. How can I get noticed? I am also finding out that, in times like these, no one will talk with you unless you meet 100% of the requirements. Most of the times I meet 85%-95%, but I still get rejected. Any tips?

Here’s the short version of my advice: (For the entire column, you need to subscribe to the free weekly newsletter. Don’t miss another edition!)

Think about this. Why would you apply for a C-level job by sending your resume to an X-level personnel jockey who’s working deep in the bowels of the company, far away from the C-suite? Honest, I’m just astonished at the degree to which smart, skilled managers get sucked into the bureaucratic herd mentality of corporate “recruiting” practices.

…Thanks to the prevalence of job-board databases, HR-department “resume scanners,” and the idiotic reliance on “keywords,” that’s where the problem of meeting 100% of the requirements comes in.

It used to be that someone with a brain would review a resume, read between the lines, and make an informed assessment about a candidate. That was before employers started soliciting thousands of applicants for one job. The most egregious example of executive job-hunting roulette is TheLadders, which claims to provide “exclusive” access to its “4.5 million subscribers”… for 50,000 “$100k+” jobs in its database! (Come look at the math.)

…We all know that you don’t need to be a perfect match to the job description to be the perfect candidate. So, how do you avoid being judged and rejected by your resume?

It’s simple: Avoid applying via resume!

Withhold your resume as long as possible. Navigate your way to a member of the board of directors or to the president of the company, without applying for the job. (Even a VP can help you get in the door.)

When you want to date a girl to get to know her, the last thing you say is, “You’re the perfect wife for me! Let’s get together to talk about getting married!”

Gimme a break. Show some finesse. Just because HR tells you to act stupid is no reason to do it.

Don’t walk blind on the job hunt. Establish a personal connection first. Rather than cry about your competitors, who seem to have the inside track, get on the inside track.

With this approach, you’re impressing a key decision maker or influencer with your acumen and your character — qualities that are not captured by keywords, but that are key decision factors for making a hire. Qualities that put you on the inside track.

How should you approach such top-level officers? By asking them for insight about the position that’s open.

How to Say It(Sorry, but you must subscribe to the newsletter to get all the answers in the newsletter… Don’t wait til next week… Sign up now… it’s free!)

You will be judged not by “100% of the requirements,” but by how you approach the challenges the company is facing. If the discussion goes well, suggest that you’d like to meet to discuss those challenges further. (Note that I said “discuss those challenges,” not “the job.” Top execs can smell a job hunter a mile away. They don’t want to talk about the job. They’ll let HR do that, with all those applicants who crowd the pipe. Top execs want to talk shop with a peer. Be that peer.)

That’s how you avoid an interview and have a friendly, peer-to-peer meeting instead. That’s how you get noticed for a C-level job: by behaving like a C-level exec.

If you’re a CEO, and you want to talk about acquiring another company, you don’t call that company’s HR department. You call the company’s CEO, or someone on the board of directors. So, why do you send a resume to HR when you want to talk about a CEO job?

I’d like to hear your stories about how you got in the door by going around HR to the decision maker — whether you were looking for a C-level job, or a staff position. It works the same way. The finesse comes in knowing how to get in the door without crawling through that sewer pipe full of resumes.

How do you get in the door?


Readers’ Forum: How to Turn Down a Job Offer

In the April 12, 2011 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter, a reader asks how to turn down a job offer while maintaining a good long-term relationship with the employer. Is that so hard to imagine?

I have been pretty lucky and currently have a few job offers on the table. All the offers sound like good opportunities, and while I’d like to work for all of them, I’d probably violate labor laws and my own sanity if I actually did! Is there a right way to turn down offers? That is, so I can maintain my relationships with those I turn down, should I want to reconsider working for that boss or employer in the future?

Here’s the short version of my advice: (For the entire column, you need to subscribe to the free weekly newsletter. Don’t miss another edition!)

The best way to turn down an offer is to call the hiring manager directly (not the human resources department). Don’t just send an e-mail. Say thank you, but then demonstrate your respect to earn respect back. This is where valuable long-term relationships start. (Why don’t HR departments get this?)

How to Say It
When you talk with the manager, try this: “It means a lot to me that you’ve asked me to come work with you. I’ve been fortunate to receive several offers, and I’m taking the one where the work is the closest match to my objectives. Unfortunately, that’s not your company. This was a difficult decision, because you’re someone I’d like to work with, if not now, sometime in the future. With your permission, I’d like to stay in touch. In fact, if it’s not presumptuous, I’d like to recommend someone to you who I think would be a good candidate for this job… and I’d be glad to put you in touch….”

If you’re really impressed with the manager (Why else would you want to stay in touch, right?), recommending someone else is a nice consolation prize, and it shows how much you think of the manager. Just make sure the referral is a good one.

What if you haven’t got a referral to offer? There’s an alternative How to Say It suggestion in the newsletter that could nurture a new professional friendship. Sign up for your own free subscription, and get more tips in upcoming newsletters!

Here’s another: If the job is related to sales or marketing, offer a lead on a possible new customer, if you can. Introduce the manager to another manager that he or she might do business with. Give something back to demonstrate your respect. That’s where relationships start. Then follow up — it’s up to you to stay in touch. If you can do something for the manager in the near future, do it.

That’s how to stay close. That’s how you cultivate future opportunities.

When an employer rejects you, it’s usually with a little note that says, “Thanks for interviewing with us. Go suck rocks.” After investing money and time getting to know you, fools waste their investment and insult you. Building a network of good contacts means saying “No” with class, and with the intent to build new relationships anyway.

How do you turn down job offers? Does your method pay off?


Readers’ Comments: The Deadly Resume: 10 jobs in 12 years

In the February 8, 2011 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter, a reader asks how to persuade a company to focus on skills, rather than on 12 years of jumping from job to job:

I have had 10 jobs in 12 years. All have been increasing in experience from a lowly copier technician, to parts runner, to computer technician, to part-owner of a company, to service manager with multi-million dollar accounts with 5-10 techs under me, and finally to high-end computer network technology for some big companies.

Now I’m looking for a network technology position in a smaller to medium-sized company. I’ve obtained some software certifications and taken some admin courses. All of my experience is baptism by fire and road-warrior stuff. The first question out of prospective employers is, “How come you’ve had 10 jobs in 12 years?” I want to shift the focus to what I can do for the company instead of defending my resume but I am not sure how to go about it.  

Here’s the short version of my advice: (For the entire column, you need to subscribe to the free weekly newsletter. Don’t miss another edition!)

To most employers, that’s a deadly resume. They are concerned you’re going to “bounce” after a year. They’ll lose what they’ve invested in you, and they’ll have to find a replacement—and that’s no simple feat. This would be true about any job hunter, whether it’s a network technologist like you, or a manager or an executive.

You need to provide an honest explanation that’s going to satisfy an employer. The best way to start is by pointing out that your references are excellent (I hope they are) and that your record of success on the job is stellar. Then, ask the employer, “What is it that concerns you?” Yes, ask point blank, even though you know what the answer is. Let the employer say it aloud. If you want to have a meaningful discussion, the subject needs to be addressed candidly.

Then, depending on the response you get, you must think fast on your feet and figure out how you’re going to help the employer avoid losing you in a year. Start by explaining what happened:

How to Say It
“The first five jobs were quick changes because I wanted to work with sophisticated technology, and each new job offered me dramatic new opportunities to learn and grow. The next five were with large companies, where it was hard to move from one function to the next higher one. The lack of good hires forced technical people like me to stay in one job too long.”

Let the employer ask you questions about this. Unless the employer can exhaust her concerns, you’re not going to get anywhere near an offer. Help her talk about what’s bothering her, or you’ll get no chance at persuasion.

I’m sure you realize that your first real problem is your judgment. If career stability has been your objective, you blew it. You chose companies that could not keep you challenged. Your second big problem is patience: You didn’t invest the time and effort to help one of those companies develop a career plan for you. (We can blame the companies, but it’s your career, and in the end, you’ve got to manage your employers if you want to achieve your own objectives.)

But lets get on with how you might handle this. Before the employer is going to get interested in what you can do for her, she needs to see a commitment…

In the newsletter, the next part is how to make the commitment: How to Say It. (If you want in on the additional advice next week, sign up for the newsletter now!) But my challenge to everyone here on the blog is, How would you say it?

How could you make the kind of commitment that would make a skeptical employer consider what you can do for her company? Is it even possible?


Readers’ Comments: Should you stay? How to decide.

In the February 1, 2011 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter, a reader is pretty happy at work, and wonders about sticking around:

I have been with the same company since college graduation: nine years. The company was a small start-up and has grown to become profitable. It provides average benefits with somewhat below-average salary. I have had opportunities to leave (job offer in hand) in the past, but have decided to stay with hopes of the company continuing its growth. I see many people bouncing from one job to the next for professional challenge and career advancement. Should I consider “moving on?” Or should I stay with good chances of being “in the right place at the right time?” Let me know your opinion. Thanks. 

Here’s the short version of my advice: (For the entire column, you need to subscribe to the free weekly newsletter. Don’t miss another edition!)

After nine years with the company, I’d hope your management would welcome a discussion about the future. You’re certainly loyal, and it’s prudent to express your interest in the company’s goals since they will affect you profoundly.

My suggestion: Request a meeting with the president or CEO of the company. (If you worked for a big company, I’d suggest the head of your division or operation.) Invite him (or her) to lunch. This might seem odd, but it’s not at all. You have invested a lot in this company. You need to keep track of its progress like you would any company you own stock in.

At lunch, explain that you have been thinking about the company’s future direction, and you’d like to know what the CEO thinks. Don’t let on that you’re considering making a job change. If the CEO is smart, he’ll figure it out, but he’ll also see that you’re approaching your own future intelligently: by trying to assess the company’s future.

Here’s a suggestion about How to Say It: “I know there are certain things you can’t discuss, but I’m trying to get a feel for where the company plans to go over the next five years, and how someone like me would be impacted by those plans. A lot of people just get up and leave a company because they don’t know what the future holds. I feel like I’m part of a family here, and I care about our future, so I’d like to learn more about this from you.”

Most people never bother to talk to The Big Boss before they decide to move on. The Big Boss is probably more approachable than you think. Ask your questions. Make sure there is a future there, rather than “more of the same” (unless that’s what you really want). That’s how to figure out whether you should stay put. The best person to ask is the one at the top of your company.

I like it when a person tries to find good reasons to stay put, rather than try to change jobs quickly out of desperation. If you feel like you’re in the right place, but also feel a bit itchy, sometimes the best way to scratch the itch is to go talk to your bosses…

What’s made you decide to stay put? Are you glad you did?

What information was helpful in making that decision? How did you obtain it?


Readers’ Forum: Ask The Headhunter in a Nutshell

In the December 21, 2010 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter, a reader asks for ATH in a nutshell:

Can you please summarize the Ask The Headhunter strategy and explain the main differences between ATH and the traditional approach to job hunting? Thanks.

Normally, I publish only a short excerpt of the newsletter here on the blog. But this is the last newsletter of 2010, and it’s a summary of some of the main ideas of Ask The Headhunter. I’m posting the entire December 21, 2010 newsletter online: Click here for the full edition of  Ask The Headhunter in a Nutshell.

The 4 “nutshell” tips are:

1. The best way to find a good job opportunity is to go hang out with people who do the work you want to do.

2. The best way to get a job interview is to be referred by someone the manager trusts.

3. The best way to do well in an interview is to walk in and demonstrate to the manager how you will do the job profitably for him and for you.

4. The best way to get a headhunter’s help is to manage your interaction for mutual profit from the start.

For the details behind each tip, please see the newsletter… And as always, please post your comments here on the blog!

Answer Kit: How Can I Change Careers?

How to Work with Headhunters

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  • Answer Kit: How Can I Change Careers?
  • How to Work with Headhunters

This limited offer is good only through Christmas week!
Don’t miss it! The 2-Book Bundle makes a great gift!
(The discount code you’ll need for EXTRA $AVING$ is in the newsletter.)

What more do you need?

That’s the Readers’ Forum question this week. All through the year, I try to teach the nuts and bolts behind the four main ideas discussed in today’s newsletter. Your questions help me flesh out the details of these ideas — and that’s what every edition of the newsletter is about!

In this week’s Readers’ Forum, The Headhunter Asks You: What more do you need to be successful at job hunting and hiring? What daunting problems or challenges can I help you deal with in your job search (or if you’re a manager, when hiring)?

Merry Christmas!Please share your questions, problems and challenges, and I’ll do my best to help, right here on the blog, and in next year’s newsletters. I welcome you to pile on — please tell me where I can help!

Meanwhile, here’s wishing everyone a very Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays (no matter what holidays you celebrate or where you celebrate them), and a Happy, Healthy, and Prosperous New Year!


Readers’ Forum: Where do I see myself in 5 years?

In the December 14, 2010 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter, a reader asks how to best answer an age-old interview question:

Many job-related sites talk about this interview question, but none suggest how to best answer it. The question is, “Where do you see yourself in five years?” Obviously, this question relates to a person’s goals, but it can be sticky in some situations, especially a small business to which you are applying where the only promotion may be to the interviewer’s position. What do you suggest?

Here’s the short version of my advice: (For the entire column, you need to subscribe to the free weekly newsletter. Don’t miss another edition!)

So, what should you say to the five-year question? My cynical answer is another question: “Will your company still be in business five years from now?”

Yah, that’s a little rude, but a dopey question sometimes deserves a pointed rejoinder.

This is why I include “five years” in my list of the Top 10 Stupid Interview Questions. You see, the problem doesn’t lie in coming up with an answer. The problem is the question itself. I advise employers not to ask “where you see yourself in five years” for a number of reasons:

  • There are so many canned answers floating around that it’s meaningless — few people answer it honestly.
  • Many businesses really won’t be around in five years.
  • Changes in technology and business render almost any career goal ephemeral.

I suggest you be honest with the employer. If you don’t know where you see yourself in five years, tell him where you see yourself in six months or a year: “Contributing to the profitability of this company by doing A, B, and C for you.” Then explain what A, B, and C are in detail. (Do your homework, or don’t go to the interview!)

Talk shop! Steer the interviewer away from goofy questions like, What’s your greatest weakness? If you could be any animal, what animal would you be? No matter how you decide to answer (or parry) a worn out interview question, you can take control of the interview. In the Answer Kit: How Can I Change Careers? I offer many suggestions to help you take the interviewer out of fantasyland. Here are two of them:

  • Don’t talk about yourself. Talk shop and demonstrate your abilities. Ask the interviewer: What’s the main problem or challenge you’d like the person you hire to tackle? I’d like to show you how I’d go about it…
  • Skip the elevator pitch. Offer value and make a commitment. Rather than say, “I’m a hardworking, capable operations manager seeking opportunity for advancement,” (so’s everybody!) try this: I will reduce your operations costs by negotiating better deals with your freight vendors and streamlining your shipping department by doing X, Y and Z… (Again, you’d better have done your homework, and be ready to get very specific!)

(How Can I Change Careers? isn’t just for career changers. It’s for anyone who wants to stand out by demonstrating their value to a specific employer.)

Don’t get lost trying to answer distracting questions. If you find a job interview is going off the track, you can also steer it back on course by raising (and answering) The Most Important Question in an Interview.

Employers seem to think that certain interview questions are a must. Is “the five year question” one of them? Does it matter where you see yourself in five years?

Besides, hasn’t this question been so over-analyzed and the answers “faked” for so long that it’s meaningless anyway? Gimme a break. I’d rather be asked why manhole covers are round.

What’s your take on it? Is this just another stupid interview question? How do you answer it?


Readers’ Forum: How much should I pay a new hire?

In the December 7, 2010 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter, an employer asks how to set the salary for a job offer.

I’m an employer, and I need some information on the average salary I should expect to pay an experienced (5-10 years), degreed individual to manage part of my software company. I am looking for someone who can take over and manage with little or no supervision. How do I set a salary on this?

Here’s the short version of my advice: (For the entire column, you need to subscribe to the free weekly newsletter. Don’t miss another edition!)

No salary database describes your position, or the particular manager you want to hire. You might find some data that appear to be relevant, but just one factor could throw off your entire calculus and lead you to make a terrible mistake.

I know that you need to set a range for your budget, but why not think about this person’s salary in a new way that might attract the best candidates? (Why would you want to focus on average salary? Do you want an average hire?)

Ask yourself, Is my hiring strategy to limit my costs, or to boost my profits? That is, are you willing to pay more to get more? This requires some analysis that few employers consider.

How much added profit could a candidate add to my business? In the interview, ask candidates to discuss their abilities in those terms. How would they increase your profits by 10%? Decrease your costs by 15%? Create products that increase market share by 20%?

Then, pay based on added profit.

(You say you can’t calculate profit for a particular position? Well, then your business plan is totally screwed. But don’t feel too badly — few employers have any idea how a single job contributes to profit. Think about that: How can anyone run a company rationally if they don’t know how each job contributes to the bottom line? My suspicion is that this problem is a fundamental cause of business failure.) 

A candidate who can answer those questions in a compelling way may be worth more than the market—or any salary survey—suggests. So, think out of the box. Turn your interviews into working meetings where you and the candidate roll up your sleeves and tackle ways to improve the job to make it more profitable.

This sort of interview turns into a business planning session…

(If you’re a job candidate, don’t let salary surveys limit your job negotiations, either.)

Maybe HR told you there’s $X in the budget for the job you want to fill. Maybe you checked the industry averages and set the salary range accordingly. Maybe you picked a number out of a hat.

Maybe you have no idea how the job is supposed to contribute to your bottom line!

Which is it? How do managers decide what salary to offer a new hire? Let’s talk dollars. How do you think they should do it?