When interviewing a candidate, whether this person is a great match for my current position or someone I want to keep in the pipeline, expected salary is one of the last subjects I cover. I have never and would never ask “What would it take” etc. That really puts them in a position of thinking the client wants to “buy” them – so “name your price”. That is a far cry from the real topic.

When I discuss salary (beyond my initial/pre-interview screening “what is your current salary”) it is only after I have walked through their entire career – learning about their salary history from one job to the next. I have already seen their track record of salary increases, etc. By that time I have seen them go from one job to the next and learned what their salary changes were each time. I then know what they have done in real life.

After I know them, their career, their goals – and had them describe the kind of opportunity that fits their career path – I then approach the specific salary discussion. “OK. Great. I’ve got a pretty good understanding of the type of role we’re looking for. If I can find an opportunity that provides what you are looking for – what would be your thoughts on a lateral salary move?” and then I just shut up……..don’t say a word……….

If they say “I need at least XX amount (far above their current) my reply is always: “So then, salary is the main reason for your interest in a change?” At this point the conversation is going to go one of two directions. If their answer is:

Yes – then I suggest the best way to achieve that goal is simply let it be known they’ve been hearing about jobs, or interviewing, etc. and hopefully they can get a counter offer. You see – if $$ is the main reason for a change – that person has a VERY HIGH probability of a counter offer acceptance.
I will also mention that if a company is expected to invest in your career development most likely they would not offer a giant $$ increase to join their team.

In my opinion – training is money. I let them know I find it interesting that people spend 50K + on their degree HOPING they will find a job in their field. When the prospect of a better position comes along with real hands-on/current technology to be gained – they expect a huge raise? I suggest it may be time to invest just a bit more for actual PROFESSIONAL AND CAREER GROWTH – by way of a lateral salary move – or even a slightly lower salary.

But more often their answer will be along these lines – “No. Salary is not my only reason for wanting to move. I just want the best offer I can get”. This is more realistic. I’ll let them know I have the very same goal. Once we’re back on the same page – I find often times they’re simply in need of some guidance. I let them know most cases involve a “reasonable” increase – say, 3-5% – but that our real goal should be to find the best career move. In most cases we then discuss a more realistic salary expectation and keep moving ahead.

This is how I work.

Originally posted on my personal blog - JerryTheRecruiter

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Great walk through of your process. Thanks for sharing. In terms of the goal of finding the best career move...that can be extremely challenging. I've found that most candidates have unrealistic views of what their abilities really are. I have had to become comfortable in getting earthy with candidates after talking to several of their managers and peers. For example, I met a executive who felt the next logical step in his career would be a corporate controller or CFO (how about CEO just for kicks). After talking with several of the CFO's he interacted with, it was clear he did not have the technical competency in terms of GAAP to handle the latest issues typically associated with a Fortune 500 controller position. Second, this individual seemed to excel at a much higher level as an individual contributor than a manager. Thus, the reason his track record with assigned projects was superb. It was recommended that this executive continue with executive coaching (something I did not know about) to develop the leadership and communication skills necessary to interact with a Board of Directors and executive staff more effectively (something which slowed his progression at his last organization).

Being able to arm yourself with this kind of information from previous work experience will help gain trust and buy in from a candidate who otherwise might be trying to play hardball. The look on their faces when you convey some the information gleaned from people they did not provide as official references is priceless as well.
amen amen.
Jerry...I've said this before...and will say it again. This is why I joined this sight...real talk about our industry and skills+techniques that we can all use to make ourselves better recruiters!
Excellent approach to salary - seeing the progression in their history, evaluating their skills, then finding their "REAL" motivators for making a change.
Great Post.
Thanks for the affirmation guys and gals. Recruitingblogs is my home is out here. Thanks JD and Maren!
Loved the post Jerry. However, I like to cover off all areas of compensation/expectations as well. You need to be talking bonuses (if applicable, what was the potential to earn vs what they did), does their current company pay for parking, phone, internet at home, extra leave a year etc. Lots of people forget about this if just talking money, and it has sometimes become a stumbling block when the ink needs to hit the paper. They don't understand what they earn, sounds silly, but..... sometimes a lateral career move can end up being a financial step backwards. (been there done that, in a calculated manner of course) But candidates don't always know this stuff off the top or think about it.. it's up to us (as people who deal with career/job change on a daily basis) to ensure they have all their boxes ticked correctly in their head too.

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