Category Archives: salary negotiations

The dilemma for daddies to be (and some mommies too), part 2

momdadbabyI guess I should have called the first post, “The dilemma for daddies to be, (and some mommies too), so I corrected my error. In the last post we talked about how impending fatherhood can be as much of a tricky dilemma as  for expectant mothers. Obviously it is easier for dads to delay the discussion a little longer than moms and not be subjected to any possible discrimination in that regard. The exception of course are moms to be who are adopting, and hopefully they can get some useful information out of this too.

Let’s break down some scenarios and talk about what may be some solutions:

You are expecting a child fairly soon and are interviewing for a position. When do I tell the prospective employer?

If you are having the initial discussions with people (recruiters, hiring managers, etc) and have not gotten into serious interviewing and they tick off some standard questions, one of them is usually “if you were to be offered a position here and you decided to accept it, when could you be available to start?” Things are in the early stages here and I see no reason to show your hand about anything yet. I would respond with what you would normally respond with, depending on your current work circumstance. If you are working, you must say you can’t start for at least 2 weeks after you accept and give notice. If you say anything less, it is a red flag for future employers about your professionalism and loyalty, but that’s a different discussion.

If through further discussions, you find that there is a very good chance the timing will coincide, you will need to evaluate telling versus the opportunity and how you feel they may react.

When I do think it is appropriate to bring it up is when you have completed first, second or more rounds of interviews as dictated by their process and the feedback is all pointing to you getting an offer. They will usually start talking about more specific start dates.

How do I bring it up?

You want to make it seem like an easy issue to resolve, first and foremost. I would say “since we started speaking about the job, some timetables have come into play with regard to my (partner/wife/birth mother) giving birth. As we all know the due date is not always accurate but I will need x time off prior to the baby arriving and x time off after the baby arrives. I am very interested in the position and believe I am a great candidate. I also will do as much self-learning about my duties while I am out as I can (don’t commit if you don’t think you can do that!) as to minimize my ramp up time. I hope this does not affect my candidacy for this position”

It would be best if you could also get this statement and their response in an email. Although it would be hard to prove that they passed on you because of this, it’s harder to do so if they emailed you their commitment to be OK with your situation.

Shouldn’t I just wait for when I get the official offer, that way it would be harder for them to pull it back?

Yes, it would be harder and they could open themselves up for discriminatory practices claims if they did, but is this the way you want to start things off with them? They will feel slightly deceived but will still commit to the offer and that perception may not go away ever. Will this affect future opportunities from within the company? Once there is a little distance from you getting back to work, will they start the search again because they have trust issues with you? Just some food for thought.

OK, next post will be the dilemma about accepting a less than desirable role because you feel you need to be working at all costs!

The dilemma for daddys to be, part 1

newdadMuch has been written about the complexities and legalities for expectant moms and interviewing. The laws are pretty clear about discrimination and allowing time off without fear of recrimination (losing your job.)

It seems to be much less clear for the dads. When our parents were having kids, things were more defined. Mom’s job most of the time was being a mom (the most important job in the world), and dad was in the workforce. When it was time for the new baby, mom being self-employed as it were, didn’t have to ask for any time off or worry her job wouldn’t be eliminated (although she may wished as much!) Dad drove mom to the hospital and paced around the waiting room smoking and commiserating with the other expectant dads. The baby would come and dad would proudly announce it to everyone and dole out cigars. The extended family would engage to support the new mom’s chores and help with other children, etc. Dad would be back to work the next day.

As we all know now, modern day parenting has changed that paradigm significantly. Dads are more involved with the pregnancy and birth. With the great new advances in pre-natal medicine, there are more appointments and involvement along the way from pregnancy to post birth. As they should, the dad is going to Dr. appts, tests, ultrasounds, procedures, etc. He needs to be a more involved and informed partner. A lot of people these days don’t have the extended and immediate family around them so the many tasks around having a newborn falls on the parent’s shoulders.

Dad’s are taking paternity leaves now to spend as much time with the new baby as they can and help out or go to followup appointments, etc., and some progressive companies are even including that into their benefits package. Some are taking up to 3 weeks off using leave and vacation, some are invoking FMLA (Family Medical Leave Act) which I believe is up to 12 weeks unpaid but will preserve job security with some caveats. These events usually are well planned out with employers and cause no major headaches or ill will between employee and employer.

That’s all great if you have a job but what if you are an expectant dad in job search mode? As a fairly recent new dad, I know there is a another whole set of stress factors in play besides the normal ones that come with pregnancy. Not long after you hear the wonderful news you can’t help but start to think about the financial ramifications of a new baby to the point of ridiculousness (how am I going to pay for their college expenses?? If I have a girl, how will I pay for her wedding??) Couple that with looking for a job. Especially if you don’t have one and it gets all the more fun.

You will start to worry about when and if you should tell prospective employers you have a baby on the way or accept a position you probably A. don’t really like or B. pays much less than you deserve because you feel you need to be a provider at all costs.

Well, sit back and relax and let’s talk about and get through this…next post! (Deep Breath! Deep Breath!)

The “Counter (offer)” Punch

punchYou have just dropped the bombshell news on your boss that you are leaving. After they pick themselves up off the floor, there will usually be one of three reactions:

  1. Congratulations, good for you!
  2. Traitor! Pack your stuff and get out (or work through your notice and endure my constant looks of contempt)
  3. Sorry to hear that, is there anything we can do to keep you here?

1 is the best outcome. 2 is not comfortable, but you are a grown up and can deal with immature people. 3 is the worst. It means that they are not accepting your resignation and think that this is just an invitation to negotiate.

When you resign you need to say unequivocally that you thought long and hard about this new opportunity – you ARE taking it and you ARE leaving. No ambiguity, no mincing of words and no backpedaling! If the boss still throws option #3 at you, you must make it clear that your decision is final and you would not entertain a counter offer. If you don’t do that, that will create the opportunity for them to guilt you into staying. If you are thinking of opening the door to a counter offer, think about these points then decide if you want to listen to what they have to say.
I would be amazed if you could.

  • You looked elsewhere for a reason, will whatever they counter with (money, promotion, etc.) really make you happy and satisfied with your career?
  • Are you going to have to find another job and threaten to quit every time you feel you deserve a raise or some other recognition?
  • You have let it be known that you were looking elsewhere, they know you are a flight risk and are going to try and keep you around until they find a replacement.
  • The great majority of people who accept counteroffers are not working at that job 6 months after accepting the counter offer (either voluntarily or not.)
  • You accepted another offer somewhere else and now have to go back and retract your acceptance. Are you ready to burn that bridge? More than likely if you try to go back after rescinding your acceptance you will be turned away. You have revealed a character flaw and there’s no putting that genie back in the bottle.

Just some things to think about. Like ending any relationship, or pulling off a band-aid, you need to get through some initial discomfort. This will quickly pass and you will see that you did the right thing. Just remember why you did all this, and that will keep you guided in the right direction when confronted with the counter offer discussions.

How to Handle “The Offer”

offerAlright, you have cleared all the hurdles and the company calls you and wants to tender an offer. “How should I handle this?”

Well, most of the time the person authorized to offer you a job will give a verbal offer over the phone. Basically it will be a high level summation of the offer:

  1. Job Title
  2. Base Salary
  3. Bonus Plan
  4. Anticipated Start Date

These are usually the biggest sticking points to whether an offer is accepted or not so they like to get these things agreed to “in principle” before writing out the official written offer letter. If these 4 points are agreeable to you, then you need to enthusiastically say “I conditionally accept, but would like to see the written offer and any other documents I need to sign.” If you haven’t seen a detailed benefits sheet of what the company offers and what any out of pocket costs there may be, get one because they affect your total compensation. For example, you are getting a bump in pay of $5000 per year but your health insurance is going to cost you $500 a month more, it is a net decrease in compensation of $1000 a year. Also see what the company matches for 401(k) vs. current match. Maybe any new costs that you don’t have with your current job:

  • Longer commute
  • Pay for parking or public transportation
  • New child care expenses because of new hours or longer commuting distance
  • Current employer was paying for your education and new company offers no tuition reimbursement
  • If you are relocating, relocation reimbursement and cost of living differences

There are a bunch more but these are some major ones. I know it is an old fashioned thing, but write down all the pay and cash value of current benefits on one side of a piece of paper and one for the new offer on the other, or do some excel spreadsheet comparison and see what the total compensation would come out to be. Sometimes you can live with a net decrease for the right opportunity, and sometimes not.

If these 4 major points are not agreeable, you need to discuss it right then and there. The whole “can I think about it/talk to my spouse/discuss with my dog and call you tomorrow” and then come back with new demands is a little off putting for the hiring company. If you know what you want and everything looks good or could with a minor tweak, say it then and get it finalized. The last thing you want to get into is a contentious negotiation with people you are going to be working with/for. The thing that companies will be most flexible about is start date, as long as it is reasonable. Don’t come back to them and say, “oh I forgot to tell you I am going on vacation to the Himalayas for 2 months next week.”  Sometimes there are acceptable reasons for having to be highly flexible about start dates due to circumstances beyond your control:

  • Birth of a child
  • Critically ill family member

The thing they are least flexible about is pay. You should have been on the same page as them on pay before you even got to the offer stage, so if the offer is way low, there is a mis-management of expectations on one or both sides. If it isn’t going to kill you, don’t come back and ask for another 1 or 2K in base pay a year. It looks like they gave you a fair offer and you are just trying to squeeze every dime you can. I have more than once pulled offers on people who tried to “wheel and deal.”

Alright, so let’s go on the assumption we are agreed in principle to the verbal terms of the offer. Ask them to email you a recap of the verbal offer (not an official written offer, but just a reiteration of what you discussed) to make sure there is no mis-communication on the phone as to the numbers, etc. As soon as that is done and everything matches up, get right back to them and ask for the the written offer with all the other necessary paperwork to sign:

  • Non Compete or Non Disclosure agreements (don’t sign an offer letter before reading this!!)
  • A release for a background check and what exactly is checked (credit, work history, education, criminal, drug) all of these are perfectly acceptable for an employer to investigate, with your approval.
  • Any other documents about patents or inventions that you previously claim and your continued ownership therein

Make sure that the non compete is not super-restrictive or unfair in case you should be let go or leave on your own. What they usually want to protect themselves from is you going after their competition, revealing confidential company information, recruiting their employees. This is OK and fair of them to ask you to agree to. What they CANNOT do is restrict your ability to earn a living in your chosen line of work. For instance, you sell a software product. That’s what you have done for the last 15 years. They can’t make you sign something that says you can’t go to work for a company that sells software; it is too broad of a brush to paint. They may say you can’t sell software to our clients that you learned about while working here or hire our sales people to work with you for 2 years after you leave. So make sure you read the details of the NCA or NDA. If possible ask someone who knows employment law or law in general to peruse. Most lawyers, no matter what their specialty can read any contract and interpret the legalese to ascertain its true intent.

If it has objectionable language as to any prior inventions, patents, etc. you need to discuss that. Usually they will acquiesce to your requests. Know that most companies view any inventions you came up with when you are employed by them as their ownership and usually will prevail on that if it came down to it.

On the background check, understand exactly what will be checked and how long they go back in your sordid life :-). The average time is 5-7 years. If you have been out of college for 10 years and got rounded up with a bunch of other drunken fools in Fort Lauderdale on spring break it is probably not an issue. If you have something that you feel will come up (DUI, felony conviction), get it out in the open before the check is conducted so there are no surprises and you know it won’t be a deal-breaker. Do not lie on your work history or education, most good checking companies will find it out. If it is a simple misunderstanding you will usually get a chance to explain should it come up.

As to credit checks, a lot of people ask me why companies do this and why is it their business? It actually makes good sense to run a credit check as long as there is ample opportunity for the employee to explain the negative marks. If you are going to be in a position of having access to the company’s finances or you have power to make big money decisions, an adverse credit report that states significant debt or financial hardship could make you a candidate for bribery or embezzlement. Companies have been burned many times by this so they are justified in their request to check this. What they should let you explain is the reason for debt or default on loans, etc. You lost your job, you had to leave your job to care for an ill family member, you yourself got ill and couldn’t work or had to pay for medical treatment out of your own pocket because it was not covered by health insurance. There are a lot of legitimate reasons for a bad credit report and being up front and open is the way to make it a non-issue.

Finally, the offer itself. It may seem like there is a lot of scary language within the offer itself,  but most of it is just boiler plate. In Massachusetts, where I live, it is an “employment at will” state. That means that a company can terminate you for any or no reason with or without notice. The offer letter is not an employment contract either explicit or implied unless otherwise stated in the offer or separate contract. This is normal.  Of course, if you feel a company let you go unfairly or in a discriminatory fashion, you are perfectly entitled to pursue a claim with the State. Many people say “They can axe me anytime without notice, but they want me to give 2 weeks notice. That’s not fair, is it?” Yes and no. Sometimes they feel giving notice of termination to an employee can be detrimental to the company, if it is performance related. They could cause many problems. Voluntary resignations to go to another company usually don’t cause that kind of  risk, and that’s why they ask for the 2 week notice to transition and fill your role.

Just know, they only request you give 2 weeks notice. You are under no obligation to do so but I highly recommend it. You don’t want to burn references with co-workers. In many sales positions, most companies will show you the door anyway when you give your notice – so be prepared to pack up your desk and leave your email inbox behind right then. Also know – it is completely ILLEGAL for companies to withhold your pay if you don’t give notice. Any pay you have earned cannot be withheld unless you made an agreement to pay back any signing bonuses or relocation expenses should you leave voluntarily within a stated amount of time.

Note, all these things are just “general guidelines”, every state has their own employment laws and you should know the laws of your state or consult an employment law attorney if you have questions.

I know we got into a lot of deeper subjects, but offers are important things and need to be approached with the scrutiny you would use to buy a car or house.

Next time we will discuss giving notice and how to handle counter-offers.

The Money Dance, Part 2: “The Discussion”

flyingmoneyOK, you did all your homework and preparation so you understand your value in the marketplace, now you need to make the best of it when speaking to employers.

First rule of thumb: Don’t ever be the first one in the conversation to speak about compensation. More than likely, your first contact with the employer will get around to asking. If you bring it up early in the game, it is a big turn-off to employers. It will sort of define you being only about the money and not about the work and the company. I would say 90% of the time, if all else is clicking between the candidate and employer, they will make the money work – so don’t worry about it yet, get yourself the interview.

I am not going to delve  into salary discussions for sales people or people who get a good portion of income from commission this time, it is much more complex. It is usually a different dynamic and process. I will speak about that one-on-one if you would like and then publish a post about it.

For everyone else, when the employer asks you your salary requirements, you need to be prepared to respond in a manner that makes you attractive to them but at the same time not undervaluing yourself. Since you did your homework, and personally know what you need to make to maintain quality of life and better, it needn’t be tricky.

Let’s use an example of 80-100,000 a year salary as your range. I know this is wide, but most people can tolerate a swing like this.

I would respond something like this: “While the salary is important, the long term opportunity is just as important to me. I am looking at other opportunities for similar positions to this in the 85-100,000 range.” This way, if they only offer toward the low end, you still can snatch it without looking like you lowered your standards if the opportunity looks like a great one, or conversely be more aggressive to ask for more if  it makes sense, while not turning them off completely.

As far as bonus, when factoring that in as compensation, assume that you will only be able to bank on 60% of bonus, since most are tied to overall company performance. Even if you did great, but the company didn’t you will not make full bonus. So if the offer is 80,000 with a 10% bonus potential, you should safely expect to make about 85,000.

Also, before accepting any offer, find out exactly what your out of pocket is for health insurance, what the employer’s 401k match is and what are the funds they offer. Plus any other compensation type benefits: vacation weeks, stock options, profit sharing, pensions, etc.  Compare these to what you are making currently or made before to see if the numbers truly add up to at least keeping you whole.

Finally, if the offer given is exactly what you want, don’t do the whole “can I think about it for a couple days and get back to you.” Accept it, because this is where your employer/employee relationship starts – the first time they get to see how you react in real world situations vs. the hypotheticals of the interviewing process. At the minimum, if you absolutely need to stew on it, promise to get back by 9am the next morning. If you unnecessarily drag it on, and ultimately accept a position, you have started the relationship off on the wrong foot.

If you feel like you need to ask for more, be polite and professional. “I really am excited about the opportunity, however, I was wondering if there was any leeway in the salary, say $xxx? If no, I understand completely and I will still consider it, but it would make the decision much easier based on my other opportunities. Don’t bring up personal financial situations as a reason, it’s not their problem and they don’t care.

Finally, if you need to decline, don’t do so in a “take this job and shove it” manner. You want to make sure no bridges are burned and that the opportunity to revisit should you need to is still available. You can say something like: “While the opportunity sounded like a great one and your offer was generous, I decided to accept another opportunity that more closely fit my career and salary goals (notice career first, salary second.) I think your company is well positioned to do great things, and wish you the best of luck. ”

I know I have laid out some very broad parameters, digging into this subject made it obvious I could easily write 4 or 5 posts. If you have any more specific questions, please comment or contact me and I will try to be more specific to your situation.

Good Luck!

The Money Dance, Part 1: Being Prepared

moneySalary discussions with a prospective employer are at best uncomfortable, so I am going to talk about how to maintain the advantage in these interactions. Since this is fairly complex, I am breaking this into 2 posts. One to discuss how to prepare, and the other to help you through the actual discussion.

Ken from Massachusetts asks how to respond when an potential employer asks what compensation he is looking for. He was thinking his default would be 5% over what he is making now, but would that be selling himself short since he is grossly underpaid for what he does now?

Ken, the first things you have to do before even uttering any numbers are:

1. Commit to paper exactly what you would minimally accept for any positions offered, and what non-cash benefits are paramount for your situation. This means if it is a dream job, what can you survive on because there is long term career growth, and are you doing something you love? Also, factor in EVERYTHING. If the salary is great but the company offers no stock options (ugh!), profit sharing, or will only contribute a pittance to your health insurance costs, it may not be as super an opportunity as you think.

2. After that, do as much research as you can on the position and what the market is paying – in your geography, with your experience. If the job posted a salary range, that helps but don’t assume it is gospel. Scour the job boards to find similar jobs and what they are paying in your area. If it is a sales role or one that most of your income is performance-based, research the company to see if their OTE projections are realistic. OTE = On Target or Track earning, meaning we expect our sales person to get a 50K base, and with the quota we give them they earn 100% of base at 100% quota attainment.

You can also google your role and the company, there are a few sites that post messages from current and former employees with valuable information as far as what type of place it is/was to work, if the pay and benefits were good, etc. is a good one. If you belong to any type of group or society of folks who do what you do, get their feedback.

Finally, to get a good general overview you can go to They have a freebie and a pay service, and of course the freebie is much less comprehensive, but it will give you some decent general parameters.

I know that it seems like a lot of work in addition to the other mandatory prep you need to do for an interview, but if you want to get a job that maximizes your value, it is totally worth it.

OK, so do your homework and next time we will talk about the actual discussion and taking the stress out of it.