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Salary Negotiation
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Salary Negotiation
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Is it OK to exaggerate your current salary when speaking with a recruiter?

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Is it OK to exaggerate your current salary when speaking with a recruiter?

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Career Resources

Salary

Is it OK to exaggerate your current salary when speaking with a recruiter?

By Valerie Neff Newitt

It's a familiar scenario: You are interviewing for a new job and hoping to improve your financial status. You have no trouble discussing your education, qualifications and experience. You've even mastered quirky interview questions like, "If you were an animal what kind would you be, and why?"

But then come the questions that few people are prepared to answer: "How much do you currently make?" and "What are your salary requirements?" That's when job-seekers often turn to white lies to aggrandize themselves in terms of earnings, and simultaneously undercut themselves of future expectations by being fiscally inarticulate.

"Wrong, wrong, wrong," says Dana White, CEO of 1055 Grady, a leadership consultancy firm based in Washington, D.C., and author of Leader Designed. "Never lie about your salary, because it is very likely the recruiter or interviewer already has a pretty good idea what the going rate at your facility is," said White. "And an outright falsehood brands you as a liar. That's not what you want."

However, White told ADVANCE that some well-chosen words can make the question of income easier to answer. "Avoid saying what your salary is, and instead quantify your 'total compensation' package. This includes health insurance, life insurance etc., so the dollar amount will count up, and it is an honest description of your earning power." (In the event you do not know what your total compensation package is and cannot estimate it, the figure is usually available through your HR department).

Honesty Is the Best Policy
If an interviewer still presses for an exact salary amount, tell the truth. But do not let your current salary limit your expectations for a higher salary in the next job, said White. She said fishing for the 

highest possible salary you can get is expected by interviewers, and is smart. But be sure that in the end, "... they will not pay you one cent more than they think you are worth." However, what they "think" you are worth has a lot to do with the expectations you present.

Salary Negotiation"I realize people do not want to price themselves out of a job," said White. "And no one wants to look like a foolish egomaniac by asking for a salary that is out of line with the norm. But you ideally want to fall at the high end of the norm. When you go to an interview, arm yourself with information about the pay range available at a facility, as well as that facility's competitors. If a non-competitive salary is offered, you can respectfully ask, 'Why is the level of pay 20% less than at other facilities in the area? Are fewer skills required? Is the workload less? Are there greater non-monetary benefits -- like student loan reimbursement -- offered?'"

White says this puts the onus on the prospective employer to sweeten the package, nudge the salary upward and recognize your expectation of competitive compensation.

Go High
If you are specifically asked what your salary expectation is, "Always ask for more money than you want by giving them a range of acceptable earnings," said White. "When setting that range, take into account a certain necessary margin over and above what you already make. This figure should be in the thousands, not the hundreds."

White went on to say that people often think only about what they are gaining with a new job, and forget to value what they are losing when they change jobs. "By leaving the job you are in there is a very real cost to you -- both tangible and intangible," she said. "You may be losing an opportunity for promotion, seniority, accrued vacation or sick time, a viable network, comfort of a facility and coworkers you know and are accustomed to, vested time in a retirement plan and more. You want to be sure the next job compensates for that; an extra $10 in your paycheck isn't enough for all that upheaval."

In short, White said it is important to feel you have gained more than you have lost in the process of changing jobs. That said, White's personal rule of thumb is to look for a salary range that tops out at about $20,000 more than you already make. She said while you won't necessarily reach that top personal price point immediately, the range gives you room to grow.

Asking for a Raise
Once in a new job, be proactive in seeking to move up the salary ladder, advised White. She said it is not necessary to wait for the customary review period to request an increase in pay. But she said one must be strategic when looking for a bump up.

"I suggest making an appointment with your manager, requesting time for advice," said White. "When you are face to face, discuss the contributions you have made since arriving, the skills or innovations you have brought to the job, and ask if this might qualify you for an increase. If the answer is 'not yet,' ask what you can do to make yourself more worthy of increased compensation at this facility. Are there new skills you could attain, a course you could take, a certification you could pursue? All of this is a very clear signal that you intend to work hard and continue to improve as an employee. It also alerts the manager to your intention of moving up the salary scale commensurate with your efforts. It sets up a positive expectation."

While job satisfaction has much to do with the work itself, feeling fairly compensated for the work done is a prime motivator. Value yourself highly and your employer is likely to do the same. "Remember if you undervalue yourself when getting a new job, you are likely to feel dismayed when you learn others are making more than you. Do you want to be upset for a day -- when making the 'uncomfortable' and somewhat awkward salary pitch -- or upset for years to come when you feel you are underpaid?" asked White. Only you can make that determination.

Valerie Newitt is on staff at ADVANCE. Contact: vnewitt@advanceweb.com


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