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Can I negotiate an offer after verbal acceptance?  

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Nate W.
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August 15, 2016 6:13 am  

I don't live in that world. I live in the world where the employer will NOT PROCEED with candidates unless they know something about present comp. Giving them that information may also be accompanied by reasons why that salary doesn't matter (as in your examples) but the fact remains that most companies will remove people from their early consideration who play games with this very legitimate question. No questions asked -- "You don't tell one of my people what you earn, you're out of the process."

Dave

Please answer two questions:

Why is current salary information a legitimate question to ask before the interviews?

Why do HR or recruiters feel perturbed by a candidate's response that delays the salary negotiation and focuses on the skills/ requirements of the position first?

Dave, I live in the real world. Every interview that I have gone on this year has asked these questions. However, only one interviewer accepted my proposal to delay salary negotiation until I was selected. At the other extreme was an internal recruiter that wanted a tax return or pay stub before the first interview. I declined and walked away. Everyone's income history is complicated and varies depending on many factors. In current times, we have many people angrily talking about income inequalities, making a livable wage, stagnant wages, and discrimination based on income differences. Plus, factor in identity fraud. This is why I don't want to get in a prolonged discussion with someone I just met over the phone about salary history. When I am selected and talking with the manager, that's the appropriate time. It would seem that someone with shred of intelligence and politeness would understand this.

It seems that salary expectations would be more important than history. So, why not ask initially the following question:

The position has a salary range of ($50-80K) depending on negotiations. Would you accept this compensation if you were offered the job?

I tried about every tactic on salary negotiation and I always met up with some unreasonable person asking these questions beforehand which is quite presumptuous.

Dave, you have NOT told the audience WHY this is a legitimate question to ask BEFORE the interviews?

PS: Doesn't biotech companies (and recruiters) understand that academic salaries are quite low that candidates might fear that they would be lowballed if they were forthcoming?


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Renee L.
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August 16, 2016 4:21 am  

Google has stopped basing their salary offers on an outside candidate's current salary: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/on- ... er-pay-gap.

I applaud Google for doing this, and for the state of Massachusetts for passing their law. I believe that a person's current salary should be of little bearing on a prospective position's compensation at a second company. As the post above states, a person's current salary could be below an industry average if that person has had the misfortune of working at a place that is undergoing hard times, so that salary increases have been minimal. Or it could be below average if the current employer is small in size. I've worked in the chemical industry, and it's simply common that salaries are larger at the larger companies.

A current salary is also not particularly relevant if a person is switching fields.

It has long bothered me that the American Chemical Society's job board asks for a person's current salary in their online profile, which has to be filled out so that person can apply for a posted position on that board.


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Dave Jensen
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August 16, 2016 8:30 am  

Google has stopped basing their salary offers on an outside candidate's current salary: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/on- ... er-pay-gap.

I applaud Google for doing this, and for the state of Massachusetts for passing their law. I believe that a person's current salary should be of little bearing on a prospective position's compensation at a second company. As the post above states, a person's current salary could be below an industry average if that person has had the misfortune of working at a place that is undergoing hard times, so that salary increases have been minimal. Or it could be below average if the current employer is small in size. I've worked in the chemical industry, and it's simply common that salaries are larger at the larger companies.

A current salary is also not particularly relevant if a person is switching fields.

It has long bothered me that the American Chemical Society's job board asks for a person's current salary in their online profile, which has to be filled out so that person can apply for a posted position on that board.

This is great, Renee. Thanks for posting it.

Unfortunately, the article assumes that companies ask that question so that they can save a few bucks. I don't think it's that at all. I think that companies have to carefully select candidates who they think they can work with, and who would eventually accept an offer. In the recruiting process, you begin to realize that the people who turn down offers and who are just "shopping" are the ones who won't answer that simple question (for example, someone in Texas interviewing with a company in Virginia and who has zero intent to move -- they want to see what they are worth, or they want practice interviewing, etc). I've never seen a company do this to cheat female candidates. Instead, it's more about finding out who's "real" and who is not. You ask a series of questions about behavior and if that person sounds like a fit for your culture, you ask about their present earnings. If they are playing games of some sort, they're going to try to avoid even that elementary question. But, the company didn't ask "What are your salary expectations?" which is the truly odiferous question. They simply asked what your earnings are. People who answer are "real" candidates . . . it's been proven time and time again that if people play games with that one simple question about comp, they are likely to turn down an offer later. You wouldn't believe the way the job market works from the employer side. Think things are squirrelly as a candidate? Then try spending a few days in the employers shoes. Not as easy as it sounds . . . talk to ten candidates and only half of them are "real people with a real interest." The other half were firing resumes out to websites trying to see what they are worth.

Still, I think it's great that there are companies that won't ask this in any circumstance, like Google. I think they are so rare, however, that it's probably self-defeating to go into the job market hoping to find one of those "Googles" in whatever job market you are in (when 90% of the companies will ask you this question, for the reason I alluded to above). It's a part of the process. You try and skate on this, and you'll look like one of those who should be cut from the process. And you probably will be.

Again, this is real, today, and the way things work, and not the way things will be in the future. Let's hope that law changes things!

Dave

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Nate W.
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August 16, 2016 8:56 pm  

Here is a completely different take on the subject:

http://www.forbes.com/sites/lizryan/201 ... 4e03ec16a3

I wish the HR folks and recruiters would answer this question as to why having salary information upfront is so important. Aren't you incorrectly assuming that all people who don't answer it initially are uncooperative and are just practicing their interview skills to find out their market value.

Recently, I travelled 1500 miles for a interview recently. Think I wanted to waste their time let alone my time. Heck no-----I can easily find online what an appropriate range is beforehand and common sense tells me they are going to set a budget for this position. So why make a big deal out of this?

Ironically, if one networks and speaks with manager first, rarely does the manager ask about compensation upfront. It doesn't happen. Only HR asks this stuff. Personally, I think it is the bus driver power syndrome play; I want and deserve respect because I can. Or they don't have the money to pay a competitive salary.


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Dave Jensen
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August 17, 2016 1:03 am  

That's odd, Nate. I've never met a hiring manager that DIDN'T ask. The article you refer to could be advice for people who have been fully employed for a long time. That's not the population of this website. The average reader here is coming from a position earning a stipend as a graduate assistant, or they're on a Postdoc salary. Those are non-issues for the question "What is your present comp." You answer it and move on. There's no reason to play games because no one is going to base your job offer on your stipend, or even on a postdoc salary.

People at the early stage of their careers who want to play "hardball negotiator" don't play the part well. They usually fumble, and it costs them opportunities.

With regards to how companies work and whether or not they "have the money to pay a competitive wage," while there are variances in employers, for our market these are companies competing to hire the same kinds of folks, and they are in cluster areas where things are very competitive from one to another. I'm surprised you haven't discovered this with all the interviewing you keep referring to . . . Companies today tend to be within a few percentage points of each other, at least in the same market. You can't succeed as 50 employee company A when you don't pay at least something near what 600 employee company B pays. Or, you have other goodies like options or a better work environment that you can tout. There are even HR reports that employers belong to that tell them very scientifically where a PhD with 2-3 years of Postdoc should be on the salary ladder to be competitive. They know if they don't offer that, someone else will hire that person.

You seem to be assuming that people are out to rip you off, or that you'll be given some kind of lowball offer because you didn't hide information, or you weren't a tough guy to H/R. (In fact, many of your comments are very negative about the H/R side of the company). In my opinion, most employers will give you something fair by just following the process along. But then, when the offer is in your hands, you can play your cards right and get it bumped up a few points by honestly and ethically negotiating. Works every time, or at least in most instances where the employer is not a "first offer, best offer" type concern.

So, in short form, give them what they need to get you into the process (answer questions about present comp, but NOT about "expectations") and then negotiate when the offer is in hand. You won't lose out on opportunities that way, and it's a lot more fun to HAVE an offer to negotiate, versus losing out on even getting interviewed because you were a smart ass and didn't answer the interviewer's "present salary" question! As we've all spoken about, hopefully that MA law will actually work (and spread), but if thats the case another question will be found to help separate candidates.

Dave

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RLemert
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August 17, 2016 1:48 am  

I honestly don't understand your two claims - a) why a company "needs" to know your current salary, and b) why discussing your salary expectations is somehow an "odious" question. If the company has done its homework, it's going to know what it's going to take to bring you on board - and they realize you're going to know it too. If your current salary information is going to be ignored anyway, then why bother asking for it.

(If the company doesn't know the going rate, that's a completely different issue.)

I can't help feel like you're trying to have it both ways in this discussion. On the one hand you argue that companies are not going to use your current salary to low-ball you; on the other, you claim they're going to find another way of getting information that isn't any of their business in the first place.


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Renee L.
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August 17, 2016 4:33 am  

On the American Chemical Society's job board, about 25% or so of the announcements include a salary range, such as "$70,000-85,000, commensurate with experience". I honestly think this is the best way to handle everyone's needs. The company is upfront with what they've budgeted for the position. If the range isn't high enough for a candidate to consider, then he/she simply won't apply, and so there's no cause to waste anyone's time.

All federal job announcements include a salary range, likely for this reason, and also because it's the law.

"People at the early stage of their careers who want to play "hardball negotiator" don't play the part well. They usually fumble, and it costs them opportunities. "

I believe you. But - I can't count the number of times I've read on job boards and in business magazines, that even people just out of school should negotiate that first salary, because if you don't, you'll fall behind your peers right out of the starting gate, and you may never catch up!!! I myself think it's terrible advice; unless a person just out of school has some highly unique gifts, then they don't have the leverage that's needed to negotiate.

I want to add that I understand a candidate's frustration with HR persons who do initial phone interviews. I bet a lot of these HR individuals don't understand what a post-doc is, and why the salary for such a position would be so much lower than an industrial position. I know the HR people at my company are not well informed about the academic world, though they are quite knowledgeable about the HR matters within our company. For phone interviews, and also for checking out references, they follow a cookie-cutter format, and it's the same format whether they are interviewing an engineer, a chemist, a biologist, an experienced person, a person just out of college, or a purchasing agent or administrative assistant. Up until a few years ago, the first phone interview was done by the actual hiring manager who would be the candidate's supervisor, but now all of that work is done by HR persons who do not have technical backgrounds.


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DX
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August 17, 2016 10:54 am  

Hi Renee and all.

Regarding Dave's Quote on early stage Folks who wish to play "hardball negotiator" , that is not to be interpreted as to not to negotiate. It basically means...don't be knucklehead, i.e. "i demand 1.5 Million USD per year, 10 weeks vacation, 5 assistants and my clothes cleaned by lemurs every 2 days".

Regarding, the salary question Dave and others have clearly mentioned this is the real world, have given advice on how to handle it, have given insignts into whats going on behind the Scenes, and have clarified themselves (I did so as well a few Posts up).

Don't get too caught up on recommendations from Business magazines, etc. they are more for People with tenure and experience who are more so in a Position to do Hardball negotiation, why? because thier BATNA is "go to hell". In other words, they are willing to walk away. They can set their expections immediatly upfront (like i do) as a barrier to continue any exploratory discussions because they don't have time to waste.

Most of the Folks on this Forum are NOT in that Position so don't waste time here.

So play the by the advice others have given on the Forum. State your previous comp or range with possible Brief mention as to why that is not a bench marking salary at the right time (get an offer first). Balance that with the idea that the experience may be worth more than the numeric value of the salary in the short-term. Maybe as Renee noted, it will put you lower Level compared to your Peers, but its short-term, you will catch up, because of this other hard fact: People Change companies! And every jump is an opportunity to negotiate a new salary, except with experience in their pocket. Here's another hard fact. People also renegotiate their salaries. After a certain tenure an employee can ask for a compensation Review, usualy linked to a mid-year or year end Performance Review. So yeah, don't believe this idea of not catching up..that's BS.

Understand Dave's Point above about what I mentioned as "Fair Market Value" and Company benchmarking, do not think companies are not Aware of the market, some may just snap differently and adjust differently, but I mentioned and Dave mentioned, they're only a few percentage Points different. And certainly do not assume an HR Person is not Aware of PhD applicants and academia. They may not know the technical Details, that's not their Job, but they know what to Screen for. Probably as it relates to People who on this Forum, assume that 100 other PhDs have gone knocking on the same door you're knocking on. You're not the first.

And my only other advice, don't spend time with companies who you think are wasting your time. Be smart. But also realize that majority of companies are NOT trying to game you. You may be mis-interpreting process. Like it or not. Deal with it and don't adopt a jaded or negative, or take any of it personal. You'll set yourself up for failure or at least unecessary derpession and anxiety.

Yes there are nuances of being a Job seeker, i.e some take a Long time to get back to you, some are not so good at responsiveness, this is normal Folks. But don't waste time with companies that are Spinning your wheels, making crazy requests for interviews, and making you jump through hurdles. Be ready to sever the discussion when you had enough and be smart. You may be a Job seeker, but you are not a donkey chasing every carrot that's dangled in front of you. You already have enough stress, manage it. When it Comes to salary, state what you earn or I do is a range, then move off the Topic fast, and get to the more important part...getting the Job.

Good luck,

Dx


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Dave Jensen
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August 17, 2016 11:59 pm  

There are some great comments that showed up here. Rich, I think you're too far "gone" on the trail of being a hardball negotiator, so answering your questions further just doesn't make sense. But with your years of experience, you've earned that right and you can get away with it.

I keep coming back to the point I made earlier, that this website is not here to pass along advice you'd give to a 15-year experienced pro, but advice that is directed to "get as many interviews as you possibly can, accept your best offer and start your career." That's where the audience is, and that's what the Forum mission is. I think that DX summed it up well. Please, let's try to be cognizant of where the readership is. If we start convincing fresh PhD's that their best approach is to go into a screening interview and hold back a lot of information and assume the "I'm negotiating" posture from day one, we'll only cause more people to stay in the job market longer than they need to.

Renee somehow got the impression that I would suggest you don't negotiate a job offer. That's 180 degrees from my thoughts, and I teach courses on negotiation. My impression is that everyone needs to negotiate a compensation package, and it includes a lot of elements (all different, based on Academia or Industry focus), many of which are not salary. But still, salary can be negotiated. The point of sharing current compensation is to get into the process and avoid being left in the stack of CV's that don't move to interviews. Your point in the early stage is to get as many interviews as you possibly can. Everything you do and all actions you take should focus on this. You don't need to start negotiating when you get a call from some H/R screener who is only going to put your paperwork aside if you're seen as not serious. (And that is how H/R would describe a person who is not open about present compensation). This is NOT a question about expectations. You can advise them of present comp, tell them why you believe that is immaterial, and still move forward in the process! It's the best of both worlds -- you've moved past the screener, you've gotten an interview, and now when you get the job offer, you can bump it up by being a savvy job offer negotiator! I can't imagine a better outcome.

The negotiation style that many people don't like is the "hardball negotiator," and Renee mentioned that, but mistook my comment for "you should not negotiate." An unfortunate hardball negotiator style is when someone inexperienced in their career, and inexperienced in negotiating, gets into the process and (much like DX said) begins to make demands. As I mentioned earlier, you find these people everywhere, and they are dropped from the process. They wonder later why their job search has gone on so long.

Get as many interviews as you can, choose the right company and get an offer. Negotiate that offer. If you can't, negotiate your salary in the annual review after they've seen you in action.

Dave

Dave Jensen, Founder and Moderator
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RLemert
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August 18, 2016 2:16 am  

I'm sorry, Dave, but the whole thing just doesn't add up - even for someone just starting out.

"I made $35k last year, but I was a post-doc so that figure doesn't represent my true value to you."

"Thank you for the information. We realize that post-doc salaries are artificially low, and we will take that into consideration when we make our offer."

So, both parties agree the information has no value, and yet it's required anyway?

What you say about getting dropped from consideration for a job if you don't provide the information may very well be valid. That doesn't make it right. And, unfortunately, as long as people continue to provide the information companies will insist on asking for it - just because they can.


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Dave Jensen
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August 18, 2016 2:36 am  

Sor

I'm sorry, Dave, but the whole thing just doesn't add up - even for someone just starting out.

"I made $35k last year, but I was a post-doc so that figure doesn't represent my true value to you."

"Thank you for the information. We realize that post-doc salaries are artificially low, and we will take that into consideration when we make our offer."

So, both parties agree the information has no value, and yet it's required anyway?

What you say about getting dropped from consideration for a job if you don't provide the information may very well be valid. That doesn't make it right. And, unfortunately, as long as people continue to provide the information companies will insist on asking for it - just because they can.

Thanks Rich, but I think we're just beating a dead horse. Here's a story format reply:

For the job that Sherry Marsh the Hiring Manager has advertised, she gets 200 applications. H/R goes through those and sorts the ones that actually have the required background and sends them to Sherry. There's about forty or fifty, and Dr. Marsh flips through them and sends H/R back those that need to get a screening call. She may have done this herself a few years ago, but with layoffs over the last couple of years, everyone is trying to do 1.5 jobs and she just doesn't have the time for it.

So, a non-technical recruiter in H/R, Stan Flemming, gets these 15 CVs and knows that at least he doesn't have to ask the candidate about the technical aspects of the job. He just needs to see if these people are "real," and whether or not they fit the cultural elements of old ABC Biotech. He thinks to himself as he begins the round of contacts, "Man, I'm lucky. 15 is a low number. Most jobs around here have more and I end up screening 25-40 final prospects. Today is an easy day."

First call Stan makes is to a Dr. Patel from UC Berkeley. The call goes fine; Patel sounds like he'd fit in, he's got a team spirit and willingness to learn, and he has no issues whatsoever in answering Stan's questions. Stan's got a box there on his form that he needs to fill in with the fellow's current compensation, and he puts in a $42K figure and notes that he's a Postdoc. But Stan liked the guy, and suggests he be brought in for an interview.

Next call, he reaches Joe Smith, from Iowa State. Joe's got what looks like a solid technical fit, asks a few good questions, but seems a bit on edge and perhaps aloof. He wants to know how many people report to the role (which has none). Stan figures that the "edgy" part of the conversation is due to interview nerves and is prepared to write it off, but then he asks about current compensation. Joe comes back with some kind of prepared-sounding reply, that he would "prefer to know more about the position before discussing my salary expectations." Stan assures him that he's not asking about expectations, only about current compensation, and that's when Joe drops the final comment. "Why don't we negotiate after there's a sincere mutual interest and an offer on the table?" he says.

Wow. The check box for current salary remains empty, and besides that, it sure seems like this guy is full of himself. He decides not to pass this forward with a recommendation to interview. It's clear that Joe Smith has bigger plans than to accept a job of Research Scientist at ABC, and Stan pulls up the next CV in the stack.

That's all I can do is paint it a bit more clearly via the above. At this stage, I'm out of the conversation here, because I'm saying all the same things over and over and I think we all need to take a step back. These are opinion posts, and I urge everyone to pass along opinions that will actually be suitable for those in the age and experience bracket who follow advice on this site.

Dave Jensen, Moderator

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Bio Careers Forum


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Nate W.
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August 18, 2016 7:48 am  

Thanks for the fable. Today, I spoke with two experts in the field about this. The key questions here are:

"If HR is not going to lowball a forthcoming candidate with a low salary and HR can determine with great accurately someone's current salary based on one's job title, why ask the current salary question in the first place?" (plus, the company is going to have a set range budgeted for this position).

If this tactic is not about saving money on compensation (of note, only 20% of all biotechs were profitable in 2013) and the budget range is set before the interviews, why ask the question in the first place?

Does current compensation have anything to do with how well qualified you are for the open position?

Might I suggest the book:

Negotiating Your Salary: How to Make $1000 a Minute. By Jack Chapman.

I spoke with Jack. His opinion was that you should always sidestep the question if asked before the interviews, regarding of your qualifications. Post-docs aren't exactly entry level employees and some graduate students have significant private sector experience before graduate school. Jack also added the delaying a salary discussion until you find out more about the requirements and responsibilities of the position is especially important for sales and business development positions. For example, a sales position might cover a small territory of one city or one key account and another sales position might cover the entire Midwest. Think there is a difference in time and responsibility between the two positions; think they deserve the same level of compensation?

Your fable only reinforces my belief that HR shouldn't be involved in the screening of candidates. They are not qualified to past judgement on one's technical qualifications. This is one reason why I always believe that candidates should directly network with hiring managers. When candidates take this approach, they avoid a lot of this nonsense and eliminate most of the competition. Of note, most positions are never advertised; tap into the hidden job market.

Bottom Line: it is ok to cut in line? it's a competition.


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Dave Jensen
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August 18, 2016 8:50 am  

Nate,

Read about that book's target audience, or the reviews and what people say (good reviews, just not our audience type). While I am sure that author would say his advice applies to everyone, even those just starting out, this is another book for salespeople, accountants, and business people. The reviewers talk about how many years they've been working (15, 20 etc) and that they used Jack's information to help negotiate a better salary for their accounting or sales career.

I think that's great, and it looks like a good book. But it's not specific to the audience here; it seems a bit of a confusing reference. You and I and most of the advisors here would all agree that you are correct, networking is the way to go, not submitting materials through online applications. But even when networking, at some stage your CV gets passed along to H/R and you'll deal with someone on the phone line or in an interview who you can not treat as unimportant. You may need to ask yourself, if you're not getting nibbles, are you ticking off H/R people with your attitude?

We can not change the way that science hires work, at least overnight -- and certainly not by pitching books with stories of how some salesman or an accountant earned a bigger, better salary by following a book. I'm sure Jack's formulas work for HIS audience! Just not this one. I'm locking the thread, as we are hashing now and re-hashing . . .

Dave Jensen, Moderator

PS - It's the same way with books on interviewing, like one with a title that sounds like "100 Snappy Answers to Tough Interview Questions." That's a huge bestseller, but it does nothing but trash careers in the sciences (similar name, not the real name of the book I'm referring to). Not all career advice from the rest of the world works here, that's for sure.

Dave Jensen, Founder and Moderator
Bio Careers Forum


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