Talk Money Early

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With all the chest-beating and wailing hiring managers and recruiters are doing about this so-called “labor shortage” too many of them are still stubborn about not talking money early in the process.

Salary/fee/hourly should be in the job posting and/or description.

A range is better than nothing, but specifics are better.

As a job hunter, if you see a posting without any mention of money, it’s a good indication that they will try to lowball you in the hiring process. If it’s marked “DOE” (which means “depending on experience), that’s also a sign they hope to lowball candidates, since they will move the “experience” goalpost to give themselves the best break.

Instead of complaining about such listings, skip them. Don’t even bother to apply. The job will not pay anywhere close to what it should for the required skills. If it did, the company would be happy to list the payment.

If there’s a way so to do, let the listing site know that you’re skipping a listing because payment is not defined.

Something else all of us should do, whether we are happily ensconced in salaried jobs, entrepreneurial freelancers, or anywhere in between, is to write letters to both our state’s labor secretary and the US Secretary of Labor (currently Marty Walsh, for whom I have a high regard). Request that it become a requirement of any job posting to list salary/fee/payment. Follow up every few months. When you have meet-and-greet sessions with your elected officials, bring it up.

Beyond needing the monetary compensation listed in the job description, it should be one of the first things discussed, either in the interview scheduling or in the FIRST interview.

Far too often, a recruiter has wanted to schedule a meeting, and, when I’ve asked what the compensation for the position is, I’m told, “I don’t know.”

Why don’t you know? Why doesn’t the company TRUST you with that information? You can’t get the best candidates for the position without talking money.

To which I reply, “Please find out and get back to me and then we can talk about moving forward.”

Far too often, money is ignored not just in first interviews, but over a series of interviews. Too often, the interviewer becomes defensive when money is brought up. “If you really were interested in the job, you wouldn’t want to talk money yet.”

Um, sweetheart, one of the reasons I’m interested or not interested in the job is the money. This is how I make my living. I don’t worry about compensation for volunteer work. But when it is my profession, the money matters. As I’ve said when I’m told I should be “grateful” to work without compensation, “I chooose my volunteer work. You are not on that list.”

If you get a response trying to guilt you for wanting to find out if they’re willing to pay for your skills, the best thing to do is to end the interview immediately, citing that this is obviously not a good fit. The subtext is, of course, “and you can’t afford me.”

“Oh, we never talk money until we make an offer.”

This is a reminder that the offer is the START of the financial negotiations. The offer is made, and the candidate weighs if that makes sense in terms of all the different factors different people have to consider when accepting any job: money, skills, time, work environment, how it affects other portions of life, etc. If the offer is acceptable and the benefits package (where appropriate) work, by all means, get it all in writing and accept. Otherwise, counteroffer.

Again, a company that is insulted by a counteroffer is a big red flag.

Professionals understand that both sides want certain things, and both sides need to be willing to compromise on certain things.

The earlier in the process money is discussed, the smoother the entire interview process will flow. If you know the money doesn’t meet your needs, and it’s unlikely the rest of the elements of the job will make up for it, you can bow out gracefully early, and save everyone time and frustration. If the salary range is acceptable and the interview process goes well, there’s room to discuss where in the range works for both parties.

Recruiters need to be honest with both candidates and clients. I’ve sat in far too many interviews, where, through the conversation, the client and I discovered that the recruiter had told each of us what they thought we wanted to hear instead of telling me the truth about the job parameters and the client the truth about the kind of position for which I was looking. Too often, I’ve been thrown at clients, going on the job description detailed by the recruiter, only to find it was vastly different from what the person interviewing me needed – and was something in which I had no interest.

In freelance/consulting situations, money should come up early, and usually does. Whether it’s part of the initial conversation of “how can I help you in your business needs?” that leads to “this is my project rate” or a breakdown of what different portions of the projects will cost, or the hourly rate, talking money early decides whether or not you can work together. If the client is unsure, you can say, “What is your projected budget for this project?” and then, if it’s too low for your rates, suggest ways to tighten the scope of the project so that it works for both of you. And then write up a detailed contract, to prevent scope creep. Or part ways, perhaps making a referral (unless their budget is so small, none of your contacts can take it on, either).

Companies should be delighted to talk money early. Everyone’s time and energy are then better served, and the interview process is more about finding the right candidate instead of the cheapest labor.

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