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I’m speaking at the Watermark Conference on Friday about HR, salaries, and negotiations. I’ll be answering questions about the role of HR in the hiring process.

Here are some questions I’ll try to tackle.

Is it okay to talk to HR about compensation, benefits, and the offer process during salary negotiations? Will I be dinged by asking questions?

If you’re working with an executive or third-party recruiter, direct all your compensation questions that way. Don’t ask HR about money. Stay focused on the position, leadership, culture, and internal mobility. You want to seem like someone who’s a sure bet and interested in making a long-term contribution to the company.

If you’re working with a member of the HR team (HR Generalist, HR Business Partner, Corporate Recruiter, or Talent Acquisition Specialists), be careful when you talk about compensation. They are obsessed with culture and sometimes forget that people work for cash. Keep your questions process-oriented.

Here’s what I would ask:

• What’s the offer process like?
• What would you like to me to know about the organization’s compensation philosophy?
• Who extends an offer?
• What’s the timeline generally like?

Listen to what’s said and unsaid. Sometimes there’s a compensation philosophy, and sometimes it’s a crapshoot.

What questions are off-limits?

HR people think it’s gauche when you ask about raises and job titles during the interview process. If you want to know when you’ll be considered for a raise or a promotion, try to find out from an internal source other than HR.

How do recruiters work? Do they represent me in salary negotiations? What’s the difference between a corporate recruiter, a normal recruiter and an executive recruiter?

In general, recruiters fill jobs for companies. Executive recruiters and third-party recruiters want you to earn as much as possible, but they also know what a company is willing to pay. Follow their good advice when it comes to salary negotiations.

A corporate recruiter or talent acquisition specialist also wants you to be happy, and, if they’re any good, will offer you good counsel during the hiring process. A company that nickels and dimes you during salary negotiations is one that will always hassle you. If you get the sense that an internal employee is messing with you in any way during the hiring process, follow your gut and decline that offer. Go work somewhere else.

Are salary websites any good? Where can people find the best sources for salary information?

Salary websites are mostly garbage. Every job pays between $36,000 and $186,000 depending on the city, years of experience and your online shopping history. The best source of information comes from executive recruiters, internal recruiters and your friends who work for the company. Wonder what you should be earning but don’t have a recruiter working on your behalf? Ask Tim Sackett. Seriously, he’ll tell you. Now you have a friend and a source.

How do I know if I’m leaving money on the table? What are the signs that the company could pay more?

A company can always pay more. You’re probably still leaving something on the table because, even in a tight labor market, the power dynamics are skewed. That’s late-stage capitalism. If you don’t want a job, go try out your skills in the gig economy. Good luck to ya.

The good news is that negotiations are choices. You get to choose when to push and when to submit. Do you like the organization? Do you love the leader? Will you be surrounded by people who have your back? Do you trust that the benefits far outweigh the $2500 you might be leaving on the table?

Sometimes you have to trust the person on the other side of the table to take care of you.

What are some compensation trends in 2019?

Some companies make one offer and it’s their first, best and final offer. They are trying to eliminate bias and use survey data to determine what the job pays regardless of race, gender, age, or what you’re currently earning. What this means is that you have to be clear on what’s important to you upfront and be willing to walk away if you don’t get it.

Another trend is to extend an offer with a detailed breakdown of your total rewards package — and information on how the compensation package compares to competitors in the same industry — so candidates can see the value of their health insurance, PTO, retirement contributions combined with their monthly salary.

I’m sure there’s information that I’ve missed.

Have some advice on salary negotiations and HR? Please leave a comment and let’s help the women of Watermark make some excellent career decisions.

One Response to How to Ask HR About Salaries and Offers
  1. Jim

    10 points for a great article, and 1 bonus point for using the word “gauche”!