by Christina Wilson, Head Editor, INALJ Alberta
The Hardest Button to Button: Closing the Deal
The White Stripes’ song title came to mind recently when posting yet another job that requested applicants to submit their salary expectations along with their resume and covering letter. It’s a helpful colorful metaphor for a thorny application issue. The posting advertised for a public library director for a small community in Alberta, but instead of including the employer’s salary range, it requested that applicants submit their expectations. In taking this tack, the employer reverses the typical salary negotiation strategy, whose first tenet is to never discuss salary until the very end of the interview. Some job hunting writers advise applicants to treat any question of salary expectations as an offer and recommend that applicants avoid directly giving a figure unless an offer is on the table. This is easier said than done. To prepare for such an interview situation, research similar positions in similar-sized communities using such resources as job websites, such as INALJ, or Glassdoor. The latter can be narrowed geographically and by job title (e.g. librarian) to see a range of recent postings with salaries. Then, do a little soul searching so that you truly believe that you are worth the salary, based upon your skills, experienced and the immediate value you will bring to the organization.
To develop your salary negotiation strategy, including key phrases, refer to books and journals on this topic. A sampling of books includes The Quick Interview and Salary Negotiation Book by J. Michael Farr, Interview Magic, by Susan Britton Whitcomb, and What Color is Your Parachute? by Richard Bolles. Each contains a succinct section on this topic, but other more recent articles are available. Journal articles are best found using a business database aggregator such as Ebsco. A recent search yielded hundreds of online articles from business and marketing magazines, but a narrowing of these results for libraries uncovered a recent Library Journal article (April 15, 2013).
Several of the journalists indicated that it’s not advisable to express a salary requirement to potential employers unless specifically asked to do so, or only if negotiating a counteroffer to a proposed figure. The only reason to volunteer a salary expectation is if it’s strongly suspected an employer is unable to afford your rate. In this case, you’d also be willing to walk away from the interview process if mutual agreement was unattainable. If the opportunity arises to negotiate salary, ensure that the offer definitely exits, remain professional at all times, attempt to uncover the most that the employer is willing to pay (through research of the company itself) and refrain from being the first one to mention the salary figure. You want to button this button.
In my experience, research pays off. When asked during an interview about my salary expectations, my response was “I’d like to reply to your question, but first, I’d like to clarify that we’ve now moved from an interview to a job offer.” When the Board committee confirmed this, then we began the negotiation and arrived at a mutually satisfactory arrangement. Another time, when presented with a salary range and the question “where do you see yourself in this range” my initial reply was that I was sure we could work out a mutually satisfactory number, if they chose to offer me the position. My eventual figure exceeded the interviewers’ target, even though it was within the stated range. To stay in the process, I re-stated my value but, in the end, was not unsuccessful in getting an offer. I was was prepared for an unsuccessful result and able to walk away from a position that would not challenge my skill set. Closing the deal, buttoning the button is hard, requiring solid market research and a true sense of your own skills, value and worth. The lesson of that White Stripes’ song is that, once you’ve stated your acceptable figure or range in response to potential employers’ request, the hardest button to button might very well be your lip!