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Just Say No to Salary

The economy is improving. The employment picture is looking brighter with every passing day. Once the eleven million people who are currently unemployed find jobs, some desperate employer is surely going to offer a position to you.

When this magical event occurs, you don’t want to blow it. That’s where Bill Humbert comes in. Bill — aka “the RecruiterGuy” — is the author of “RecruiterGuy’s Guide to Finding a Job.” Every Unemployed Guy or Underemployed Gal is definitely going to want a copy.

As a long-time job search professional, the RecruiterGuy has read more than 400,000 resumes. That is an impressive accomplishment. When I slip on my Uggs and sit down before an open fire, I find it difficult to get through 10 or 20 thousand resumes before I’m off to Dreamland. But then again, I’m not RecruiterGuy.

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Fortunately for us, RecruiterGuy is also GenerousGuy. In a recent email missive, Humbert shared “insider’s secrets to getting paid what you want.” This was of immediate interest to me, because I am getting weary of getting paid what other people want, which is mostly bupkis.

If you also find yourself suffering from micro-salary disorder, chances are you made the fundamental interview mistake of answering when asked about your salary expectations. According to RecruiterGuy, the secret to getting good pay is to “just say no.”

“Some employers feel that they can probably get away with a lowball offer, and many job hunters will grab it just so they can have a job,” says Humbert. “The truth is that there are ways to get the job and still get what you want.”

This may be true if all you want is a good salary. It’s not so easy if what you want the job, the salary, and the ability to still spend your afternoons on the couch, drinking mulled wine and watching reruns of “Ice Road Truckers.”

In the RecruiterGuy’s RecruiterOpinion, one of the biggest mistakes that job applicants make is to reveal their salary needs prematurely. Whether online or in-person, take a typical first-round question that concerns your salary requirements. While you might be tempted to write in, “just enough to buy a crust of stale bread for Miss Fifi, my pet poodle,” RecruiterGuy suggests you simply respond with “Open.”

Of course, this means that you may be offered less than what you need to buy a crust of bread for Miss Fifi, but it could also result in eventually getting more money.

Even when your potential employer persists, insist that you are not ready to lift the veil on your financial future or past. “In many job applications, an employer will ask for your salary history,” writes Humbert. “It is perfectly acceptable to write ‘Willing to discuss at the appropriate time during the interview process,’ and leave those numbers blank.”

It would be nice to think that you can erase all the bad jobs and bad pay that you have experienced over what we laughingly call your career, but I do worry that your refusal to share information will make your potential employee feel that you have something to hide. This could be very dangerous for someone like you, who has so much to hide. Maybe it’s better to reveal your miserable salary history and keep the lid on your bad reviews, your demotions and your collection of ceramic desk gnomes.

Even when you get close to an actual job offer, you still don’t talk salary. Your future employer can pound the table, but as RecruiterGuy writes, you “tell them you don’t know what you’ll require until you have a clear picture of the job requirements and potential for advancement over the next five years.”

This does make sense. What if the job requirements include an expectation that you actually do productive work? What if you’ll have to wait an entire five years until you can use the company plane on weekends? These unreasonable requirements would definitely determine your attitude about salary.

And when do you talk salary? When you get a firm offer. “Asking ‘Is there any flexibility in this offer?’ may help open a discussion of increasing the offer,” concludes RecruiterGuy. It may also open a discussion of calling security to have you removed from the building.

I don’t know what RecruiterGuy would say at this point, but here’s my advice: Whatever salary they have offered, you offer to take a 50 percent pay cut. You may disappoint RecruiterGuy, but you owe it to Miss Fifi.

Bob Goldman has been an advertising executive at a Fortune 500 company in the San Francisco Bay Area. He offers a virtual shoulder to cry on at bob@funnybusiness.com.

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