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Questions You Wish They Wouldn’t Ask At Interview. Episode 1.

What salary were you making at your last job/last three jobs?
Thanks to NYC legislation in November 2017, it’s illegal to ask that question. It’s also a no-no in Oregon, New Orleans and Puerto Rico. If a potential employer asks you because they didn’t know the law had changed, or they didn’t care, try to swat them off respectfully. “I’m not comfortable answering that question. It’s against the law now to be asked… then put on cheery, upbeat smile… “ But I can talk about my salary requirements if you prefer.”
If for some reason they repeat the question with a “But it would be very helpful to us to know where you would fit on our salary structure,” then repeat the answer. I mean, they repeated the question. “I’m just not comfortable answering that question. Sorry. But I think my salary expectations are in line with the market rate.”

Simple really. There are going to be NO problems whatsoever implementing the new legislation. Hahahahahah.

Problem # 1
The salary of the job after which you’re lusting. It has a range in their budget of eg $80,000 – $125,000, or $55,000 – $75,000 depending on a whole slew of factors. The company doesn’t have a clue what to offer you. They don’t want to offer too low, “Will $80,000 be exciting? “ and have you storm out their offices insulted. To make sure they don’t lose you, they say, “Will $115,000 be exciting?” You answer graciously, as though having seriously considered it, “Yes, that seems fair, thanks.” And then high-five everyone on the 6 train home because you are currently making $78,000. The company may or may not find out but, MY, will they be ticked off if/when they do. Also if they could have got you happily for $ 85,000, that’s $30,000/annum they have frankly wasted. Overpaying several employees is not the way to keep your overheads low. Firms have budgets and are also not in the business of being Fairy Godmother social workers.

Problem #2
Why is the range $80,000 – $125,000? Good question. Because the company will pay someone with, say, five years of experience $80,000 but they have to accept that people with 20 years of relevant experience have earned the right, and clawed their way to earn it, to make $125,000. Their experience is PROVEN. Potential is good, proven can often be better…
The numbers $80,000 – $125,000 and $55,000 – $75,000 were chosen arbitrarily to make my point. Such a wide range though is not unusual, whether it’s for e.g. EA/PA to a hedge fund Managing Director, CFO to a $billion outfit, or Junior Account Manager in an advertising agency.

Problem #3
a)I’m underpaid, have been for years. How do I catch up, and get the market rate?
b)I’m actually paid more than the top end of the range. I know I can’t get that again but how much of a pay cut do I have to swallow without shooting myself in the foot, or getting caught up in mixed metaphors?
c)How do I get reliable intel on salary ranges for my job? Can staffing agencies help? How do THEY get their information?
You’ll just have to do your research e.g. Glassdoor/SHRM surveys. Recruitment agencies have access to all this stuff through the job assignments they get, and having a good relationship with their clients. Sometimes advertised jobs on sites like LinkedIn, CareerBuilder, The Ladders, when they’re not annoyingly writing “Salary doe”, will give specific numbers. It helps enormously to have a recruiting service act as an intermediary bwtween the client and potential employee. If you have to negotiate on your own behalf with no outside help… we feel your pain.

What salary are you looking for?
If asked by the recruitment agency, that’s easy… just say what you want and let the chat begin. A good recruiter will talk you through whether you are realistic, sometimes even tell you, “You’re worth more”, and what to say at their client/your future employer interview. With luck, your answer can be along the lines of, “My recruiter deals with all that.”
If you found the company without a safety net aka staffing service…we feel your pain. Do your research, don’t be greedy, don’t be a door mat, and show you are flexible, not rigid, in your thinking.