On Twitter, Pat Wright posed a question:
My answer: it depends. (Hey, I’m a DBA, right? Isn’t that always the answer?) My favorite salary negotiation book recommends postponing the salary question as late as possible during the hiring process, but I don’t think that’s realistic. I don’t go house shopping without looking at prices.
How to Give Your Salary During the Interview
When you’re desperate to get out of a bad job, you have to play ball. They’ve got something you want. You shouldn’t lie, but you shouldn’t give them an exact dollar amount, either:
“My current salary is in the seventies, but that’s part of the reason why I’m looking for other opportunities. My current company doesn’t offer a competitive salary, doesn’t pay for training, and doesn’t share on-call rotations. It’s a great place to get started and prove yourself under fire, but they haven’t been rewarding hard work. I’m looking for a company where I can work hard, keep my skills sharp, and get rewarded for keeping their most valuable data safe.”
With that answer, they’re going to be hesitant to offer you a salary similar to what you’re making now, and they’re going to think about the training package. During conversations like this, you have to make sure to point out that you’re willing to bust your hump. Even better, build them a 30-90 day plan of what you’d like to accomplish as you take over responsibilities.
When Not to Reveal Your Salary
If you’re happy with your current job, and someone is trying to sweet-talk you into changing companies, then you’ve got the upper hand. You have something they want. In that case, I approach it with:
“Right now, I’m really happy with my salary, but it’s only a part of the picture. I’m also happy with my manager, my coworkers, my training benefits, and the work we’re doing. If I just wanted money, I’d be a hired gun consultant by now. Let’s make sure the rest of our needs fit before we talk money.”
Segue into a discussion about how you’d like to go to industry conferences and why it pays for them to send you. If they’re interested in having the discussion, then they’re interested in your well-being as an employee. If they don’t even want to talk about things like that, well – you just learned a little something about them.
If they keep pressing for your salary, don’t give them your current number – give them the number it would take to get you to switch. They’re going to balk. They’re going to say the number’s too high. It doesn’t matter what number you quote – they’re going to haggle. If they’re a good company, they never overpay for anything. They’re going to say you’re crazy and that you’re out of touch. You can respond with:
“I know you’re used to paying a lot less – but are you happy with what you’ve been getting at those rates?”
I guarantee you that works, because they’re the ones who sought you out.
If you’re happy at your current position, stand your ground. Several times in my career, I’ve had companies tell me my “switch” salary range was ludicrous, but they came back to me weeks or months later with a close offer. If you’re good – and if you’re reading blogs like this, you’re good – then companies will hire idiots cheaper, get their databases shrunk, and come crying to you for help later. Be confident in yourself, never stop learning, and never stop networking.
When to Lie About Your Salary
Never. You’re an IT professional, and they’re a businessperson. Guess which one of the two is closer to con artist. You can’t lie anywhere near as well as they can, and they’ll sniff you out miles away. The instant they know you’re lying, they’ll lose respect for you, and that’s the end of your happy employment before it even starts.