April 10, 2017 / Stellenwerk News

"To be deceitful about salary, is risky"

(20 minutes)

More money after changing jobs: The question about the previous salary is crucial - and has to be answered cleverly. An expert gives insight. 

Mr. Locher, what is a good response, if we are asked in a job interview what our salary expectations are? 

It depends on the situation. For a successful salary settlement, you have to be well prepared

Generally one would like to earn more than in the previous job. Isn't it enough to state the desired salary?

It's not that easy. First of all, you have to know where you stand in comparison to what's the going rate is in your industry. You can do research online where you have access to salary calculators, recommendations from industry associations, salary ratings and so on. Depending on where you stand you have to start the negotiations. 

What do you suggest if you are beneath the average wage?

If your new company pays the usual rate of your industry, you shouldn't have a problem to get a better salary.

So, you mention you desired salary?

That's an option if it is average. Or you can ask what they can offer you. Maybe they offer you more than what you expected. That doesn't happen often, but we recently saw a company offering way more than what the applicant asked for.

And what if your desired salary is the average going rate?

Then you have to give them a figure, but you have to be prepared to answer why you deserve that amount. You could mention your experience, a demanding job profile or the new responsibilities. Salary settlements are quick and very individual. If you are still employed only testing the market you can obviously take a bit more risk in the negotiations then if you recently have been dismissed or you will be soon. 

How important is honesty if the question about the previous salary gets asked?

You will definitely take risks if you aren't honest.

Are the employers allowed doing background checks at your previous company to find out how much you earned?

That's a straight NO.

So, why is it risky?

It's very easy to get information, also about your salary. Networking works very well in most industries, so the employers often know each other and talk about applicants. 

Does it happen, even though it goes against the rules?

It starts when one is looking for a new employee and colleagues in the same industry are asked if they know someone suitable for the job and what opinion they have of that person. That's normal. Strictly seen, research is often done without the permission of the person in question. If they are familiar with one another, it is easier to discuss finances, even though it's against the unwritten rules. If the figures have been falsified and the truth is revealed the game is over.

Should we even consider employers that use those methods?

Well, you can only answer that yourself. It's definitely not right, but it's reality. People are connected, especially in the corporate world.

What if you feel uncomfortable talking about your previous salary?

You can sort of generalise it instead of mentioning exact figures. You could respond by saying "...approximately 75.000 per year."

And what if you already earn well but you still want an improvement?

I suggest not to mention precise figures, rather explain what attracted you to the position, apart from the salary: that could be, the responsibilities and competencies, the working environment, promotional opportunities, the company or the team. Then you can hit the ball in their court and ask about their budget. 

What if it's much lower than what you expected?

That's difficult. Honesty will pay off. If they offer 70.000/year and you currently earn 90.000/year, that's a big difference. I would be honest about it and ask if there is a way for them to improve their offer. Are there maybe other benefits? It's important to define the minimum for yourself before you go into the interview process. Also, you should be asking yourself if you really want the position or not. 

You probably only accept big forfeits if you don't have a choice, right?

Not at all. Many people are attracted to the big, famous names. They want nothing more, than working for a world famous company one day. Usually, they pay good salaries, but that's not guaranteed. However, people are fighting hard for these jobs. Or, the salary in the beginning is reasonable, then they get more responsibilities but their salary stays the same. 

Salaries aren't just defined by money in the bank. Where are we going in 2017? Are there other benefits like more holidays, professional training, incentive wages and so on? 

Definitely, the flexible percentage is always increasing. We ask all applicants how high their fixed and flexible percentages are, how they want the salary components to develop and where their threshold lies. Sometimes parking space, a home office, flexible working hours or more holidays make a difference. 

Parking space?

Yes, that's important to a lot of people. Negotiations at small and medium business are usually easier than at a big bank because they have fixed structures for their salary packages. Everyone gets the same. If you directly talk to the managing director or owner it's easier. 

Would it be a good idea to accept a salary under my threshold and then mention the desire for a salary raise after probation or after a year?

If you really want the job then that's a possibility. You can also mention further professional training. However, many employers aren't too happy with that because you'll be gone for a while. 

When will the question about salary normally come up?

Usually in the first interview, sometimes even way before on the phone. No one wants to find out in the third meeting that the expectations are too far apart.