Re: How do you respond to job ads/salary?

Subject: Re: How do you respond to job ads/salary?
From: Maurice King <benadam -at- CYBERDUDE -dot- COM>
Date: Mon, 8 Feb 1999 09:11:59 -0500

I agree that requests for salary history are meaningless; I would even go so far as to say that they are an invasion of privacy. If an employee is bound to secrecy regarding salary by the employer, does that obligation end when seeking another job? I doubt it, especially if the job seeker is looking before leaving a position in which he/she may be less than delighted.

The difference between locations definitely would torpedo the validity of salary levels. I've been asked by companies in California what I earn in North Carolina. News flash: the cost of living varies from one area to the next, even within a given area. For example, the cost of living in Chapel Hill, where I reside, is much higher than in any of the surrounding areas; the company that tries to bid down based on a generalization about the cost of living in one area or another is a company to avoid.

On more than one occasion the salary issue has proven to be a reason for intimidation. When I showed my salary history to one potential employer, it showed significant increases from one employer to the next over a relatively short period of time. The person interviewing me looked at me in horror and asked, "You'd leave a job if somebody else offered you more money?" Would I? Would any of you? In my opinion, if another company offers me an increase of 87.5% in income, that's a pretty persuasive move and a very valid reason for changing jobs, but this prospective employer felt differently. It should not surprise that I withdrew my candidacy after this interview.

It seems to me that the big problem facing many job seekers today is the transitional mentality that exists in the market place. Once employers assumed a paternalistic role in which they provided extensive care for their employees, and it was the norm that employees were rewarded for showing loyalty to an employer. The Eighties saw this practice disintegrate. In the Nineties, as one person said in Newsweek regarding employee mobility, "Loyalty is dead." Employers are providing certain benefits to entice employees, but the mood is that it's every person for himself/herself.

In a career transition seminar administered by my former employer to the employees that were laid off as a result of the decision to downsize at my site, the lecturer, who makes her living from administering seminars of this nature and guiding job seekers in their pursuit of new positions, advised never to quote salary demands until the responsibilities of a position were fully explained. That seems reasonable, but there are quite a few companies who reject candidates who do not indicate salary demands up front. Again, in my opinion, such companies are best avoided.

In a supposedly tight job market, I have often been stunned by the practices of recruiting. There is a saying that you can often tell what kind of day it will be from the dawn; that is definitely true with most employers today. An employer who keeps an employee waiting for months before giving an answer is not worth the effort; an employer who tries to underbid on salary is also not worth the effort. Even when the candidate gets everything demanded, that does not guarantee anything for the future.

It was back in 1993 that I worked in a company in which I was one of the few persons in the department who was actually salaried; the others were independent contractors. That arrangement puzzled me, especially when you consider that the department heads were contractors, but in a conversation one day, I heard the most plausible explanation that I have heard to date: "It doesn't matter if you're salaried or self-employed; either way, you're still in business for yourself." There's no question in my mind that this statement sums up the situation accurately. We are all independent agents, regardless of how an employer pigeonholes us; we have to look after our own interests because if we don't, we can't expect others to do so.

- Maury

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