Why salary negotiation requires more sense than dollars

Morgan Hunter recruiter Brian Price answers the most perplexing salary-negotiation questions for employers and job-seekers.

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Companies in Kansas City and across the country are finding salary negotiations mean more than just determining bring-home pay. For many working professionals, the significance of a new decade means reflecting on where you are in your current career — discovering your “why and redefining future career expectations. Low unemployment, changes in overall workforce needs, the soft skills companies are looking for in an employee, and the extended benefits job-seekers require from their employers have all changed the landscape of connecting companies with great talent.

Brian Price, a director at the recruiting firm Morgan Hunter, answers some of the most frequently asked questions from Kansas City employers and job-seekers.
Brian Price, a director at the recruiting firm Morgan Hunter, answers some of the most frequently asked questions from Kansas City employers and job-seekers.

The newest members of the workforce are unafraid of changing companies — or careers — in search of more meaningful work. Many are hoping to move up in their career, create a happier work-life balance and be able to keep a job they love. They’ve learned how to negotiate salary — the dollar amount of compensation — but they’ve also forced companies to add a variety of other benefits to employment offers to get top talent.

In fact, one report noted that 86% of employers have had a candidate walk away from a job offer even after it had been accepted. With salaries projected to rise by 3.3% in 2020, 75% of recruiters have noticed an increase in salary negotiations from their candidates.

KU’s Career Center helps match students’ knowledge and skills with employers and also gives students career advice on everything from salary negotiation to resume building. Kansas City-based Morgan Hunter Corporate Search does the same for professionals in Kansas City and published a 2020 Salary Guide (PDF) to help employers and job-seekers get real on what could be expected. And although 59% say a higher base salary would make them look for a new position, it’s not all about the money.

In this Q&A, Brian Price, a director at the recruiting firm Morgan Hunter, answers some of the most frequently asked questions from Kansas City employers and the job-seekers they are looking for.

Salary negotiation FAQs for job seekers

Q: What are your tips for negotiating a job salary?

A: If a potential employer asks what you are seeking for compensation during an interview, try to defer an answer until a later time. During an interview, you are trying to gather information on the company, the job and the intangibles that might be important to you. While salary is important, those discussions should come after the interview once both parties have had a chance to process the information from the interview. If an employer tries to pin you down on a number during the interview, we tell candidates to say something like, “Honestly, I don’t have an exact number in mind as of right now as my goal was to learn more about the job and your company during this interview. I know compensation is important, and I’m sure whatever salary you might offer will be fair and I would consider your best offer.” Another one is, “This sounds like a great opportunity and I’m excited about the company and the role. I don’t have an exact number in mind, but I would consider your best offer.”

Q: What should I consider besides money when negotiating a salary?

A: Benefit costs and coverages are a few non-tangible ways you can increase your pay and they can vary between companies, so I would definitely recommend reviewing them before formally accepting an offer. Many companies also have waiting periods for benefits, so you might have to pay for private insurance or COBRA coverage while you wait for your benefits to activate at your new job. Even paying for a couple of months of COBRA coverage can set you back almost $1,000 month, depending on the coverage. Paid time off (PTO) coverage can also vary between employers, so keep that in mind when negotiating salary. If one company offers 15 days of PTO per year, and another offers 10 days, then you might figure out the salary difference in those lost days to negotiate into your package. Most companies won’t change their PTO policy based on an individual hire.

Q: What should I NOT say when negotiating my salary?

A: As with any negotiation, you need to keep an open mind. Never come across as non-negotiable when talking to a potential employer. If you receive an offer, always take at least a day to review the information, even if the package offered might be lower than you wanted. It will give you time to put together a strategic counter-offer if necessary. Even if you don’t accept an offer from a potential employer, keep things amicable as you never know if you might cross paths again. I’ve seen people receive offers lower than they’d hoped and they were rude to the company. What they didn’t know is that the company’s budget wouldn’t allow for a higher salary and they had put their best foot forward. Instead of saying, “It seems we are a bit too far apart, but I truly appreciate you offering me the role,” they said something like, “Are you kidding? I make $x now, and I’d never work for a company that offered me such a low amount of money.” Never burn a bridge as you don’t know where you might run into that hiring manager again during your career. The world is a small place, and social media has made it even smaller.

Q: Why is it important to continue acquiring new skills?

A: Gaining new skills makes you valuable to your current and future employers. With how fast technology is changing in all aspects of the job market, it is important to stay on top of the latest technology as it might apply to your chosen career field. For example, if you accepted a marketing job 10 years ago, chances are it was known as a traditional marketing role. Traditional marketing may have included graphic design, writing press releases, creating brochures, managing trade shows and other non-digital marketing duties. As the internet has continued to impact every aspect of our lives, marketing candidates had to change their skills to digital marketing to remain relevant and more readily employable. Now marketing jobs may have an integrated marketing approach — a combination of traditional and digital marketing. Every industry changes, so try to stay up to speed on those changes so your skills will remain relevant.

Q: What should I list for my desired salary on a job application?

A: Some states, such as Missouri, have changed the laws requiring you to disclose current salary information. In Missouri, an employer is no longer able to ask about your current salary. I’ve always told people to leave that portion of the job application blank, which allows them the ability to negotiate more easily. Some companies with online applications will force you to answer that question before moving forward in their online application process and in that instance, you do need to insert some sort of data. You can either put in your current salary or a salary number that is comfortable for you. When possible, either leave the field blank or insert the word “negotiable.”

Q: How much of a salary increase can I expect if I’m changing jobs?

A: This is one of the more common questions for recruiters, and there isn’t an exact answer. Many variables impact how much you can expect for a salary increase, such as job titles, duties, etc. I would say that most people can expect a 10 to 15% increase from their current salary when changing employers. Working with a good recruiter can many times net you a higher increase in salary, as recruiters are trained in salary negotiation. That said, any good recruiter is going to do the right thing for both their clients and candidates to ensure there is an equitable match. Some companies underpay their employees, so getting a large increase isn’t out of the question when moving to a new employer.

Salary negotiation FAQs for employers

Q: What do I need to remember when negotiating a salary with a top candidate?

A: Most employers have realized in 2020 that the market is truly driven by candidates. With a large number of open jobs and a small candidate pool, employers need to be flexible on compensation and benefits. We are seeing candidates receive multiple offers when considering making a career change. If you want the best talent for your company, you will most probably pay a premium for that person. Candidates are also looking beyond just salary and bonuses to other benefits before making a decision to change employers. Paid time off, company culture, flexible working environment (think working from home at least one or two days/week), professional development opportunities and other perks are just as important to candidates as a base salary. One big change we’ve noticed from candidates is their interest in a potential employer’s philanthropic endeavors as well as their commitment to sustainability. Good company culture is also important for any level candidate. Candidates will utilize Glassdoor and various social outlets to get a better glimpse into the company culture and they will make a decision by what they see.

Q: Why is it important for employers to know the current salary ranges in Kansas City?

A: Knowing the salary ranges in your market is very important for any employer. Morgan Hunter Corporate Search created a Salary Guide for 2020 (PDF) that took data from regional companies and national statistics to give our clients a better picture of what they can expect to pay for top talent. The old saying that knowledge is power applies here. A potential employer will never be competitive if they aren’t aware of what their competitors are offering to potential candidates. The guide covers salary information for disciplines such as marketing, sales, accounting, information technology, administrative and human resources.

Q: What are the types of positions you see trending up in the next decade?

A: Some industries will always be growth industries. As technology continues to impact our daily lives, anything around that sector will continue on an upward trend. The internet has changed all aspects of our lives from shopping to healthcare to communication. We are seeing a huge trend in data analysis. With so much of our lives being spent online, there is a lot of data available to companies to learn more about you. Data and marketing analysts are in high demand right now. If you can take large amounts of data and tell a story with your results, your skills will be highly valued.

Q: What type of common skills do you see employers looking for in a top candidate?

A: This is another question that is hard to answer, as skills are dependent on job titles and company industries. I think soft skills are of true importance for all employers. For employers, soft skills could be anything from emotional intelligence to leadership skills that can lead to higher levels of problem-solving and teamwork. Our clients are looking for not only the tangible skills that are required for their jobs, but they will ask candidates about things such as teamwork, personality, hobbies, philanthropic endeavors, and other things that are a bit harder to quantify. Anyone can answer a question such as, “How many years of experience do you have with tax accounting?” The more important question might be, “If I was to ask one of your teammates about your personality, how would they describe you to me?”

Q: How can employers attract the best talent?

A: As mentioned in the other questions, you have to be competitive on compensation, benefits, and creating a good work culture. People spend more waking hours at work than almost anywhere else in their lives, and most people want to feel part of something. Gone are the days of people graduating from college and trying to find their next 30-year career with the same company where they can work 8 to 5 and earn a good salary. Younger candidates want a place where they feel included and where the values of the company might reflect their own. That paradigm shift has even impacted the older workforce as we are now seeing more of that demographic being focused on the work culture and fit. The younger generation gets a lot of bad press about their approach to work, but they are creating a positive shift in how companies have to approach candidates for employment. Gone are the days of “Here is $60,000 per year, and we expect you to work 70 hours per week, and you get one week of vacation for the first five years of employment.”  Now we see clients say, “Our offer is $60,000 per year with great work-life balance, a strong PTO policy, employee-centric company events, and a true team of inclusion.” Companies that don’t change how they approach getting the best talent will be left behind as others adapt to the changing work culture.

If entering the workforce, preparing to switch jobs, or gearing up to change career, subscribe to the KU Edwards Career Blog and receive articles like this right to your inbox!

About Morgan Hunter Corporate Search: Founded in 1986, Morgan Hunter specializes in recruiting and placing professionals in accounting/finance, administrative, human resources, information technology and sales, marketing & advertising roles. If you are an employer with questions on how to attract the best talent, please contact Brian Price at bprice@morganhunter.com for a free consultation. If you are a candidate with questions on how to approach your job search, please don’t hesitate to reach out as well.

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