The Stand-Off

In an effort to be more consistent with my posts to the blog, I’ve been writing ahead whenever I have a chance. When I have time (and ideas) I’ll write a post or two, and then schedule them to pop-up here automatically sometime in the future. Monday and Wednesday’s posts were actually written sometime last week. Overall, that works out well for me. Except, as it turns out, a lot can change in a week. A post that was completely relevant a week ago may not be so relevant today. Ah well, such is life!

So, what’s changed in a week? Well, I have a job offer. Kind of. Sort of. I’ve interviewed with a company that has an immediate opening. They’re desperate to get someone in the position. They’ve decided I’m a great fit for the job, and have asked if I’m interested. The problem? They won’t tell me what the job pays!

The company had contacted me to see if I would be interested in a position they had available. Monday evening I met with two people from the company for an interview. The position is basically an expanded version of what I’m doing now. Between my current position, and jobs I’ve held previously, I have all the qualifications they’re looking for. Our meeting went very well; They told me they were definitely interested in bringing me on board, and asked that I go home and seriously consider coming to work for them. We discussed when I would be available to start. The guy even joked about taking a New Hire packet with me.

I left with the impression that they would be contacting me the following day. When I didn’t hear back, I got a little worried that they’d changed their minds. So, I sent a quick email (their preferred mode of communication), thanking them for their time, and letting them know that I was definitely interested in getting more information about the job. I got a response back that they would gladly call me or setup another meeting if I had more questions about the job, and they looked forward to getting a response from me about their offer.

Call me crazy, but doesn’t a job offer typically involve, you know, an actual offer? Sure, we briefly discussed benefits during our meeting. The company offers “great health insurance”, but they didn’t really have any details. There is a 401k, but they weren’t sure what the company match was, or what the participation rules, or vesting schedule, were. It shocked me a little bit that 2 employees of the company, who work in accounting, no less, didn’t know more about the benefits. But then, I had to remind myself that not everyone lives and breathes personal finance. We discussed the types of hours expected (a lot), and the vacation (none for 1 year – let’s hope that’s negotiable!). That’s all well and good, but I need more information if I’m going to make a decision! I especially need to know how much they’re going to pay. They didn’t even tell me if it was a salaried or hourly position!

I emailed a response back, asking specific questions about the 401k and health insurance, and asking about the pay. They answered my questions about the first two. And then I got the dreaded “What do you make now, so we can put together an offer?”

Nope. Nope, nope, nope.

I understand the game. I know that businesses do this all the time, so it wasn’t exactly unexpected. Heck, I even complained in a previous post about how many companies now require you to put your previous salaries on their online application. They literally won’t accept your application if you don’t include that information. I’ve heard the reasons: They don’t want to waste their time on someone who isn’t in their salary range. Previous salaries help them determine your level of experience. Blah, blah, blah.

Let’s be honest here: A company knows how much they’re willing to pay for a position. They’re going to hire someone who meets the qualification for the position. But, if they were planning to pay $60,000, and you meet all the qualifications, but only made $45,000 in your previous job, do you think they’re going to offer you the $60,000? No. They’re going to shave as much off of that as possible.

My current company used that exact tactic, which makes me even more leery about giving out my current salary. I was brought in as a temp-to-hire, through a temporary agency. I really wanted to get back into the accounting field (I’d taken a job outside of accounting for 1 year, out of necessity), and was in a position where I could take the lower pay grade, knowing it was temporary. I was hired in permanently 3 months later, and immediately promoted to a higher position. It was a large increase from what I had been making as a temp. The problem? It was about $7,000 less than the person who held the position before me.

You could make a case for experience, or time with the company. But the person before me had only been with the company for 6 years. She had more previous experience in some aspects, but she also had much less education. And the reality is, I was expected to do exactly the same job, with very little training. There were no concessions made for lack in experience, and no support given to help me “learn the ropes”. I was told that I was on my own, and needed to figure it out. And, in the few positions that have turned over in the company since I started, the new person has consistently made slightly more money than the person before, despite less education and experience in all cases.

It’s my own fault that I didn’t negotiate for a better salary. When the offer was made, my boss informed me she was not authorized to negotiate. I should have asked to speak with someone who was. But, they knew what they were paying me as a temp, and it was reflected in what was being offered. It wasn’t about what they were willing to pay for the position, but rather, what I was “willing to take”.

I’m not comfortable with a prospective employer basing my salary off what I’ve made in the past. I realize that different companies value work differently, and there’s a very large range in accounting. I don’t want to leave money on the table because of mistakes I’ve made in the past. Maybe the salary they have in mind is much less than I’m making now? I realize that it’s a possibility. If the offer they come up with is too low, I can try to negotiate it. If they can’t meet me where I want to be then, I’ll have to pass on the job. Disclosing my current salary wouldn’t change that situation though.

So, I politely responded that I was uncomfortable disclosing my current salary. I mentioned the intangible aspects of the job. I mentioned the difference in benefits, such as the 401k (I’d be losing a 6% vested company match for 1 year, and then 4.5% from there) and time off (I currently get 3 weeks vacations, and 6 personal days). I’m waiting to see how they respond. Despite the things that I would lose, there are some definite positives that I could see with this job. The job builds on what I already know; I’d be learning some new things, and would be challenged a lot more. I like that. I’d have separation between my personal life and work life. My current boss is back to making a stink about my relationship, so this would be a very good thing. I think I would enjoy the overall environment at the new company better.

So now, I wait. And hope. Maybe it won’t turn out? But, then again, maybe it will. I won’t know until I know. All I can do now is wait!

– Cindy W.

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