Monday, 18 October 2010

How much do you earn?

Today really has just been one of those days.

Mind you, it is not quite in the same league as when one of my candidates turned up for an eDiscovery Director role in a Homer Simpson tie (yes, you have guessed it no happy ending here) or when another jobseeker was physically sick all over the desk during the interview (my shocked Client sent me an email titled ‘sweetcorn everywhere’ – nice).  Neither of these are as bad as an ex-colleague of mine who told me the story of one of her candidates who during the interview was asked to draw a picture that best described him. He drew a clown with blood pouring from its eyes, ears and nose.   What on earth is that all about?  Would you have employed him (or even have risked travelling to reception with him alone in a lift)?

As a recruiter one of the things we spend a lot of time doing is talking about salary.  Even now, after all these years in recruitment, I still sometimes find it odd when I have just met somebody and within minutes I am asking what they earn.  Imagine meeting a new person for the first time in a bar and after making small talk about the weather you then ask them about their salary and even more remarkably they are happy to tell you!  Actually, if I kept a straight face I wonder what else I could get away with asking (suggestions in the comments section, please)??!

Anyway, the reason we do so is that because however senior you are salary is still always a big deal and if we cannot come to an understanding on this there is little point proceeding.  If your salary expectations are in my view unrealistic then I  - as with most recruiters – will tell you very clearly that we cannot help you and will wish you well in your search for a new job.

In my experience, as a general rule, it is pretty rare to secure a salary increase of more than 20% of your current basic salary.   There are exceptions such as the Computer Forensics Manager we placed in 2008 who went from a basic salary of £64k to £100k but trust me, this sort of salary hike is very much the exception.

In a discipline such as Computer Forensics, one difficulty I experience is that sometimes people currently working in the Public Sector have unrealistic views about what salary they can secure in the Private Sector.  On a number of occasions people earning around the £40k mark have told me they would need £70k to move roles due to pension constraints and other issues.  Whilst I understand their thinking it is also – in my view - wildly unrealistic.   A similar situation I find difficult is when someone is based in, say Scotland, where the CF opportunities are limited, and they are looking to move to London.  They could be earning £35k and need to earn £50k in London to cover their increased living costs.  However, for the employer based in London why would they pay a a basic salary of £50k when they could secure a local person currently earning £35k for £38k? 

So, this is why we talk about salaries so much to ensure there are no misunderstandings.  However, sometimes when somebody is actually in an interview all the discussions we have had previously go out of the window. Why is this: nerves, ego? Whatever the reason, this brings me back to my bad day today when someone I had spoken to maybe ten times and agreed each time that they were looking for a salary of £60k told the interviewer they needed to earn £ unconfined!  End result:

1, Annoyed interviewer. ‘David, we were quite clear we couldn’t pay more than £60k and ‘x’ told us he was looking for a basic of £80k.  Please don’t waste our time with unsuitable people.’  Recruiter apologises and looks unprofessional.
2, Annoyed jobseeker, ‘I took a day off for this interview – I trust you will pay my expenses’.  Recruiter bites tongue and resists inclination to resort to physical violence as we agreed salary expectations so many times then writes it off as a bad job and authorises expenses.
3, Annoyed recruiter who after having apologised to both (1) and (2) resolves to talk about salary expectations even more often and with even more clarity in future!  Recruiter then ponders drinking a bottle of absinthe...

So, when your recruiter annoys you by talking endlessly about salary expectations please do understand why they are doing so and do tell them what you REALLY think to avoid wasting time at a later date.....

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