Wednesday, 15 December 2010

How much does salary really matter?

I woke up in Ipswich marina this morning.

Not literally in the water of course - it was a big night but not that big - but in the beautiful Salthouse Harbour Hotel (pictured - with a major headache.  Not just the headache from the party the night before celebrating the brief return of my pal Frosty - currently exiled in Hong Kong - but also pondering how to save a deal I am currently involved in which is falling down on salary.

This deal has made me focus on just how important basic salary really is to people.  It sounds obvious of course but, in reality, just how important is basic salary to you at this stage of your career?

In the specific case I am working on the Computer Forensics professional wants a higher - but not unreasonable - salary (and has been clear about this all along) whilst the employer feels that a lower salary with extensive training and other benefits is sufficient.  This balance is made even more tricky in an area such as computer forensics as, well, let's just say that not all employers are as keen to offer outstanding training and so it is a massive incentive to join a company with a genuine commitment to training and personal development.

On reflection, I think the real issue here is all about understanding what is important to people at different stages of their careers.  Generally, people at the early stages of their career tend to be driven by base salary as this is key for renting/buying houses and instant quality of life whereas in the later stages of a career areas such as pension, shares, and health insurance become more important.

On the subject of salaries, in previous blogs I have talked of my frustration at jobseekers with unrealistic salary expectations.  This week I spoke to one very strong Computer Forensics professional currently working in Law Enforcement, based north of Birmingham and earning £35/40k or so.  When I asked what he would need to earn to work in Central London his reply was £60k as he would need to rent a flat during the week and had other expenses to cover.

I didn't know whether to laugh or cry but astoundingly (to me anyway) these wildly unrealistic salary expectations are more common than you may think.  What this chap didn't appreciate is that there are numerous people at his level of experience within commutable distance of London who would take the role for £40k.  Why would any employer pay an extra £25k just because he would have to move to take the job?

In my experience people tend not to get a salary increase higher than 20% of their current basic salary when they change jobs (although, of course, there are exceptions).  Not everyone agrees with this basic view and some argue that what you are currently earning is absolutely irrelevant as you should turn each interview into a discussion about how much money you can make/save an organisation and negotiate salary from there.

I like the theory but then again I think that world peace is a great idea too.  My advice is always to keep the 20% figure in mind!

Finally, I did laugh at this article ( describing Ed Milliband's new spin doctor as a cross between Alastair Campbell, Hunter S Thompson and Rasputin - just imagine that!


  1. Good blog David, excellent read. Though I admit I recognise myself in a couple of your candidate scenarios! Any chance of a few words on the contracting/freelancing market in a future post?

  2. Hi Jonathan,

    Thanks for your comments! I will be posting my thoughts on the contractor market within the next week or so.