I continue to get questions from journalists who are trying to land jobs and who are having trouble with the early stages of salary negotiations.
Here is one question:
And here is part of another:
A. This is a classic dilemma. You’re afraid to go too high and lose a shot at a good job you would negotiate for, and you are afraid to go too low and leave some money on the table.
My first gambit is to say nothing or “negotiable” and to reserve salary discussions for much later in the process.
My grandfather told me years ago that when he was asked to share what he made on credit applications, he wrote, “Enough to pay my bills.” That suggests that when you encounter a form that asks your salary requirement you might say, “You can afford me.” Some online application forms, however, won’t go through unless you fill in an amount.
My next strategy is to try to put in a range.
If those don’t work, I would take what you’re making, check a cost of living calculator to see how that amount translates and then go up 10 or 20 percent.
Many employers ask for salary histories to save themselves the trouble of starting an interview process with someone they can’t afford. Sometimes “can’t afford” means they don’t want to blow up the pay structure for the department they would be hiring into. That could be unfair to their current employees.
When applying for my first job, the employers asked me how much experience I had earned with one of the papers on my resume. When I told them it was just freelance work and they realized I would be coming aboard with no experience — and at the bottom of the pay scale — they hired me at a little less than five bucks an hour. But five bucks went a lot further then.
Coming Monday: Mark Trahant, a veteran of the now-closed Seattle Post-Intelligencer, wears many hats in his new journalism career — media fellow, speaker and author to name a few.