Negotiating Salary in the Private Sector

Long story short I’m looking for a job in the private sector while trying to get a transfer to the location I desire with my current employers. I’ll likely take whichever comes first-I’m not terribly keen on private practice but I’m also tired of how much time the feds take to do anything. Ultimately I hope the horror of having to replace another transactional attorney might move my transfer along faster (short of getting married and knocked up).

Unfortunately I’m in somewhat of a bind-the feds taper off their salaries but they do pay you reasonably well. Right now I notice that I make more than most of my classmates in small-medium firms, with the exception of those who went to biglaw firms or work in small but very aggressive litigation firms.

I realise now that I might have to take a paycut that I’ll eventually recover over the long haul, but I’m wondering how not to scare off firms that list “send salary requirements” on their job listing.

a) Do I have to give a salary history in response to the statement “send salary requirements” or is it just a matter of what I would like?

b) Is there a way of trying to ask for what I make right now but that I’m very interested in the opportunity and would be willing to negotiate if the terms are fair and there’s a schedule for promotion? (I mean, I am not willing to take a 20-30K cut but I think I could deal with my intermediate grade salary as long as I knew it was a one to two year deal only).

If you have any thoughts or have been in the same position, tell me!

If they specifically ask for something, like prior salary history, to not give it could (and most likely would) put you in the discard pile. Provide what they specifically ask you to provide. I would not, however, provide it if they don’t ask for it.

That said, there is nothing wrong with saying that you are open to negotiating for the gig being considered. You can put that into a cover letter. “Although my salary at my present company is $X, I am willing to negotiate for the right position.” or some such.

Actually, I am specifically asking whether the statement “please send salary requirements” requires statements as to my salary history as part of the requirements. Or is it just referring to what I would like to make without requiring me to state my current salary?

Of course I would never omit part of any application.

Upfront: if you think I’m being obtuse about this, when you apply to the feds, you apply for a particular graded position, which comes with a defined salary (that happens to be publically available information). So I am very unfamiliar with this wrangling.

Re: Salary Requirements

In my cover letter, I usually say something like, “In regards to your request for my salary requirements, I’m looking for compenstation that is commensurate with my experience, education, and skill level.”

Mentioning an actually dollar figure, I find, is awkward – especially before an interview.

And when they ask on the interview, always say you’re mkaing 10% more than you actually are.

I can’t lie. My salary is publically available information and I’ve had to list my career track with the feds (since I got into an honors clerkship program, they accelerated my promotion, all honors clerkship promotions are also publically available info) so any person could go look up what I make, since I list my title (Attorney-Advisor, GS-) on my resume.

I don’t think lying to other lawyers is a good idea anyway. It’s an extra-stupid idea for me since my career track and salary info are splattered all over my agency’s website and a monkey could figure it out.

Besides, I prefer to do all my lying to my clients :wink:

But on point about your suggestion regarding how to phrase it-that isn’t seen as a copout? They aren’t looking for a numerical figure? Because I would LOVE to phrase it the way you did but I’m afraid they’ll toss aside my application because I didn’t “follow directions” or whatever.

Then put a dollar figure. What do you want from me?

I merely asked whether that was a standard statement that’s accepted in response to a salary requirement. Why are you so pissy?

Because you asked for advice, got it, and then said it was wrong.

I asked this question of my school’s career services folks and they assured me that addressing the question in a way that acknowledges it but doesn’t give a number is the way to go. The jobs in question were early career professional science jobs (masters, PhD level) so there may be a somewhat different culture within law.

Sorry. I mistakenly read ‘salary history’ when you specifically said ‘salary requirements’. My bad. That said, you would not need, if they asked for ‘salary Requirements’ to give anything other than a range you would accept for the gig. Make the lower end of the range the lowest you would be willing to accept (and maybe add a bit for wiggle room - they usually look at the lowest and ignore the rest - that’s a personal call on your part)

“My salary requirements are in the range of $50K to $75K depending on the specifics of the position” for example.

Most places will toss you aside if you don’t provide it. It doesn’t really mean anything unless you come in high, in which case you probably don’t want the job anyway. If you come in low, you can negotiate a bit higher and then when you find out what the traffic will really bear, you can hold 'em hostage for a big fat raise down the road.

No, you don’t have to send your salary history as part of your “salary requirements”.

All the information I’ve looked at regarding hiring negotiations recommends you not provide a firm dollar amount, at this stage at least. Language like, “I consider my salary is negotiable as a portion of a total compensation package”, should get you through that hoop if they have any real interest in you. Who knows, if you’re offered some kind of profit-sharing deal, and they’re a very profitable firm, you might end up accepting a base salary that is lower than what you would normally consider.

You should know what the traffic will bear before you accept an offer. You are is a much better position to negotiate a fair rate when you are coming into a new position, than you are some indefinite time down the road after you’re employed.

I think the salary question is basically to determine if you and them are on the same page; it is not used (typically) to decide how much to pay you. If you tell them a salary that is close to what they expect, then they know you are talking the same language. If your number is way too high, then they’ll probably not give you much time, since you won’t like what they have to offer. My best advice, then, is to indicate a salary approximate to what they are going to offer. Hopefully, your research in the new position has given you some insight into that data.

Thank you for all your suggestions and points of view-they’ve been very helpful and have given me some ideas. I think I’m going to go with Boyo Jim’s phrasing and just stick it in the cover letter.

Man, I have been stressing about this all day. So much easier when you know the exact dollar amount of what you are applying for (as it is with federal service)!

Thanks again.

“He who names a number first loses” That’s the motto I live by. I think DudleyGarrett and Boyo Jim are right on. If they didn’t put a salary range in whereever they advertised the position, then it indicates to me that they’re looking at a range, but want to pay as little as possible. You want just the opposite. You’re looking at a range but really want to earn as much as possible. Try as hard as you can to make them state what they’re going to offer you rather than what amount you will accept. Which is what you’re telling them when you include your salary before hand. Sure it may turn out that they’re not even close…but if you’ve been in your career for a while, you should be able to judge which positions you’re applying to and if they match your level of experience.

While it’s impossible to know of course, I haven’t included my salary on either my cover letter, or the applications I’ve filled out for a good number of years, and have yet to have it cost me a job. True I may have missed out on some call backs, but then those aren’t the types of places I would have wanted to work anyway.

Also general rule that I’ve found. Get as much as you can up front. Offers of re-negotiation or potential large bonuses to compensate you other than salary are often HR tricks to get you to take a lower pay. There could be exceptions to that rule, but for the most part you want your money up front in your weekly paycheck, not down the line on a bonus or ‘re-negotiation’.

Good Luck!

P.S. Oh, and I’m not sure where you work, but there are sometimes large variations in even a GS position. Depending on your “level” but a GS-12 can make from $45K to $58K. So if you were applying for a GS position you’d be trying to get a higher level within on grade…same same really. Just different hoops to jump through.