With many companies laying off workers in 2023, competition is increasing for high-paying roles. Put more money in your pocket by avoiding these common interview process mistakes I’ve seen as a former recruiter.
Leaving Your Salary Alignment Unconfirmed
In previous generations, it was considered rude or presumptive for candidates to ask about the salary alignment up front. I was personally told it made me seem like I cared more about the money than the job. Unless you have the free time to go on purely exploratory interviews, move forward with a formal job interview only if you are clear that what you are willing to accept is within the range the employer is willing to pay.
Eight states have established, and at least 15 states are exploring, salary range transparency laws. Though the salary range might be public on a job posting, I’ve often found them to be inaccurate as they are often copied from old job descriptions. Even if you do not live in one of these states, it is acceptable for you to ask the recruiter to confirm the salary range for the role during your first-round interview.
Websites like Salary.com, Glassdoor and PayScale are a good place to start, but they often show ranges that are unreasonably large — for example, $50,000 to $150,000 — which aren’t very helpful. Some sample questions you can use to confirm the salary range fits your expectations are:
- I found this salary range for a similar role in my research. Is your company competitive with this range?
- What quartile within the range are you targeting for this role?
- What was the salary of the last person who was in this role?
- My target salary is around this amount. Is this within the budget?
If employers are not willing to share at least a reasonable range for a role, it’s a red flag that they are unclear on how they value this position within the organization.
Waiting To See The Cost Of Health Benefits
I’ve interviewed hundreds of candidates as a human resource professional. In those experiences, most people knew to ask what benefits were offered, but very few asked how much those benefits would cost them. I’ve encountered several cases of employees who were surprised at the amounts deducted on their paychecks because they didn’t know the details beforehand.
Before you accept any job offer, be sure to ask for the paycheck deductions for each of your health, dental, vision, life and disability insurances. Small differences can add up to big amounts if you don’t pay attention, but they also can yield big savings that can create more room for negotiation in the base salary. Do a thorough comparison between coverages to estimate what your potential exposure could be under new health plans. In particular, compare the:
- Out-Of-Pocket Maximum
For example, when I left one employer to join another, the new employer paid 100% of the employee’s health insurance. So even when they came back to me with a lower salary offer, I was willing to accept it because at around $100 per paycheck at my current employer, I was able to save $2,400 a year in my salary with the new benefits.
Overlooking The 401(k) Details
The first three companies I worked for all had 401(k) plans with company matches, and the subsequent three companies I worked for did not have company matches. Like most people, I focused more on what they offered me in salary and in hindsight I wish I had stayed at the companies with 401(k) matching because that was free money I could have invested to retire earlier.
The details of 401(k) plans are often difficult to understand. So it’s important to work with your recruiter to learn how the money is matched and when those funds are considered yours. “Vesting” in a retirement plan means ownership of the money. Any dollars you contribute are 100% yours, however money matched by the company might not be yours immediately. For example, many companies have vesting schedules that allow you to own your matching funds after each year of service.
If a potential employer has a match in its 401(k) plan, consider that amount as part of your salary. If you are leaving a 401(k) match from your current employer, it’s a great negotiation point in asking the new one for more salary.
Ignoring Cold Calls From Recruiting Firms
If you are ever approached by a reputable recruiting agency on LinkedIn or via e-mail, it is always worth at least a conversation after you’ve confirmed the salary range. Third-party recruiters are hired by companies who have hard-to-fill roles and are tasked with finding highly vetted candidates. So, if they’ve reached out to you, there’s a good chance they already think you are a fit.
You can and should use the information you learn from agency recruiters to better inform your own salary negotiations within your current organization, as their data is from live searches now. I personally was able to jump from $53,000 to $90,000 with one job move thanks to an agency recruiter who reached out to me.
Do not, however, pay a recruiter to find a job for you. Reputable agency recruiters are only paid if you are a successful candidate, and they are paid by the employers, not the candidates. Agency recruiters make great partners as they are incentivized to be transparent about the salary and will prep you as much as possible to succeed in the interview.
Most people only start looking for a new job once they absolutely need it. Even if you are not actively looking and happy in your current role, building a relationship with a third-party recruiter within your industry can help you keep a pulse on key trends. It also can keep you top of mind for roles that might be a better fit in the future.
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