Salary Negotiations: Insider Secrets
Recruiter reveals insider's secrets to getting paid what you want.
Reader response to last week's post, "Executive Recruiter: 'Man Up' to Foreign Competition, Age Discrimination," was less than flattering toward the recruiting industry. No one wants to be told to "man up" by anyone - least of all, it seems, by a recruiter.
The post stemmed from my interview with Colleen Aylward, founder and president of executive recruiting firm Devon James Associates and author of the book, "Bedlam to Boardroom: How To Get a Derailed Executive Career Back on Track." Aylward's candid, call-it-like-she-sees-it style rubbed some readers the wrong way, and earned her such labels as "recruiter bigot" and "snotty recruiter." So what if I were to tell you that Aylward is equally blunt about her own industry? Check this out:
We can't talk out of both sides of our mouths. We have heralded capitalism, and have gone for the dollar at whatever cost, for decades and decades. So one of the things we have is this business ethics issue that has come up in the last 10 years. What is right, and at what point do you cross the line? I'm on this soapbox about my industry, the recruiting industry. In an ethics sense, is it still correct and right to charge employers 20 to 30 percent of the first-year's salary of these candidates when the employer could have found them online himself really easily? So here they're paying 50 grand to a recruiter who simply got on and used social media-there are inequities there. But is it illegal? No. Is it a rip-off? Yeah, kind of.
I have a lot to say about this because the recruiting industry is just salesmen, and the recruiting industry is hurting just like everybody else. They need jobs, and they need income. One of the things I warn executives about is, don't throw your resume out to every headhunter in town, or in the nation. Because this is survival of the fittest in this economy, and the desperate ones are going to take that killer background and paper it out to every employer they know who could possibly be interested. And then what happens? That employer says, "We don't have the budget for a fee. Now we have to put this impressive guy on the hold pile, on the do-not-touch pile for six months to a year, because [if we hire him now] we will owe [the recruiter] a fee." There's a lot of fear and loathing around the recruiting industry anyway. But legally, we get in this gray area of, do they owe [the recruiter] a fee or not?
Turning the conversation back to executives, Aylward warned that the focus on the almighty dollar can distort a candidate's sense of what dollar figure he should expect to be able to command from a prospective employer. According to Aylward, he needs to back up and reassess his true worth:
Yes, you made $225,000 [in your previous position]. But that was your value to that company. You knew that company's history, you knew the executives inside and out, you knew their channels of distribution. You had a lot of intellectual property around that company. You knew what was under the sheets, you knew the exact product, you knew what was wrong with the product. Now, going into another company, why do you think you're still worth $225K? The executive will look at me and say no one has ever put it to him that way. It's kind of a slap upside the head, but they really need that.
Here's the other rub: Employers don't hire now for the long term. They hire for immediate problem-solving. What can you do for me in the next month? Long-term means the next quarter. Every employer is facing the same kinds of problems: stiff competition, globalization, lack of funding, data security, we can go down the line. So when I interview these executives, I'll just go down the list: Tell me the last time you solved this problem in three months. You can't come into a company and say, "Give me six months to get the lay of the land, let me walk around and see what needs to be done." So there's a lot of that question of what are you really worth on the table. If you can't solve a corporate problem right now, forget it. You're not going to get a job.