What Every Job Seeker Should Know: Salary Negotiation

Last week, at my “big kid job,” I sat down with Amy Ala Miller to talk salary and negotiations and in that hour, I had a bit of a light bulb moment. Working in the recruiting industry as a marketer (that’s not selling HR tech widgets) has taught me a lot about how to work with recruiters, how the job search really works and what recruiters really think when you contact them to “network” aka ask for a job.

But most people don’t get a chance to have conversations with recruiters outside the context of a specific job. They don’t even get their job seeking information from people who actually make hiring decisions but rather resume writers, random family members and job advice columnists, which by the way – I have no idea how most of the advice writers even got credentials but I’ll let that go, for now.

My point here is that the lack of education on job search decisions makes things harder for everyone and builds perceptions that only serve as roadblocks to actually getting the right person in for the right job. My point is that those of us on the inside owe it to other people to tell them how things really work, so I’m going to do that here on this blog.

So, let’s start with salary negotiation.

Money is a touchy subject. We’ve all been there before – stuck in that awkward moment when you’ve figured out how much (or how little) someone makes. There are consequences to this knowledge.

Inevitably, the first consequence is comparison. We value our work and sometimes even our own personal value in comparison to others. We learned that in school, ya know. We’ve been educated in a system that breeds competition. We learned that being the best – top of our class, the fastest, the funniest – all had a special value that would make us more important later in life. Then we enter the real world where our fight to be the best is sometimes stunted by the reality that we are now at the bottom and unlike school, not everyone is going to get a toy and a participation medal. We’re left on our own to negotiate and persuade people to hire us at a rate we feel we are worth.

We all go into this with very little idea of what our actual value is, considering our knowledge is based on awkward conversations with friends that have similar jobs to us where we meander around the details, playing a game of “who goes first” and rejiggering the real answer about how much we make 10% +/- to control the power play between the two of you and assure that you won’t be stuck with the bill every time you go out to happy hour just because you make more.

We take all of this social data about salary and translate it into a stack ranking that represents us. See, society has coached us into thinking that salary is a secret and then we’re approached by this stranger (a recruiter), trying to decipher what we want and need to be “happy,” even if deep down we know money has very little to do with the answer to that question. Your value is put into question every time they ask “What are you making now?” You don’t know the right answer, who to ask and who is on your side. This story is all too common and represents most candidates who have no idea what a recruiter’s role is when it comes to salary negotiation or how their answers to salary questions might impact their earning potential for years to come. So, like any of us in a predicament, they turn to Google. Unfortunately, some of that advice is bullshit, like this headline: Sorry, Recruiters! My Salary History Is None of Your Business.

So in our podcast, I admitted I know very little about salary negotiation and in the end, I learned a lot about what a recruiter’s real motivations are when we’re negotiation salary,   tools you can use to do salary negotiation research and a lot more.

So, let’s say screw it to being proper. Let’s talk cash. What are your salary questions?


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Kat Kibben View All →

Kat Kibben [they/them] is a keynote speaker, writing expert, and LGBTQIA+ advocate who teaches hiring teams how to write inclusive job postings that will get the right person to apply faster.

Before founding Three Ears Media, Katrina was a CMO, Technical Copywriter, and Managing Editor for leading companies like Monster, Care.com, and Randstad Worldwide. With 15+ years of recruitment marketing and training experience, Katrina knows how to turn talented recruiting teams into talented writers who write for people, not about work.

Today, Katrina is frequently featured as an HR and recruiting expert in publications like The New York Times, Chicago Tribune, and Forbes. They’ve been named to numerous lists, including LinkedIn’s Top Voices in Job Search & Careers. When not speaking, writing, or training, you’ll find Katrina traveling the country in their van or spending some much needed downtime with the dogs that inspired the name Three Ears Media.

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