The Salary Discussion

Question:

I’ve been working in Montgomery County, where companies pay more, for a long time. I’d really like to work closer to home. But I’m concerned that a Frederick County employer will see how much I made in my old job, and be unwilling to pay me that much. Honestly, I can live on a bit less if I don’t have to do that commute. How do I convince an interviewer of that?

Answer:

This is a very common problem, and not only for those who are changing geographic areas. Anybody who is making a significant change (job titles; federal job to private industry; non-profit to for-profit, etc.) will be faced with the same conundrum.

First, do your research. Find out what someone with your job title, skills and experience should expect to be paid locally.

An early challenge you’re probably going to face is the online application. Some of them ask what your current or previous salary was, and require an answer before you can go further. Some applications will let you put in $0000, or a number that is obviously not a real salary; others won’t.

Liz Ryan, of Humanworkplace.com, recommends this: “When you fill out an online job application that requires you to plug in past salary numbers, use your current target salary every time. Let’s say your current salary target is $50,000. Fill out the application using the figure $50,000 in every ‘past salary’ field. In any open comment box (even if you have to start a new, past employer section) explain: ‘All salaries indicated in this form represent my current salary target.’ ”

Another problem will be during the interview, when you are asked, “What salary do you expect?” Try this answer: “My previous salary is irrelevant here. My previous salary is a measurement of the way my old company valued my skills and experience. Let’s talk about how this company will value those factors, including (insert your most relevant skills and accomplishments here.)”

Remember, too, that there are other things to negotiate about besides money. If you enjoy the job and your co-workers, that’s worth something. Maybe you can negotiate a signing bonus, a little money toward parking or transportation, health care, or something else that’s important to you. Focus on your goals and providing value to the employer, and you’ll soon have that shorter commute you want.

Julie Anderson