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Addressing The Delicate Salary Issue

Jim McLoughlin


Successful interviewing is all about continuing to take the initiative that started with the cover letter. (See July 2nd blog.)


Questions designed to help candidates take the initiative during job interviews:


Prior to an interview, does it help to practice job related Q&As (especially regarding salary issues) with family and associates?


Of course! Go to Google to find dozens of categories of questions traditionally exchanged at job interviews.


When is the best time to raise the salary issue?


If the salary issue has not been brought up as the end of the first interview approaches, the candidate should look for an opportunity to do so because who brings up the salary issue first is the equivalent of having the "home court advantage" in a basketball game.


A candidate can earn more respect presenting a credible salary request during the interview than waiting to be asked about it and, accordingly, be put on the defensive later in the interview.


What is the most effective way to introduce a salary request?

  • Candidates should conduct the necessary due diligence to ascertain the outgoing superintendent's salary and the current core salary range for the region.


  • If a candidate "wants/needs" the job and has the credentials to justify his/her request -- limit salary requests to roughly the 85th percentile of the region's core salary range for similar courses. If the candidate does not "need" the job -- request a salary closer or equal to the top of the local salary range.


  • When submitting a salary request (preferably in a face-to-face setting rather than in writing), candidates should avoid using confrontational language because this will generally anger search committees and because it will be difficult to save face when further discussions suggest that the candidate back down from an initial request.


  • Following is one example (of several) of using non-confrontational language to put a salary number on the table:


    "I request that the club come as close to my $80,000 salary request as is possible in today's economy."


    If the return employer salary offer is too low, candidates are now free to debate the issue because the employer's side has brought on the confrontation and not the candidate.

Experience shows that qualified candidates who adopt the above "softer" negotiating approach get offered roughly 90% of their initial salary request... and at the same time begin to develop a rapport with their employers that will prove to be an invaluable asset when conducting future negotiations.


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