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Breaking through the pay ceiling

#1 Breaking through the pay ceiling
11/12/2007 08:34

Stephen R

I'm currently working with a number of agents to find a new job. However they seem to have an almost obsessive fixation with my current salary/remuneration package. I've told each of them that I'm under-paid at present, but they keep slipping little phrases into the conversation such as "yes, I think we can get a you a few £K extra".

I have an easy life at the moment - short hours in a job I really do enjoy - but the pay is poor. In fact, it's significantly below average (£40K for somebody with 14 years experience).

It's almost like I'm being pigeon-holed by my current salary, and these agents just don't seem to understand that a £5K increase isn't going to lift someone from a cosy 40 hour week into a 70 hour pressure cooker environment. I'm worried that these agents have mucked up my chances by revealing my current package to the prospective employers, who then take this as a baseline for negotiating a supposed 'promotion' without taking the other factors into consideration. And if I start raising issues of hours etc, then this doesn't exactly send out the right signals on my behalf.

What would you guys do in this situation?

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#2 RE: Breaking through the pay ceiling
11/12/2007 08:46

Anon to Stephen R (#1)

Next time when you are asked for your current salary/package make sue you add 10% minimum.

For now just let the recruiters know that you have a very competitive bonus and benefits.

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#3 RE: Breaking through the pay ceiling
11/12/2007 09:26

Stephen R to Anon (#2)

I did think about doing something like that, but figured I have to be truthful with them. In any event, your future employer will know your true earnings by looking at your P45 if/when you do actually join, right?

Basically I'm looking for an increase more along the lines of 50% than £5K or whatever low figure it is that the agents seem to have in their mind, to compensate for:

a) being under-paid at present (say 15%)

b) the extra hours involved (say 30%)... after all, earning more by simply working longer hours is hardly a step up the career ladder

c) other elements such as risk, inconvenience of needing to build up reputation again, additional travel expenses, loss of misc perks such as subsudised lunch (it all adds up) - 5%.

d) paying a higher rate of tax on more of my income (I'm more interested in take-home pay than gross salary).

How do I communicate this to them without giving them totally the wrong impression or having them think I'm taking the mickey?

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#4 RE: Breaking through the pay ceiling
11/12/2007 09:35

Tony Restell ( to Stephen R (#1)

I'd say you should be clear about what your expectations would be for a consulting job with long hours, eg. communicate "My current package is £40k for a role where I benefit from very short working hours. I'm ready to work the longer hours that X will expect, but wouldn't expect to do so for less than £60k".

The employer will want to know as early in the process as possible what your walk-away point is in terms of salary negotiations. And because the recruitment agents only make any money if they make a successful hire, they also want to establish this as early as possible. It's in no-one's interests to have a candidate go all the way through the interview rounds, only to find that the employer was considering you as a good hire at £45k whilst you wouldn't consider a move for less than £60k. This is a waste of everyone's time as you and the role were never a fit.

In practice most firms have a reasonably narrow pay band for each level in the organisation, so you want to know the level you are interviewing for can actually pay the amount you are looking for. An exceptional candidate cannot negotiate terms that are outside the company norms for that level - so you want to establish that the level you are seeking fits within these salary parameters ASAP. If it doesn't then you can establish if you would be considered for a role at the next level up within the organisation, where the salary norms would accommodate your expectations.

The key thing is that you mustn't leave the agents in any doubt what your walk-away point is. The fact that they are talking about securing you "a few £k extra" suggests to me that you haven't been blunt enough with them. Tell them right away what your expectations are for a role with this level of stress / hours - an absolute number, with no room for doubt.

Hope this helps and good luck

Tony Restell

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#5 RE: Breaking through the pay ceiling
11/12/2007 10:02

Panter to Tony Restell ( (#4)

Stephen R

I sympathise with your issue - I've been in a similar position a couple of times.

1. I agree with Tony's comments - it's totally up to you to call the shots. Of course, this is relatively easy to see after you have started engaging with the agents.

2. It’s probably too late to recover your position with your current agent(s). My suggestion would be to choose new agents and be very firm with them from the start what sort of package will be acceptable. In my experience, agents brief their clients carefully on what you earn now and what they believe you will accept. Use this to your advantage.

3. Agents and prospective employers are bound to ask for current package details – do not tell them. Remember, it's not relevant to a new employer (or agent) what you earn now, only what the job is worth. Taxman will tell you that you do NOT need to give out your P45 – complete a P46 and the tax office will sort out your true tax position a couple of months later.

4. There is nothing wrong with saying you're not going to discuss current salary and then state "the range I am looking for is between £x and £y". If prospective employers insist you tell them your current details, ask why they need them. Remind them that you are not looking to move to do the same job for 10% more than now but to do the best job for them you can possibly do, in a new role, new challenges, etc.

5. Any co. is looking to give you the smallest possible salary to get you and keep you motivated for as long as possible and at least until the inertia sets in. It's up to you to demonstrate where that bar lies

6. Consider buying "Perfect Job Interview" by Max Eggert and read the excellent section on salary negotiation at the back. All the rules and how to play the game.

Good luck!


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#6 RE: Breaking through the pay ceiling
11/12/2007 10:20

Mars A Day to Stephen R (#1)

Stephen R it is worthwhile also looking at WHY you are underpaid, and what led you to this point - have you not negotiated a strong position previously for example, or did you make a conscious choice to take a lower salary for less stress? It is all very well negotiating for a higher salary, and you should, but you need to understand your own motivations and whether gaining £x to work in a '70 hour pressure cooker' is really want you want. Tony's advice is spot on - be clear with your agents so they can do justice to your chances and to their clients; also try to work with only a few, get to know them a little, and take the time to explain how and why you came to be underpaid, what you are prepared to sacrifice to make up the lost ground, and what you can bring to the party which will convince a client you can make that 50% leap.

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#7 RE: Breaking through the pay ceiling
11/12/2007 10:23

Stephen R to deleted (#0)

Thank you Tony and Panter, these are excellent suggestions. I think I was caught off-guard when the issue of salary came up... I didn't have a clear enough response ready for them.

When I next speak to the agents, I'll ask what grade/level they're proposing I would go in at for the roles they have identified, and what the salary bands are for these grades. If it's only a few £K more than what I currently earn, I can at that point say whether or not it's worth actually proceeding to interview stage. I should have let the agents know my walk-away point sooner, but thankfully I can at least communicate it during the next set of conversations, before I get too far down the line. Thank you again for your help.

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#8 RE: Breaking through the pay ceiling
11/12/2007 10:50

Panter to deleted (#0)


How do I stop my posts multplying 2 or 3 times?



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#9 RE: Breaking through the pay ceiling
11/12/2007 10:54

Anon to Panter (#8)

Stop clicking on the "Refresh/Reload" button of your browser!

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