Determining salary and compensation requirements, prior to interview with new employer
November 5, 2008 1:23 PM   Subscribe

Interviewing at new employer... how to determine salary and compensation requirements?

My husband is about to have his third interview with a large IT corporation. The HR rep has asked for his compensation requirements -- base salary, equity, and bonus. Any tips on how to determine for the correct compensation figures, and how to negotiate? We don't want to lowball the salary request. We are clueless about requesting equity, as that has not been an option with previous employers.

If my husband takes the position, he will be a manager/analyst responsible for hiring and leading a small team. This is a high profile project and a great opportunity. There are other consideration outside of "typical" salaries for the job. He is an experienced SME with an advanced degree and professional certifications. We would need to relocate, which we would be happy to do.

I see several web sites that list compensation history for specific companies:,,, the US DOL's Occupational Outlook Handbook
Does anyone know which online resources have the best data and give the best advice?

Respondents to an earlier Askmefi post asserted that salary surveys are not reliable. Any opinions?
posted by valannc to Work & Money (4 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
Others will have some good suggestions on which salary amount to list, but you should also consider not listing one.

A former boss of mine taught me about the Noel Smith-Wenkle salary negotiation method, and it really works -- I got a $5,000 salary increase at my last job using this. The idea is that you should come up with a specific figure you're looking for, and then not list it on the application (leaving that part blank), thus ensuring that you can't accidentally lowball yourself. Doing so also separates you from the crowd, and implies that you are more interested in the work than in the money.

The goal is to get HR to ask you for a figure in person at the interview, at which time you can use one of the method's handy phrases to put the ball back in HR's court in a polite and professional way. Usually this will cause them to make you an offer, at which time you can compare it to your desired amount and decide if it is OK or not. If not, you tell them "it's too low", but not by how much, which again ensures that you can't lowball yourself.

It sounds a bit scary, but in practice, it's not so bad. It's salary negotiation, after all, so the company will probably not blink too hard if you don't name a specific amount -- they already have a salary range in mind. This method is meant to keep you from inadvertently starting with something that's lower than that.
posted by vorfeed at 2:01 PM on November 5, 2008 [10 favorites]

Second vorfeed's suggestion as it worked for me. I left the salary blank on the form and used the Noel Smith-Wenkle method (though didn't know its name). I got the job and the maximum salary for the role.

As for answering your actual question, I'd try getting salary information from headhunters that handle your husband's role/field. They do this stuff all day and should know what going rates are.
posted by roofone at 2:24 PM on November 5, 2008

I also used the Smith-Wenkle method as well (also without knowing the name or indeed that it was a "method"). It's very uncomfortable: HR personnel are very skilled at getting you to name a figure and it's difficult to keep saying, "I'm interested in any competitive offer" then reiterated why you will be valuable to the team. I think it's also human nature to want to answer a direct question, especially one that is asked over and over.

Vorfeed also has it right in not naming a number during the offer/counteroffer process: I didn't (said that I thought it was too low, reiterated my value to the team) and was pleasantly surprised (I never would have dared going that high).

As for equity/bonus, I've never had that. The companies I've worked for have a standard bonus range structure with the grade levels. Finally, as one who had a relocation package, try to get everything you can. I once had a corporate move--movers who packed all the stuff, moved it to new location, unpacked it and took away the boxes; transportation for me and my pets; free housing for a month; rental car--which has spoiled me for life.

Good luck. It's scary but it works.
posted by sfkiddo at 9:37 PM on November 5, 2008

If you're switching jobs, you want to make it worth while. I'd try get at least 15% to 20% more than he makes now, plus any adjustments for cost of living, etc, if you're moving.

As far as equity, it's hard to judge. If it's a publicly traded company, they're most likely talking about some number of stock options. For a senior lead / manager, grants on the order of 10,000 options are not unreasonable. If it's private, its more difficult because it's much harder to calculate expected value. You'll want to ask how many outstanding shares there are, how they're pricing options, what their plans for the company are, etc.
posted by jeffamaphone at 9:53 PM on November 5, 2008

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