The dreaded question
So, you’ve nailed the interview, and you get the call that they want to schedule a time for you to come back and discuss “the offer”. Having been on both sides of that desk, I can tell you that your HR contact is dreading the inevitable question that’s coming just as much as you are: “What salary are you looking for?”
We dread it because we know that we’ve got a fantastic candidate that we’re excited about, but we’re also trying to make the most attractive offer we can without overpaying for your talents. You’re dreading it because you’re worried — with perhaps good reason — that we’re going to take your last salary into consideration as the starting point for negotiations.
you sunk my battleship!
If you’re coming from an entry level position, you may be getting less than your acquired skill is actually worth. After all, hiring managers are more likely to follow with a lower number than they would have otherwise been inclined to recommend when they see a low number as your former salary. This practice of “anchoring” often leads to lower salaries for qualified candidates.
That’s one of the reasons that Massachusetts banned questions about a candidate’s past salary amounts during the interview process. Supporters of the law say the law also passed to address the still all-to-real salary gap between men and women. In addition, the new laws requires companies to provide candidate with salary ranges in advance for open positions. The new law will take effect in 2018.
So, for those of us who don’t live in Massachusetts, what can we do to address that question and get the best offer possible?
A new study found that one way to overcome the effect of anchoring is pairing your salary negotiations with a joke regarding a hyperinflated amount. Psychological scientist Todd J. Thorsteinson conducted a study of over 200 college students. Students were tasked to play the role of a hiring manager hiring an administrative assistant.
Candidates anchored their salary requests in the form of a joke, with either an overwhelmingly high amount (“I would like $100,000, but really I am just looking for something that is fair”), or low amount (“I would work for $1, but really I am just looking for something that is fair”). Those who joked about a hyperinflated salary surpassed the control group by $3,000 in the hiring manager’s final offer.
“Incorporating a joking comment about implausible salary expectations may be a relatively easy way for job candidates to establish a high anchor and minimize negative reactions from employers,” Thorsteinson wrote.
However, while some candidates may be tempted to set a high anchor as the basis for negotiation, doing so may create an unfavorable impression of the candidate. Unfortunately, this is especially true for women, who face unwarranted additional social stigma when negotiating for higher salaries.
Laugh it up
So when applying for a company, do your homework as to what the range typically is for the position. Learn as much as you can going into the interview process. Being armed with information will help you when it comes time to get “the offer.” Don’t be afraid to make the moment lighthearted as you battle for what you’re worth!