Thursday, April 11, 2013

Cranky Recruiter: Just tell me what you are making.

Asking a friend at a social gathering "How much do you make?" most likely will make him very uncomfortable.  We all know how much we make--often down to the penny.  Lucky folks out there can say how much they will be making this coming year and the following one.  Sales people and self-employed people can always hope for a stellar year, and have a good idea where their compensation will likely come in at.

I think I ask people about 5 times a day how much they make.  For me it is a benchmark on where they are coming in for a position I'm recruiting on.  If their pay is lower than I expect, I wonder why they aren't making more money--but also think that they may be very interested in moving to a better paying company.  If their pay corresponds to what they should be making, I'm happy and move forward with the discussion.  If their pay is significantly higher than I expected, I'll dig a bit deeper to find out about their salary history, their responsibilities, and what types of roles they want to move into next.  

With all this discussion about salary, I am quite numb to the fact that most people rarely discuss their compensation.  Thinking it over, it probably makes others a little unnerved to talk about money with a stranger.   You immediately think, should I say what I am really making, should I inflate the number to look better, should I tell them to stick it?  Hopefully when you have this question come up there is a reason--a new job opportunity, a raise or a promotion.  What should you do when someone asks you how much you make?  Well, I appreciate the truth.  If you tell me how much you are making, and include any bonuses, commissions and perks, we'll have a baseline to work from.   I won't use this information against you, and will always gain your approval in discussing any compensation information with a potential employer.

Last year I was working on some wine sales roles.  I had reached out to a Director of Sales with a winery group.  Her first sentence to me was "I don't mean to sound arrogant, but you probably can't afford me."  What a breath of fresh air.  I told her I wish everyone would approach it this way--and asked what she needed to make.  Well, unfortunately she was right, I couldn't afford her.  She also wouldn't have been right for the role.  With job titles often being different from company to company, her title didn't convey how expansive a role she had.  My sales role would have been something she had done 15 years ago.  On that same recruitment I was talking with a VP of Sales for a boutique winery and his salary was half of that first gal's, and below the pay range my position was paying.  Once he and I discussed his current role, I found out that the winery was using brokers in most states, and the sales role wasn't as involved as it would have been at some other wineries.  He was highly involved in the winery's hospitality and marketing programs and has excellent experience in that area.  The role I had would have required a lot of travel, and this was something he did not want.  Both of these people are great contacts for me to work with, and now that I know where their compensation is coming in, I can approach them about the right roles.

When you are talking with a recruiter, or a potential hiring manager, lay it out about what you are making now, and what you would need to take a new job.  Speaking from a position of truth gives you a firm foundation to discuss compensation, and allows you to discuss different compensation scenarios with your future employer.  

And make sure you visit Wine Business Monthly's 2012 Salary Survey for specifics on wine biz salaries.