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Unintended Consequences of Salary Disclosure Laws – Why They Are Bad News For Applicants, Recruiters, and Employers

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To address pay equity issues, New York City has joined 20+ other jurisdictions in implementing legislation aimed at prohibiting employers from obtaining salary history from applicants during the hiring process. On April 5, the New York City Council passed legislation outlawing salary history inquiries. The law takes effect on October 31, 2017. Once enacted, the new legislation will impose significant changes on the hiring process. The New York City law makes it an unlawful discriminatory practice for an employer to inquire about a prospective applicant’s salary history during all stages of the employment process. In addition, the bill would make it an unlawful discriminatory practice to rely on a job applicant’s salary history in determining the applicant’s salary, benefits or compensation.

While this law does have the noble intention of narrowing the wage gap between men and women, there are also some potential unintended consequences. These unintended consequences are particularly likely to happen to high wage, high skill workers, recruiters, and their employers. At best, this law will complicate the hiring process. At worse, it may adversely impact those it seeks to protect.

I write this from an executive recruiter perspective. In my 20 years of experience, the market sets predictable compensation levels for high demand talent, and there is rarely a huge degree of difference between what “Company A” and “Company B” pays. In the normal course of business, executive recruiters collect salary history for potential applicants. There are rarely instances where a potential applicant falls too far outside established salary norms. Obtaining this information up front helps the recruiter and potential employer benchmark the candidate, as well as manage expectations about a future offer.

By outlawing salary history inquiries, it becomes nearly impossible to advise candidates and clients on what is realistic or reasonable regarding candidate compensation. Employers will be put in a position where their offers will be a shot in the dark, versus the current system where salary and expectations are handled up front. This could lead to a lot of wasted interview time and effort by all parties because compensation is not aligned.

Job applicants are also potentially opening themselves up to earning less money due to the “back end” style of salary negotiation. Without having recent salary information on a potential applicant, it is very likely that companies will begin the negotiation process by making as low an offer as possible. Employers will have no incentive to make strong offers up front, as they risk paying more than they otherwise could. Candidates in turn are going to have to begin a negotiation process by fielding “low ball” offers, and will likely have contentious back-and-forth compensation discussions. Beginning a negotiation from the bottom of a range and working up is the exact opposite of how salary negotiations are currently handled. Under the current system, if an employer knows a candidate is currently earning $X, their initial offer is typically some increase above that current level. A good headhunter, or astute job seeker, can then determine if the offer is fair, or negotiate if the offer is not in line with market factors. If the starting point begins at the lowest possible number and works slowly up to what is minimally acceptable, strong talent risks leaving money on the table. In turn, employers will run a greater risk of losing good employees to companies with more aggressive offer practices.

The risk of miscommunication and misunderstanding also increases dramatically due to this law. People hear what they want to hear. If employers and executive recruiters are now put in a position where they will tell an applicant the salary range of the position up front, the candidate will likely fixate on the top of the range, while the employer is very likely to be focused on the bottom. Thus, when it comes time to negotiate the offer, the applicant and employer will likely be working from two very different starting points.

It’s important to note that our opinion comes from a very specific section of the employment market – low supply, high demand / high wage talent. There is strong evidence for serious wage gap problems in many sectors of the economy, and this law may very well improve those conditions in certain employment sectors. That said, as with any change, there are often unintended consequences.

By |October 5th, 2017|interview, Job Offers, job search|0 Comments

When Can You Start?

startAs you get deeper into the interview process and begin to anticipate an offer, it’s a good idea to prepare for the question “when can you start?” It is usually safe to assume that the sooner you can start, the better! Here is some general advice on how to handle this question:

  • The “Two Week Notice” Rule – generally speaking, giving a two week notice to your current employer is totally adequate. It’s quite possible your employer may ask for more notice, but you are not obligated to yield. Two weeks is an appropriate amount of notice at almost any job level. Unless you have an employment contract that stipulates specific notice terms, you are well within business norms by sticking to a two week notice.
  • New Employer Considerations – if the hiring company is making you an offer, it’s because they need and want you. If they ask, “when can you start?” during the interview process, it’s a sign that they like you, but the speed with which you can start may also be a hiring consideration. Before you start thinking about giving notice, taking a couple of weeks off, etc., put yourself in the employer’s shoes and think about your answer from their perspective. The sooner you can start, the better.
  • Necessary Delays – if there are good reasons you must delay a start date beyond two weeks, discuss them openly with the new employer. A vacation you’ve already paid for, relocation, waiting for a bonus payout, etc., are good reasons for delay. Wanting to take a week off to relax is not a good reason. If you must delay the start date, just remember to do so for good reasons.
  • If You Are Unemployed – if unemployed be prepared to start immediately. While unemployed job seekers are generally at a tactical disadvantage to employed candidates, this is one area where the ability to start ASAP is an advantage.
By |February 8th, 2016|interview, Job Offers, job search|0 Comments

How To Explain Job Changes

Explain Job ChangesHow to explain job changes is a critical piece of being prepared for an interview. Even if you haven’t had a lot of job movement (which in this day and age means staying 5 years or longer on average at each employer), you need to be prepared to explain job changes. If you have a jumpy history and change jobs ever 3 years (or less), then you REALLY need to be prepared to explain your job changes. Here are some basic guidelines:

  1. Be Prepared – you should have rehearsed answers prepared about why you are looking to leave your current job, and why you left previous jobs. This is interview 101 level advice, but it never ceases to amaze me how many people aren’t thoroughly prepared for these questions. Script out answers and rehearse them!
  2. Be Honest – you may have some difficult to explain job changes. You may have some very easy to explain moves. Be honest about reasons for making moves. If your employer went out of business, relocated, sold the business, etc., these are honest answers that basically absolve you from a potential red mark on your resume. If your reason is a bit more delicate (unreasonable boss, you were fired, personal issues with colleagues, etc.) you may have to prepare for a difficult conversation. Tell your side of the story, but don’t misrepresent facts.
  3. Sell Yourself – when discussing reasons for past job changes, put on your salesperson hat. Reasons for leaving past jobs can be used to “sell” yourself to the current employer. For example, if you left a employer due to the stagnant performance of the company, you can make that into a reason why you want to work at the new company (if they are in fact growing). Another example would be moves due to company size or industry. If you are trying to crack into a new industry space or larger/smaller company size, you can explain job changes this way. Make prior job changes tell a story about why you have been building towards working for the type of company you are currently interviewing with.
  4. Don’t Be Too Negative – if you’ve had a really bad experience at an employer, explain the bad situation, but be careful not to sound too negative. Additionally, if you seem to have had multiple “bad experiences”, you need to be really careful when explaining these as multiple “personal reason” moves might send up a red flag.
By |January 18th, 2016|interview, resume|0 Comments

How To Get Interviews

how to get interviews

how to get interviews

A personal friend recently told me that they are having a really hard time getting job interviews. They asked my advice as a headhunter on how to get interviews. After chatting for a bit, I noticed some very glaring flaws in their particular job search strategy. If you too are frustrated because you want to know how to get interviews, this post is for you!

First, to land job interviews you need to be realistic. You have to target jobs for which you are well qualified. A potential employer is looking for people who have strong experience in the skill sets required by the job. If you are applying for jobs that are too outside your skill area, or in roles that are too senior for your level of experience, don’t be surprised when your phone isn’t ringing off the hook. You need to target potential jobs where you have a relevant skill set, and appropriate years of experience. This does not mean that there can’t be some flexibility. Rarely, if ever, will a candidate have ALL of the necessary skills, or EXACTLY the requisite number of years in a position.

Second, you need a GREAT resume to land job interviews. A resume is a “commercial” which advertises your features and benefits. Research shows that on average, a person who reads your resume spends less than 30 seconds “skimming” it before determining whether or not to interview you for a job. Thus, you need a resume that is concise, highlights the matters of importance for a particular job, and speaks to your qualifying experience. I like chronological resumes that stick to employment history, education, and technical skill sets. I also recommend that candidates always adjust their resume to suit the specific job to which they are applying. DO NOT use a one-size-fits-all resume and blast it out to every potential employer.

Third, and maybe most important, be smart about how you apply to jobs. In the Internet age, most people take the easy route and submit their resume online. Even if you are perfectly qualified for the job, it is very unlikely you’ll get a response. You are always better off looking for the side door into the company. Network, network and network some more! Reach out to former colleagues or classmates who may work at the company.  Contact an employment agency or recruiter who specializes in your field. Use tools like LinkedIn to try and proactively network your way into the potential employer and access the decision makers. Although these methods require more effort, they are FAR more likely to land interviews.

If you’ve been scratching your head about how to get interviews, the advice above should definitely help. Don’t get discouraged if it takes time! Even in a good job market, it can sometimes be hard to get things started. Just remember – if you aren’t getting results doing what you are doing, don’t be afraid to change things up!

By |January 18th, 2016|interview|0 Comments

How to Dress for an Interview

How-to-Dress-for-a-Job-Interviewjob-interview-attireA lot has changed in the last 20 years regarding norms on how to dress for an interview. There was a time when it was pretty much standard to dress in a suit. While a business suit has hardly disappeared, there is a growing trend towards more “casual” attire for job interviews. In this post we’ll cover some basic considerations for how to dress for an interview.

1) Know Your Audience – depending on your profession, or the type of company where you are interviewing, who you are trying to make a good impression on can dictate how to dress for an interview. For example, if you are interviewing for a legal position, it’s hard to imagine interviewing in anything but a crisp business suit. Conversely, if you are a software developer interviewing at a tech startup, anything more than a hoodie and jeans might make you look out of place. If you are working through a great recruiter (like me!), he/she will be able to give you instructions on how to dress. If you have a contact at the company, call and ask them what is appropriate. Worst case scenario, call the main number, tell the receptionist you are coming in for an interview, and ask what is considered “proper” interview attire.

2) Better to Overdress – if you still aren’t sure about how to dress for an interview, err on the side of caution. It is better to be over dressed than under dressed. By default, if you aren’t sure, wear a crisp, clean and tidy looking business suit. If you think that casual wear like jeans and button up shirt are OK, but you aren’t sure, wear pressed slacks, a button up shirt and a sport coat. There are exceptions, but generally speaking it is best to be a little over dressed than not.

3) Fashion Tips – I’m hardly a slave to fashion, but when it comes to how to dress for an interview there are some general rules to stick to. First, clean, neat and tidy is best. This means your grooming and coordination of colors/styles should be your best possible effort. Get a haircut and style it neatly. Men should be clean-shaven or neatly trimmed. Women should stick with more conservative hair styles and minimal jewelry. Second, whatever level of interview attire you are selecting, it should be clean and well matched. A suit for men and women should be fresh from the cleaners, well-tailored, and accessories should be matched. Shoes should be freshly polished. If you are wearing something less than a suit, you should make sure that the styles and colors between pants, shirt, jacket, shoes, etc. all “go together”.

 

 

By |January 18th, 2016|interview|0 Comments

Sell Yourself

Sell YourselfI find that a lot of candidates underestimate the importance of selling yourself in a job interview. It is especially important to sell yourself during the first interview. The interview process is analogous to the process of making a major purchase. The job seeker is the “product” and the hiring company is the “buyer”. As the “product”, it is vitally important to sell yourself and give the “buyer” cause to want to hire you. The “what’s in it for me” part of the interview process is important, but it is irrelevant if the employer is not strongly interested in hiring you. This post will cover a few methods and approaches to effectively sell yourself in the interview process.

  1. Sell Yourself by Preparing— adequate preparation in the first key in how to sell yourself to a potential employer. A strong resume that targets the employer (click here to read my post on resume writing) is a good start. You’ll also want to do adequate research on the company when you land an interview. This could include thoroughly going through their website, LinkedIn company page, online profiles of the people with whom you’ll meet, etc.
  2. Sell Yourself by Looking the Part — this includes all things that go into making a good first impression. Studies show that first impressions DO matter, so don’t start off on the wrong foot. First, I always recommend formal business attire. Conservative style suits for men, simple neck ties, and shined shoes. Get a hair cut if you need one, and shave/trim facial hair. For women, similar business attire is suggested. Avoid too much perfume, jewelry, etc. It’s pretty difficult to be overdressed, but being under dressed can be a disaster. That being said, times are changing, so depending on your specific field of expertise, or hiring company, it may be appropriate to dress more casually. Second, make sure you arrive to the interview on time. Map directions out in advance and budget extra time for traffic, delays, etc. If you arrive very early, review your notes and resume one last time before going in for the interview. I recommend that candidates arrive no earlier than 10 minutes before the interview. Too early can interrupt the schedule of the interviewer, so be considerate of their schedule too.
  3. Sell Yourself by SELLING YOURSELF — to separate yourself from the competition, you need to highlight your skills, experience, and what value you will bring to the employer. This can be done in several ways. First, when you answer questions, make sure to reference specific examples of what you’ve done, specific results you’ve achieved, and accomplishments that highlight your value. For example, saving the company money, surpassing sales goals, finding more efficient ways of doing things, etc. Second, ask intelligent questions about the job and company. Demonstrate that you’ve done your due diligence and ask about specific facets of the job and company. Finally, don’t be afraid to “flip the question”. By this I mean to find ways to turn some questions into positive reasons to hire you. For example, if asked the classic “what’s your biggest weakness?” question, prepare an answer you can spin in a positive light. You might say, “my biggest weakness had been people management because I have not had experience doing this until recently… however, for the last 6 months I’ve been supervising a new hire and this person is excelling at what they do and I’ve been recognized by my department head as a strong mentor and manager for this person.” Finally, as the interview comes to an end, I suggest to job seekers that they tell the interviewer that they are very interested in the job and eager to keep the process going. Enthusiasm goes a long way in interviews and companies like to hire people who demonstrate genuine interest in the job and company.

Remember, to sell yourself early on in the interview process does not mean that the process is all about the employer. The job seeker also has to be convinced that the opportunity is a good one and that the company is solid. However, the employer has to want to employee you before any of this matters.

By |January 18th, 2016|interview, Uncategorized|0 Comments

Job Search Mistakes

  1. Having Only One Resume – There are no one-size-fits-all resumes. If you use a single resume for your job search, you are making a big mistake! Resumes are usually glanced over very quickly to pick those candidates selected for interviews. It is critically important for you to target your resume to the specific company/job. A bit of minor tweaking can often make the difference between getting the interview, or not. Refer to my earlier post on how to target your resume here.
  2. Applying Online – this is a classic job search mistake to avoid. The main reason is because it is what everybody else is doing! It is very easy to get lost in flood of applicants who apply indiscriminately online. Second, many recruiters hold the belief that top-notch candidates don’t apply online. Top candidates are either sought out, or come in through other methods. Finally, applying online may hurt your chances of getting an interview or proper consideration at a company. You are far better off being evaluated as an employee referral, represented by a recruiter, or recommended by someone known to the company.
  3. Not Being Selective – whether you are actively or passively job searching, BE SELECTIVE. I generally advise people to take initial interviews liberally. Meeting the people and company face to face is the best way to see if there might be a fit. After an initial interview, I suggest people get much more selective. Don’t get deep into the interview process, or take things to the offer stage, if you can’t see yourself working at the company. You’ll not only be wasting your time, but you could leave a negative impression with the people who feel like you wasted theirs.
  4. Not Networking – this is the ultimate job search mistake. Study after study shows that the best jobs, and the best chances of landing your next job lies in networking. Friends, classmates, recruiters, alumni organizations, professional organizations, and former coworkers are just some of the categories of contacts you should tap into when considering a job change. Many people don’t do this because it involves more effort, but it is absolutely worth it!

David Staiti is the founder and Managing Partner of Virtus Recruiting, LLC. He has almost two decades of executive search and recruiting experience. He’s published numerous articles on job search and career management topics for The Wall Street Journal, CareerBuilder, and Forbes.com