I'm Not Going to Tolerate a Lot of Negotiating, Bob...
Huge Mistakes That Can't Be Recovered From - Allow Them to Resign or Fire Fast?

You Really Made That Much? Bring me Your W-2...

I riffed earlier this week about the unwillingness of some managers to negotiate on what they were willing to pay for a position.  I think people ought to enter into pay conversations with some form of flexibility, but if you're not flexible, at least be inflexible based on some relevant factors.  Not because you think you've got the power and the individual ought to accept whatever you need to offer.

Here's a bigger question - how do you validate what the candidate says they're making now or have madeUncle sam salary in the past?  The first way to get into that is to ask them what they need from a compensation perspective.  That's a softer way to get into the question, and my favorite, low impact way to ask is, "So what's it going to take from a money standpoint to get you to move?". 

Other best practice - use your career site to ask for two data points - 1) what the candidate's current salary is, and 2) what the candidate's expected salary is.

So, let's say you ask one or both of those questions face to face, but you're still unsure if the candidate is being totally honest with you.  What can you do to verify they made what they say they did?

Ask for the W-2 for the year(s) in question.  It's a hardcore tactic, but in going to lunch last week with a VP of Sales candidate, I was reminded why I love recruiting sales pros.

I didn't have an online application from the candidate in question (sourced directly by me!), so I asked the "what's it going to take' question.  Like a true sales pro, the candidate in question actually tells me, "Well, I W-2'd $xxx,000 last year.

I laughed - after playing so many games through the years on the compensation front, I forgot for a brief time period how transparent Sales Pro candidates can be.  Why the transparency?  I think it's because a lot of sales pros, if they have any experience at all, actually expect that the sales manager in question is going to ask them for their W-2.

Welcome to the hardcore recruiting world of recruiting sales pros.. The rest of the candidate pool could probably learn something from that.


laurie ruettimann

Good post. I haven't hired sales pros in almost two years, and the most senior-level sales professional I hired was a Sr. Director and not a VP, but the job was very lucrative with options & cars & money & stuff.

Here was my approach.

"You made X dollars last year? Good for you. I don't care. I made you my best offer first because amateurs negotiate salaries. We told you what job pays at our shop. We want you. We were honest about it. This is what we can do for you. You either accept it or you don't."

The older I get, the more I respect a clear and simple compensation negotiation strategy. If you're not making me your best offer FIRST, you don't really respect me.

Frode H

Wow, why is the salary so important? I would rather hire people with passion and the core willingnes to succeed. The salary need to be higher than the costs of living, or the cost needs to be lower than the income. As soon as this is true, salary should no longer matter, and the joy and personal drive should be the most important factor. So you should rather ask how much expenses they have? As someone that feels that they make to little money will for sure become unhappy and leave the company.


So, Frode H, are you straight out of business school or what? Your spelling and grammar would so indicate, not to mention that you seem to think it would be better to pay a high salary to someone who can't control his or her personal expenses. "Joy" and "passion" don't pay any bills. Salary, once it is past the desperation stage of paying monthly bills, is THE way of keeping score and of obtaining the respect of peers. If you low-ball a good prospect just because you can, you'll lose him the moment a better offer appears.



I actually got sucked into a prolonged debate on this subject on asktheheadhunter.com. In a perfect world your approach would be my favorite. But, in the absence of perfect worldness, I have a lot of value for prior salary history as a performance indicator. People can ace interviews and suck as employees. Nobody gives bad references unless they're a fool, so references are only of value to affirm opinions I may have already formed. Average performance is tolerated at lots of places for long periods of time.

You know what's not tolerated? Making a ridiculous amount of money when you don't produce results. Your salary history doesn't define you and everyone needs their first shot. I get that and I'm all for hiring for culture, recruiting hungry sales weasels, and paying it forward. But, playing the odds, someone who earned well north of the $100k mark as a sales rep repeatedely is much, much more likely to produce results than someone who made 40 grand in five of the past six years. People lie about two things in interviews most frequently of all -- salaries and dates of employment. The headhunter and the candidate may not like that I want to know. It may cede negotation ground for the candidate. But having salary history gives me something approaching quantifiable evidence when I'm doing due dilligence. And, especially if I'm devoting a lot of money in start up type environment or working in a place where overhead capital is a fiercely-guarded commodity, I want to make safe bets as much as possible.

These are also reasons I am such a big fan of rich variable pay plans that are tied to revenue growth and net profitability instead of high base salaries and bene packages, but that's a debate for another blog topic!

Just my .02.

Frode H

Hi JD. I have never gone to business school and have actually very little education. Little education does not equal to not being able to learn or read. Education is not important if you want to be a good leader. Joy and passion pays my bills. Because if I hunt for a good paying job, I might end up with a job I do not know how to handle or a job I do not like. My grammar and spelling might not be perfect, but hey, I am a Norwegian, so what do you expect? Anyhow, a good pay is great, but not important for me, I have what I need and I get what I want. I have my dream job and my kids get food on the table each day. I do not need more money on a bank account. If I need to be rich to gain respect, well that is not my fault is it. If an employee of mine can’t control his expenses I help by advising how to reduce expenses. I do believe that pay should be determined by skills and results. If you can handle twice as many customers as an average employee and keep them equally happy or better, you do deserve double salary by excel calculations, but it won’t make the employee equally happier, if you are unhappy with your co-workers or for any other reason, money won’t solve these problems. I do not have ambitions to become rich; I do have ambitions to become the best leader possible. I do not have ambitions to be promoted, yet still I have been promoted 3 times in just as many years. My salary have become better, but I have not asked for a dime more since I started working at this company as an normal call center employee 3 years ago.

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