Setting the dreaded “salary range”

14411658544_a48f5ae516_zHere we go again. I had solid interview with the visual effects company on Friday morning and by that afternoon, they called to say they want to move forward with an offer!  I should expect a call from an HR representative early next week. I’m excited about this, but have learned in recent history that the deal isn’t done until it’s DONE.

In the past couple of months, I received two other offers that fell through after unsuccessful salary negotiations. Neither company was willing to pay what I was asking. These experiences have tested me on an emotional level, realizing that the following factors all go into expectations of compensation:

  • How desperate am I to leave my current job? Moderately, but not desperately. The department I’m now in is much better, but could get boring after some time.
  • Is this new opportunity more fun/interesting/challenging? Seems like it would be more interesting and exciting than my current gig.
  • Is this a staff position with benefits, or freelance? Don’t know yet. Will adjust salary range accordingly.
  • Do I want to work with this new team? Are they friendly/creative/inspiring? I really liked the department head I would be partnering with. I also enjoy working directly with a team of artists.
  • Will this job entail a long commute or excessive overtime? Shorter commute for the next 5 months, then longer when the studio moves into a new facility. Dept head said he does not expect his team to work much OT.
  • Where could this new job lead my career path in a few years? I would be working with studio execs, which could lead to some interesting new contacts and opportunities.

All of this needs consideration when determining the dreaded “salary range”. This is the aspect of the job hunt process that causes me the most stress. They all ask for it. I’ve dodged it, trying to coerce them to start the process with an opening offer, but that’s a true challenge and a skill I have yet to master.

For my current position, they offered to initially hire me on a freelance basis. After picking the brains of a few friends in the VFX business and factoring in the absence of health insurance and a 401k (and match), I gave the recruiter a high range. It ended up being higher than what they were willing to pay, but it prompted them to change the offer to a staff position with excellent benefits at a lower salary. It was more than $200 a week more than my previous job, so it was still a great offer and I took it.

Now, about six months later, I’m having trouble finding a new gig that pays the same. I gave the last two companies a fairly high range and they couldn’t even reach the bottom, so no new job for me. Now, I’m finding myself more gun-shy on where to set my range. There’s so much riding on it!

  • If the range is too far above what they’re willing to pay, it will stop negotiations in their tracks. It could also impair your future hire-ability at that company, thinking you’re too expensive for future positions that might come up.
  • If you give a range that’s too conservative, you could be cheating yourself out of future earnings. Salary upon hire is often your best chance to get the highest pay possible.

In the end, I think the best strategy is to do as much research on the company and type of position as possible (I’ve found helpful). Factor in your current compensation and how much you want the job, and it should lead you to a reasonably happy place. I think I’ve come to a decision on where to start negotiations in the coming days. I will report back next week on how it goes!

(Image: lac-bac)

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