Q: I prefer working at small companies because they seem less rigid with rules and policies and the environment is more like a family. The company I work for is run by a married couple. They live like millionaires but claim to not be able to pay me more. I've been there a little more than a year. I love the job, but I find it difficult to live on the salary. Because I really wanted the job, I did not ask questions in the interview.
I recently told them I'm having trouble living on the salary and asked for an increase. They said they'd see what they could do, but nothing has happened yet. I need to remind them again. What else can I do?
A: The opportunity to negotiate a higher salary or better benefits is once you receive a job offer and have not yet accepted it. Once you accept the position, you are relying on the company's success (as the owners see it) and their generosity. Rather than hoping you will be a wonderful addition to the company, they will now know what you are capable of contributing. In other words, their excitement is replaced by reality.
When comparing small companies to large ones, you have to weigh the pros and cons of each. Salaries are not created so the employee can live a more desired lifestyle. They are created according the work and level of qualifications required. Privately owned company owners have the right to take as much out of the company as they wish to live the lifestyle they desire. The rules for the owners are not the same for the employees. This may be your wake-up call to the so-called rules of the workplace.
One thing is clear. It would serve you well to read books on the interview questions that are typically asked. Such a book to increase your knowledge and comfort level with the interviewing process is "96 Great Interview Questions To Ask Before You Hire" by Paul Falcone. Falcone is a top human resources professional and author of numerous books to guide HR employees toward becoming experienced HR professionals. "It's often used by job applicants to gain a better understanding of the job search process from the 'other side of the desk,'" says Falcone.
When you learn what the pros are expecting of you, you will know the questions you, in turn, should be asking in an interview. As a hiring manager, Falcone says, "No questions at the end of an interview leads me to think, 'So you really want to work here but have absolutely no questions about the organization, what it's like to work here, or what it takes to be successful?' This is a definite negative in the overall evaluation of the candidate."
Falcone suggests explaining your small company preference and then leading into a question such as, "As you see from my resume, I enjoy working for smaller companies because I feel size matters. Smaller organizations tend to be more focused and aligned, and you don't get lost in bureaucracy. I also love that everyone's part of the solution and can see their impact on the final product. Do you find that XYZ is typical of smaller companies in that regard, and do you have plans to scale up or down in the next few years?"
You may be asked a salary range you would consider, but do not ask for the exact salary. Salary offers are determined after the interview and presented in the job offer, which is based on what the applicant brings to the job. If you need time to consider your bottom line once you know what the job entails, ask for it. You lose negotiating power once you've begun working.
If you negotiate an increase based on achieving certain performance levels, make sure it is in your offer letter or in an employment agreement. If not, a future salary increase is not a promise. Your options are to stay on your current salary or start a job search. In fact, job search results and future interviews are the best way to know your value in any job market.
Email career and life coach: Lindsey@LindseyNovak.com with your workplace problems and issues. Ms. Novak responds to all emails. For more information, visit www.lindseynovak.com, and for past columns, see www.creators.com/read/At-Work-Lindsey-Novak.