“GET THE OTHER PERSON TO THROW OUT A SALARY NUMBER FIRST”

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Our informant makes or contributes to hiring decisions for experience design, creative technology, and content strategy positions.

Our informant makes or contributes to hiring decisions for experience design, creative technology, and content strategy positions.

We asked a hiring manager to give us tips on how you can impress HR—and how you can avoid making horrible mistakes when hunting for a job.

To ensure their honesty, we’ve granted anonymity to this design manager at a major ad agency. Check out his/her thoughts on why certain people get hired and salary negotiation, as told to Aaron Weber. 

YOUR PERSONALITY MATTERS…

Even if you seem like a promising candidate, whether I hire you can all come down to personality and fit, which is unfortunately pretty arbitrary.

One person was great on paper but showed up dressed strangely (and this is a creative place, so limits can be pushed). This person could not articulate a real point of view about the work and kept stalling when asked questions, then responding with these rambling non-answers. It was odd and awkward. I felt like Katie Couric trying to ask Sarah Palin if she reads the newspaper.

That was a total failure.

..BUT YOUR CREDIT DOESN’T

Pulling your credit report is not a policy at my company. For this industry, I don’t think it really means much: I know people who are complete trainwrecks with money but are brilliant creators in their work lives.

I WISH I’D KNOWN TO NEGOTIATE…

Always negotiate. Salary, vacation time, options, everything.

Set your boundaries and stick to them in terms of work-life balance. Do great work, and ask for what you want. No one is going to hand you things out of the kindness of her heart.

…JUST DON’T BRING IT UP UNTIL THE OFFER STAGE

Decide if something is a mutual fit before talking salary. Even if the offer is terribly low, and you can’t talk it higher and don’t take the job, if you handle yourself gracefully and made a good impression, you’ve just made contacts that may be valuable later.

THESE SALARY TACTICS WORK

Having another offer in hand always helps.

Personally, I never divulge a number if someone asks me what I expect to make prior to the interview process. I say something along the lines of “I can’t really make that determination until I know more about the position, blah blah mutual fit blah blah fair compensation by industry standards. Let’s see if this is a fit. I’m really excited to come in and speak with everyone.”

Once an offer is about to be extended, then I will be perfectly forthcoming, although I always try to get the other person to throw out a number first.

Do not lie about your current salary to try to get a bump. Use your confidence and skills to get that bump. Explain that you make X in your current role, but your role is not comparable to the new one, and you feel Y is more realistic. Then stop talking. Silence is OK. It’s up to the other person to make the next move.

Of course, research what a reasonable number might be on Glassdoor or Salary.com or industry forums. Ideally, someone you know at the company can give you a hint.

For more on negotiation, I think Ramit Sethi’s blog “I will teach you to be rich” has terrific advice.

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