IT Employment

The flawed process of getting a job offer


At least three times in my career I have gone through the long interview process for a tech job, got an offer and then turned it down.  Each case would have been a step up in either income or responsibility.  One was turned down because it required a move of about 150 miles - just too far to commute.  Another was turned down because I found out some things I didn't like about the company in the interviews, and the other died due to an overwhelming counteroffer.

Yes, you're right about the first offer. Why did I interview with a company that was so far away if I wasn't serious about being willing to move?  Well, I was serious going into the interview process.  The problem was that the offer wasn't attractive enough.  Yes, they included moving expenses but it just wasn't enough to risk uprooting my family and then discovering six months down the road why they were so anxious to bring in an outside IT Manager instead of promoting someone from within.

I felt bad about turning down each of these offers.  I wish there was some way to have all the information up front that would have allowed me to make a decision without going all the way through the multiple interview and offer process.  I especially hated having to drag my references through all the calls and emails and then had to explain to them why I didn't take the job.  Luckily, they are still good friends or former bosses that had a good memory of the work I did for them.

Is there something fundamentally flawed with this whole process of getting a good tech job or would we have to go through the same thing no matter what industry we are in?  I don't know how it is in other countries, but in the States we typically go though at least two interviews and sometimes three before even finding out how much money is involved.  Some companies are good enough to give you a range up front, but it has been my experience in IT Management that offers are DOE - 'depending on experience'.

My point is that in each case I could have saved myself and the company some grief if they had just been up-front with me that they have budgeted so much and the offer will be in this *narrow* range.  I hate the DOE thing. Any company that does their homework should know what IT Managers make with so many years of experience and that have managed a certain size staff.  Is it so hard to pin it down either over the phone or even right in the job listing?

Mind you I'm talking about private companies here.  Most government agencies and educational institutions have this little detail nailed.  There's no wondering up front if it will be worth my time to go through the pain of several interviews before finding out how much they are wiling to pay.  Why can't private industry change this little social taboo and just let it be known that they are willing to pay so much so that we both can be sincere in our interest and effort to win the job?

Is it too much to ask?  Can you HR managers and recruiting managers out there who keep calling me about these great jobs please take note that we computer guys are tired of the dance that can drag on for a month.  Just tell us up front how much you are willing to pay.  It makes me want to be a contractor just so I can tell you my rates, take it or leave it.  The only problem is that most IT Managers aren't contract employees - they are part of the management team.

Am I the only one that has gone through this?  Have you ever gone through a long interview process only to be very disappointed by an employment offer?  Is it unreasonable to expect that money can be discussed in the first interview or even better, over the phone? What do you think?

12 comments
Justin James
Justin James

Nearly 100% of the HR people and recruiters who I've talked to about a position got the range of salaries out in the open before I came in for an interview. It was always handled delicately, of course. For example, they will ask about my current compensation, and then let me know if they are looking at being definitely below, about the same, or definitely over. That's enough to decide if conversations should continue. Or they will state the absolute maximum that they are willing to compensate the "ideal candidate" for, which is a polite way of saying, "this is to top end, the bottom end is DOE". As a result, I never received a job offer for a job that was not in my range of acceptable compensation packages. One final note, I *never* initiate the topic of compensation, of course. Good HR people and recruiters know that my time is valuable, and they are usually overwhelmed themselves (as are the hiring managers). No one wants to stand on some unwarranted and lame outdated convention about when it is OK to talk money, just to waste a total of 20 man hours plus the expense of a background check and such, not to mention turning away other candidates or putting them on hold while the best candidate is vetted, only to discover that the pay is too low anyways. J.Ja

JamesRL
JamesRL

My employer isn't in the top tier of wages paid. So I tend to try to get this out of the way. For some positions, I have my top 10 screened by HR - they call them on the telephone and ask about salary, location and other factors to make sure we aren't getting shotgun candidates - people who send out hundreds of resumes and really don't take notice of the details of the posting. It really helps. James

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

There is is a salary range mentioned or the pimp asks you what sort of money you are looking for. Of course sometimes the mentioned salary range is ridiculously large (I saw 20 to 40k once for a PC tech) and if you want to get some offers from the the pimps I want a 100k and free sex, could be a bad idea. I'm a big fan of telephone interviews, both when being inetrviewed and interviewing. I saved everybody wasted time with a key question about the package and saved my employer a good deal when the candidate I 'need' to interview has fooled the pimp, or the pimp has fooled them. I won't do a long commute to an interview, or go to one with an iffy description, or do a multiple without a telephone interview first. Well unless I'm desperate and out of work, which hasn't happened yet.

omnknt232006
omnknt232006

The only thing I can think of to add to this is that I am from Iowa which is an area of the U.S. where change tends to be motivated more out of necessity than any other factor. I think its possible that the IT Industry in general is still relatively new as compared to others and so maybe some companies do not have as much experience with negotiating IT Salaries as opposed to say the salaries of accountants. I am relatively new to job hunting in the industry but I agree, it would be nice to know what they are willing to pay because that way I wouldn't have to waste their time or mine.

Matt_L
Matt_L

I went through the same process to discover that the offer was 17K less than I had been making previously. However, that last job had ended without my approval. I ended up taking it because I needed it, but I only stayed 14 months. It seemed easier to just move on than to ask for more money. I find the entire salary negotiation process to be painful and demeaning and since I am a poor negotiator I am sure I get the short end every time. They didn't replace me, so maybe I was unnecessary fluff and they were actually overpaying! Or maybe they know they can't get anyone that cheap again. Now I am at a medical/educational institution where the salary is pretty much set. From talking to others I am pretty sure my "wiggle room" was about $1K a year. That makes me pretty happy.

ido.abramovich
ido.abramovich

I think you're right, when professional people look for a job, and they're doing it for the second or third time at least, they know how much they want to get paid. It would save lots of time and stress if this disqualifying aspect in the recruitment procedure be discussed as soon as possible. "Money makes the world go around..."

stevestao
stevestao

The entire process is ridiculous. The first conversation a new employee has with their new boss is a negotiation over salary/benefits as mediated by HR. This is one reason I left the salary world. Plus, anyone that tells you benefits are worth anything is trying to convince themselves that they're not leaving money on the table everyday! Unless you have serious medical issues, the very best private health insurance won't run more than a $400/month. For a year that is about 5% of a $100k annual income. Most contractors can jump from $80-85 per annum to $50/hour (read as $100k annually) if they just walk away from that other inconvenient lie - job security. Another is the issue of hiding the true salary. Now that I have the confidence of a few years experience, I ask any cold-callers what the rate is up-front. If it is not at or within 10% of my current level, I end the conversation there. Anyone that will not give you an answer to that question is just wasting your time. My advice, have some confidence in your ability to get a job at the amount you deserve.

tim
tim

I have never heard 'pimp' used to describe an employment agency. I about fell out of my chair laughing. I think we would call them a headhunter over here. I too love telephone interviews but it just seems that there are some HR people who don't know how to ask straight up, "what is you salary range?" or to offer me what their budget is.

JamesRL
JamesRL

At most places, there is a letter of offer. That is what it is, an offer. You are welcome to counter. Smart people do, I did. As to benefits not being worth anything, that certainly is not my experience. I get roughly 3% of my salary in a retirement plan, and that will double once I get 10 years in. My dental, when you add the whole family is about $5,000 a year. My prescription drugs, again for the family is about $2000 a year. Benefits mean more to older people with families than young people. The only benefits I've negotiated is to start the health plan immediately instead of waiting a 3 month period as per usual. For salary planning purposes we calculate the cost of salary plus benefits is salary x 1.25. That is an average, will be lower for others and higher for some. Oh and thats in Canada where most health care costs are paid through other taxes. James

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

Sure I picked that up from a US member. If the salary range is unacceptable, I don't get put forward. If ther's no salary range I don't get put forward. I've always found that a reliable indicator that an employer doesn't know what they want

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

But essentially they've seen something on my cv/resume that they like. I want to know what it is and why? If you want me because of my Quickbasic on windows 3.11, well goodbye. :D For me, in development. Are they agile or waterfall. Do they have a separate QA function Do developers and testers work together or is there a partition between them. What sort of production demands do they have to cope with. Not questions with wrong answers as such, but ones that give me a clue whether they are a suitable employer for me. If they work one way, why, how do they cope with the downsides. Essentially I want to know if there is a future. I might have to work towards it, I ask for no guarantees, but if there's nothing to go for I ain't going. The key question is what's imporant to you, what do you want, is it on offer? If it isn't, what they want from you is irrelevant. And vice versa of course.

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