“Matt: I’m getting pretty anxious to find work and have toyed with the idea of dropping my ‘price’ to employers in terms of the salary I’m asking for. Do you think this would help me land offers? I mean, after all, by hiring me an employer could get somebody with Director-level experience at a Management-level salary…”
Makes perfect sense, doesn’t it? If the labor market is a cold, calculated world that revolves around the laws of supply and demand, just like any other market, you’d think that a company would jump at the chance to snag some top talent at a fraction of the price it would normally cost them, wouldn’t you?
Ah, but my readers tend to be pretty savvy business folks, and I’m sure already realize full well that there’s FAR from a perfect correlation between the price of an item and the resulting consumer purchasing behavior! Numerous studies have revealed, in fact, that lowering the price of an item can greatly reduce the value we perceive we will get from it — even if the item itself doesn’t change one iota. So as a job hunter, you need to think twice about using “price” as a competitive sales strategy. In most cases, based on what I’ve witnessed, there’s an awfully good chance such an approach will backfire.
Before I go further, however, and share my own thoughts on the matter, let me first invite you all to review three on-line articles I’ve come across lately that relate to the issue in question. They’re pretty enlightening. First, I’d suggest you visit LinkedIn Answer Thread #1, where you’ll find a series of responses to a question one LinkedIn user asked along the lines of “What does lowering salary expectations say to potential employers?” Secondly, you should direct your browsers to LinkedIn Answer Thread #2, where you’ll enjoy some additional dialogue generated by a NASA Propulsion Engineer who submitted the question “Why does offering to work for less money not help in landing a job?” And lastly, check out what Nick Corcodilos has to say about the current talent market and the short-sightedness he feels many employers are displaying in terms of not recognizing talent bargains when they see them. As usual, he makes some great points that are highly contrary to the “conventional wisdom” around this issue.
Have you finished reading the above articles? What do you think? Personally, I tend to agree that slashing one’s price tag tends to be a losing strategy in most job search situations. It reminds me of when I see a grocery cart full of bargain wine in the supermarket, marked down to a few bucks a bottle. I can’t help but think “this stuff must be terrible, if they’re trying this hard to get rid of it!” Along the same lines, a professional-level candidate who seems eager to work for much less than his/her competition gives off a similar vibe. Even if the person has terrific credentials, it’s hard not to question their competency level or get suspicious if they don’t seem to be valuing their talents appropriately, themselves. It’s one thing if a person offers to do a pro bono “trial run” project or perhaps work at a reduced rate, initially, to prove themselves or help accommodate an employer’s budget. But if they’re offering to permanently mark down their compensation requirements, that’s a big red flag.
Please note, though, that the concept we’re talking about here is completely different from another salary-related snafu that often takes place in the negotiation process. We’ve been talking about whether a job seeker should consciously drop their price, and offer to work for less money, as a strategy for incenting employers to hire them over the competition. This is NOT the same thing as lowering your salary requirements because they’re out of touch with the going market rate in the first place! So if you’ve been telling employers you want $120,000 a year as a technical writer, and nobody’s biting, you might need to adjust your expectations and start telling employers you’re looking for something in the neighborhood of $50-60K, which is the approximate national median (Seattle figures would be a bit higher) for folks in this field, according to the Payscale.com salary survey tool. Again, adjusting your expectations is different than using price to try to gain a strategic sales advantage, which would be the case if you said something like “While most people in this field seem to be looking for a package in the neighborhood of $60,000, I’m highly motivated to find work right now, and would be willing to work for $45,000.”
At the end of the day, while I realize it can be tempting to reduce your compensation requirements in an effort to land more offers, employers perceive “value” largely the same way consumers do — and tend to look for confident, self-assured people who value their skills and act like they’re worth every penny of what they’re asking for. So rather than trying to compete on price, I’d suggest you sweeten the pot by working on other factors that can give you an advantage, such as sharpening up your relevant skill sets or offering some tangible forms of proof that demonstrate how quickly you can solve an employer’s problems and produce the results they need.
This are just my two cents on the matter, however, so feel free to take them for whatever you perceive them to be worth… :)