View from the board: vague but true

Not much about a job is really negotiable. The office tends to be based in
one location; the job title is almost always decided already; you often can’t
change the reporting lines; and a company is unlikely to change its strategy
just for you.

So what does that leave? The salary.

We have all seen the job ads that promise a lot but offer little information
to back up that promise.

‘Our client is a global business… based somewhere in England… offering a
wonderful role with a negotiable salary.’ As the writer of many vague ads just
like this one, allow me, please, to leap to my own defence.

Sometimes the information is simply too sensitive to disclose openly. It
might be about a new product or new division. It might be price-sensitive.
Someone might be currently doing the job. For whatever reasons, the role and the
company need to be kept confidential.

Publicising a salary can present similar difficulties. Again, employers
sometimes don’t want staff to know how much a colleague is being paid, and
sometimes doesn’t want to limit themselves to a specific salary. However, the
most common reason for not giving a figure is because the salary truly is

Whenever a business launches a recruitment process, it’s a bit like buying a
house. You know how much you should spend and start off by looking at houses
within that bracket. Then you see something just outside the bracket you set
yourself and realise that, actually, that’s the house you really want. That way,
you justify moving outside your bracket.

The salary situation is exactly the same. Everyone starts with a range – but
there is also the rest of the package to factor in. The percentage of the bonus;
the value of the car allowance; the pension contribution; the share options; and
so on. Some of these are fixed because they are company policy, but the further
up you go in an organisation, the more flexible the benefits. This is where the
‘negotiability’ comes in.

Just one word of caution: you may be an amazing negotiator, but listen to the
consultant you are dealing with. There comes a point where naked greed becomes
unattractive. There also comes a point where you are so well paid at the start,
that it is difficult later on to renegotiate your salary upwards.

Negotiate hard, but fair; don’t be unrealistic; and listen to advice.

Mark Freebairn is a partner at Odgers Ray &

Related reading