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Initial screening

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Initial screening

Postby David M » Mon Jan 31, 2005 4:20 pm

I am a research tech working in an academic lab and I recently applied to a process development position in a biopharm company. I got an email from HR asking me a couple of questions.
1. Why you want to leave your current position, 2. What are your career objectives for a new position and your salary exprectations.

Normally, I would not have taken this email seriously thinking it as an auto-reply. But this one mentions my name, my organization and so on.

I am confused as how to answer these questions, particularly the salary and reason for leaving.

Any inputs...

David M
David M
 

Initial screening

Postby Lora » Mon Jan 31, 2005 4:45 pm

Answers should be brief and positive. They can be vague but not obviously evasive. HR is asking you to make their job simpler in many ways, but fortunately these are questions which have clear right and wrong answers:

1. Right answer: I am looking for an opportunity to grow/expand my skills/more responsibility/chance to try something new/especially like this particular field.
Wrong answer: Current job stultifying/company under investigation for ethical violations/got laid off. It doesn't much matter what you put here, as long as it's something generically cheerful and eager-to-please. They want to see if you're dumb or tactless, so they have a reason to file you in the circular file.

2. Salary expectations: Many HR people are like Catbert, that is, if you say you'd prefer not to discuss salary or could be flexible on salary, you're filed in the circular file for failing to name a figure up-front. If you name a number that is **higher than HR thinks they should pay, even if that number is WELL within the acceptable range for your field, geography and experience,** you'll price yourself out of their range, and it's another excuse to ignore you. Name a figure too low, trying to avoid this scenario, and you will most likely get a lowballed offer somewhat less than that as a "starting offer" because it's assumed you named a mid-range figure higher than what you actually make now.

I have found just about every single website, industry salary guide and academic salary guide completely useless when it comes to naming a salary figure. Most of the time, the attitude has been, "We'll pay you what we feel like paying you, and you can take it or find another offer." Sometimes the HR people didn't have a clear idea of what educational levels and seniority merited, sometimes it was sexism, sometimes it was that the hiring manager got a bigger bonus when he saved money on salaries.

In the case of one company I applied to, they asked for salary history and called my employer to confirm that I had, indeed, been making that much money (it was NOT that much, barely enough to feed a parakeet) straight out of college because they paid their associates considerably less--the reason they had a job opening was because they had such high turnover. Gee, I wonder why!
Lora
 

Initial screening

Postby Bill L. » Mon Jan 31, 2005 4:52 pm

Hi David,

First, give a call to the HR office just to make sure they sent the email to you.

Second, I'd imagine that this is your cover letter (assuming you didn't submit one earlier) and use it as a chance to give (or echo) information to strengthen your application.

Remind them of your academic background, professional skills and desire to take the next step in your career (that is, to whatever position you are applying to). Inform them that you want to apply them in the new setting (with additional responsibility, new research focus, etc....whatever the reasons were for you applying to this new position).

As for salary expectations, if you know of the average range, you can state it, but often people are reluctant to do so until they actually have detailed information about what they expect you to do for the money. So people simply say that their expectations are commensurate with the responsiblities, and press home that they are certain that you can come to some sort of agreement.

Be well,

Bill L. & Naledi S.
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Initial screening

Postby Dave Jensen » Mon Jan 31, 2005 5:30 pm

Bill and Naledi's comments are welcomed. Always check to make certain that the email did originate from that HR department. I've got to tell you that the email you received is HIGHLY UNUSUAL. There are not a lot of HR departments sending out inquiries to people they haven't spoken with yet, and asking questions about salary! That's about as tacky as you can get.

David, I would take Lora's advice about being cautious in your wording of the reasons why you are looking. Make sure it is more of a positive than a negative -- in other words, the "job advertised looked interesting" is far better than "my boss doesn't appreciate me."

Don't let anyone EVER talk you into giving salary numbers when you know absolutely ZIP about the job responsibilities. "We can discuss salary at a time when I know more about the job and you believe that I am a fit. But, I'd be looking for a salary that is commensurate with the experience and that is on a par with others of my experience level." ETC.

Let us know how this works out. That's a new one for me . . . HR email blasts are not the norm,

Dave Jensen, Moderator
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Lora - Salary Catch 22

Postby Jim » Mon Jan 31, 2005 5:40 pm

I've experienced that dilemma also. I think many people have. Seems to me that the going consensus in the rhetoric put out there is that companies/HR reps will ask that question up front for four main reasons: the HR rep is inexperienced, it's through a Temp Agency where those posted positions never seem to be withdrawn on account that they first find people and then sell them to companies, it could be posted by a company that cares less about retention of it's employees and more about their economical existence/demise in general will ask that question up front or the position/company is so in demand that they can insist on those requirements.

Either way, for me and some I've spoken with, we tend to stay away from those positions. But, if one wanted to pursue that position, really do your financial homework on them and hope that they don't restate earnings later.
Jim
 

Lora - Salary Catch 22

Postby Lora » Mon Jan 31, 2005 6:40 pm

This might seem like an entirely stupid question, so I apologize in advance.

Why don't companies advertise their salary ranges with the job opening and relative position in the hierarchy up front, the way public-sector jobs are posted as GS-whatever? That way, if it's something so low you wouldn't consider it or a generic job title and description, you know what they intend in a transparent manner.

I can't tell you how many positions I've inquired about that had a generic "Researcher I" or "Associate III" title, and sometimes a grade III is the lowest, sometimes grade III is the highest, sometimes they want a bachelor's and sometimes they want a doctorate with 15 years of experience. I can appreciate that companies don't want to give out much information regarding R&D to their competition, but a little clarity in the job grade and salary range they are willing to pay would be nice. Sometimes even the headhunters don't know what the company expects.

Once in a great while, I ask these questions of the HR staff wherever I'm working. They give me blank looks like they have never heard of such a thing; do you think they honestly had never encountered for a public sector job, or that they were playing dumb because it was a stupid question?
Lora
 

Initial screening

Postby David M » Mon Jan 31, 2005 9:32 pm

Thanks everyone! I would follow some of your ideas regarding not giving a salary range and being positive about the position etc.

Jim, asking expected salary range is quite common on all big pharma career websites. So, I dont think its that bad. One thing that really bothers me is why did they send an email instead of asking these on the website (I indeed applied online).

Dave, Bill & Naledi: The email did indeed come from a HR Specialist with contact information, so I wouldn't doubt too much about it.

Thanks again....lets see how it goes.

David M
David M
 

Initial screening

Postby Dave Jensen » Tue Feb 01, 2005 1:01 am

David,

For decades, the first step in HR interest in a candidate has been to conduct a brief phone screen. In those, HR person will sometimes ask about salary, etc. However, this company appears to be moving directly to salary questions via email? This is a bit bizarre and, as stated earlier, not the greatest reflection of the company. I hope it doesn't become standard hiring practice,

Dave
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