Pardon Me, but Your Salary is Showing

Oh, Anita,

I was out with my coworkers for drinks, and found out one of my male peers makes more than I do for basically the same position. Since I’m not supposed to know his salary, how can I approach my supervisor about the inequity?

Secret_Salaries_000013891088Dear, Shhhhharin’ Salaries,

A recent Glassdoor Pay Gap Survey notes that 7 out of 10 people in the U.S. think men and women are paid equally for equal work at their company. Were you one of the optimists? I’m sorry your bubble was burst. While the Equal Pay Act was passed in 1963, over 50 years later, pay discrimination still exists. The AAUW reports that women make 79 cents for every $1 men earn, a 21% gap.

One solution suggested by the Glassdoor survey was pay transparency. The Obama administration recently proposed collecting gender pay data from larger employers starting in 2017, allowing the EEOC to crack down on companies paying women less than their male counterparts. Until then, and in smaller businesses not affected by this rule, few companies willingly disclose salary information.

Social media company Buffer is one completely open company. For salaries, Buffer uses a salary calculation formula based on job role, location, and experience level.

Piggy_Bank_000000162742There are detractors to salary transparency. Critics say it’s a privacy issue and that highly rewarded employees don’t need to justify the salaries they’ve earned. This policy could certainly backfire on companies with a chasm between the upper management’s salary and bonus structure and the rank and file’s wages.

Payscale found the main predictor of both “satisfaction” and “intent to leave” is whether employees feel they are paid fairly. Most often, people who discover coworkers’ salaries in a hush-hush culture leave the company without discussing the situation with their manager.

So, how do you bring up the subject? Even though you were not snooping in classified files, your knowledge of your coworker’s salary is awkward. Before you make a big fuss with your boss, take and deep breath and observe the following steps:

  • Analyze. Does your co-worker have a higher level of education? More years of experience in the role, even at a former job? Do some research on salary.com or payscale.com to see what others make in the same position outside your company.
  • Ask for a raise. Avoid mentioning your co-worker’s salary and use market pay rates and your value to the company as ammunition instead.
  • Consider your options if refused. If this newfound knowledge will eat away at you and your own performance and ultimately the team’s, looking for a fresh start may be wise. After all, as I noted in my blog Quitters Never Win… Or Do They?, sometimes the best way to get a raise is to command a higher base salary from a new employer.
  • If verifiable, file a complaint. If you have proof of gender pay inequality, start with your company’s HR department. If that course of action doesn’t produce satisfactory results, file a claim with your local EEOC office. The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009 resets the statute of limitations on discrimination complaints each time new paychecks are issued. It’s never easy to be a whistle-blower, so be sure you have the emotional fortitude before you open the Pandora’s box of gender pay discrimination.

Readers: What are your thoughts on pay transparency? Would you like to know what your coworkers make – and have them know your salary?

Do you have a job-related question? Ask Anita.

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Yikes! A Panel Interview

Anita,

I recently had an interview with the mid-level manager to whom I would report if hired. I was called back to set up a panel interview with his boss and two other managers including HR. I’m freaking out! Why do companies do this? I’m so nervous, how will I ever get through this inquisition without throwing up?

Dear, In a Tizzy Lizzy,

Business People at a MeetingCompanies may conduct panel interviews for various reasons. Consolidating multiple interviews is an efficient use of the numerous managers’ time. For that matter, the applicant’s time is respected as well; no need to take additional PTO for interviews #3 and #4 (and answer the same questions over and over). Hiring by consensus can overcome individual biases, and since applicants have more people to impress, panel interviews may raise the bar for talent selection. If department peers are involved in a team interview, a preview of the group work dynamic can be glimpsed.

Here are some tips to prepare for – and conquer – the panel interview.

  • Find out who will be on the interview committee. Then do some investigating. Check out their positions and profiles on the company website and LinkedIn. Google search for any news articles in which they may have been mentioned.
  • Rack your brains for questions each individual is likely to ask. You’ve already prepared for the standard interview fare, but put yourself in each interviewer’s shoes and imagine what they would like to know about you. While the HR Manager may be interested in that tiny gap in your employment many moons ago, the Sales Manager may be more interested in your stats and the accompanying conquering hero anecdotes.
  • At the introduction and handshake stage, ask for each person’s business card or jot down their names in the order they are seated. Those lightweight butterflies in the stomach can really kayo short-term memory recall.
  • Talk to them all. When answering one individual’s question, be sure to look at others on the panel as well. Like a comedy “callback,” make reference to earlier questions asked by other interviewers.
  • Win over the person most aloof. It may be easier to cozy up to the folks you can tell you’ve already impressed, but try to address the quiet note-taker’s concerns, particularly if he or she is high-ranking. Fret not, though, Lizzy. There’s unlikely to be a “good cop, bad cop” scenario in your panel interview as in this entertaining sketch from BBC’s That Mitchell and Webb Look:

  • Use those business cards you collected to address a thank you note to each individual on the panel.

Instead of dreading the panel interview, use it as an opportunity to get a sneak peek inside the corporate culture and view the team’s interpersonal dynamics. An interview is as much about you appraising the company as it is the company assessing you.

Readers: How have you aced a panel interview?

Do you have a job-related question? Ask Anita.

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Why You Didn’t Get the Job

Hi!

I’ve been applying for positions non-stop for 2 months and have had 3 face to face interviews. When I’ve been given a phone interview, I pass with flying colors and onto the next stage. When having the face to face interviews I leave each one feeling confident that I would have an offer. I’ve now received letters stating they found a better fit for the position. I’ve worked in Call Centers for the past 8 years in a customer service role, so experience was not an issue. Could it be my age? I just don’t know what I’m doing wrong, if anything. Is it in bad taste to ask why I was passed over? I’m of the opinion if I don’t know what I’m doing wrong, I can’t fix it.

Dear, Whys and Wherefores,

Readers often write to ask “Why wasn’t I hired? I though the interview went well.” I’m not related to Big Brother, so I don’t have access to the surveillance footage of your meeting. But I can make offer some theories.

Mentally review your past interviews to see if you made any of these missteps.

  • Divergent appearance. A wardrobe mismatch can be more than just wearing brown socks with black trousers. You may actually be overdressed in a Wall Street suit and tie for an interview with a hip startup, where everyone is dressed more casually. But if you’re a tattooed, pierced individual, you may want to take out your septum ring to avoid distracting a buttoned-up interviewer in a more corporate environment. This Super Bowl “Talking Stain” commercial from a few years ago reminds us all to avoid messy lunch foods right before an interview.

  • Body language. Eye contact without staring, a firm but not bone-crushing handshake, smiling and nodding (but not too enthusiastically!) are all non-verbal communication skills you should brush up on.
  • Poor performance. You stutter, you interject “um” or “like” too often, you can’t even think of the answer to a simple question! Calm your nerves, take a breath before answering your interviewer’s questions, and don’t speak too rapidly (chances are, the hiring manager is taking notes). Public speaking may not be your forte but with proper preparation and practice, you can improve.
  • Lack of follow-up. Without being “dimpatient,” be sure to maintain communication after the interview, starting with a “thank you” note. HINT: If you are kicking yourself after forgetting to mention a pertinent point in your interview, mention it in your thank you message.
    (For more tips on acing interviews, download my free e-book, Anita Clew’s Jitter-Free Guide to Job Interviews.)

You could request honest feedback from your interviewer via email – but never put them on the spot in person or by phone. “While I’m disappointed I was not chosen for the position, it would really help me in my next interview to know if you saw any areas in which I can improve.” Be forewarned, warns EvilHRLady, some recruiters and hiring managers may be hesitant to offer constructive criticism. If you do receive remarks, respond graciously even if you think their observations are way off base.

Readers: Have you ever asked for – and received – a critique from an interviewer?

Do you have a job-related question? Ask Anita.

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Your Next Best Career

Hey Anita,

I’m a computer programmer and I am thinking about changing careers. Years of sitting in front of a PC for 10-12 hours a day is taking its toll, and my New Year’s resolution of getting healthy and in better physical shape has fallen by the wayside. Any advice?

Geek_1915240_smallDear, Geek Physique,

You are not alone; 21% of employees plan to leave their jobs this year, according to CareerBuilder. (I have no statistics on how many people have already given up on their New Year’s resolution!) But are you sure you want to leave your current position? Tech salaries rose 7.7% in 2015, averaging $96,370. Think carefully before making a dramatic job transition. Oftentimes, a career change means a sharp decrease in salary, at least temporarily until you can move up the ladder in your newly chosen industry.

If you’re serious about a major change, CareerBuilder just released a list of the 25 Best Jobs in America for 2016. While many are management positions, there are several on the list to which you could transfer your existing IT skills which makes for an easier career change. But a new Solutions Architect or Mobile Developer position may not address your health and fitness goals. Check out my blog post, Work Toward 10,000 Steps, to see if you could make some tweaks in your current daily job life to stay where you are. If not, check out Glassdoor’s list of 10 Jobs That Can Keep You Fit for inspiration, ranging from dance instructor to firefighter.

Here are some points to ponder when considering a career change:

  • Know thyself. With a little help from an online career quiz or two, really think about what your dream job would be, based on your preferences and personality traits. Do you honestly think you could transition to the dance instructor suggested by Glassdoor?
  • Research job possibilities. Based on the assessments’ recommendations and your own free association list, check out interesting job titles (indeed.com) to see what tasks the positions entail and the average salaries (salary.com). Don’t forget to look within your current company for opportunities to make a lateral move.
  • No transferable skills? You’ll need training. Determine new competencies you’ll need, then find learning resources. It could be as little as an online Excel course, or a full-blown master’s degree program.
  • Can your network help? Who do you know who can help you get a foot in the door in your newly chosen field? A mentor in your target profession could be helpful, as well.

Readers: Have you ever considered changing careers? What’s holding you back?

Do you have a job-related question? Ask Anita.

Subscribe to receive weekly emails with career tips and advice for job seekers, employed people, and managers and supervisors.

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Disclaimer

Anita Clew's blog posts are intended for general guidance and should never be taken as legal advice. In all instances where harassment, inequity, or unfair treatment is believed to be present, please consult your HR Department or legal representation.
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