companies and find out what the salary ranges are for similar positions if you are unsure of your salary range. This will give you more confidence as you prepare to negotiate, if that is necessary. If you are working with a recruiter, the recruiter should take care of the offer process for you.
Sometimes an offer will be made at a figure you are happy with and no negotiation is necessary. More often than not, however, there are some details to iron out. This final interview, and only this interview, is when you should ask about benefits, vacations, pension plans, 401(k)s, etc., since these are a part of the overall package.
Unless an employer explains these benefits earlier in the process as a part of the overall company background, it is inappropriate to discuss them before now. Remember, the employer is interested in what you have to offer them, and up till now, you have been in a selling mode.
Now, sit back and listen carefully to what the employer says. Make notes so you can ask intelligent questions. When the employer says, “We’d like to make you an offer!” be sure to smile and respond with, “Thank you,” “I’m pleased to hear that,” or another polite remark.
What often follows is the sticky part, “What salary do you want?” or, “What salary did you have in mind?” This is NOT the time to open your mouth and name a figure!
It’s better to respond with, “Mr. Employer, I’m sure any offer you make will be a fair one. I believe with my background and skills I will be an asset to your company (also, briefly restate the reason why they should hire you) and I’m interested in the total package you offer. What figure did you have in mind?”
That said, be quiet. Do not rush in to fill a gap with conversation. The first thing they teach you in Sales 101 is that the person who speaks first loses. When the employer has named a base figure, pursue the details of the total package: medical, dental, vision, family care, education, 401(k), employer contributions, bonuses, etc. Quite often a lower salary figure is more than compensated for by a great benefits package, so do not reject a low offer out of hand.
What If the Offer Is Too Low?
If after evaluating the total package you feel the base salary is too low, prepare to discuss it, not in a demanding manner, but calmly and with the employer’s perspective in mind. “Mr. Employer, after considering all that you have to offer, I’m really very interested in working for you, but I was hoping for a slightly higher starting salary.” Then pause.
Remember that an employer may be constrained by other employees who have similar or lower salaries. However, there are ways to achieve higher compensation. If the employer says, “No can do!” to a higher salary, negotiate for a review and possible raise in three or six months. What about overtime? Car allowances? Even a signing bonus is not unusual in managerial positions.
Realistically, most people move into new jobs with a salary increase of 10%-15%. Don’t be greedy, but do be firm and courteous. If you negotiate, remember that the worst that can happen is that the offer is withdrawn or you decide not to accept it.
If a figure is unrealistically low, you are better off if you keep looking rather than take a position where you are angry and disappointed from the start. There will always be another opportunity.
Careers in Accounting: It's Not Just Numbers
The accounting function is an indispensable part of any successful business, but never more so than in the building industry where so many variables are factored into the cost of building a house.
Accounting offers an excellent career path and many women hold top financial positions with major builders. Some have moved up the ladder to division or regional presidents.
Within larger production building companies, the positions range in responsibility from chief financial officer — sometimes titled director or vice president of finance — to controller and various staff accounting positions. Positions may be held at a corporate level or within a division.
In smaller companies the total accounting function from strategic planning and cash flow management down to preparing payroll may all be rolled up into one or two positions.
The most responsible positions require an accounting degree plus a CPA and several years of experience in a related environment. Some of the software packages most widely used are J.D. Edwards, Newstar, Timberline, Master Builder, Horizon and Peachtree, depending on the size of the company.
Within small companies the accounting functions are usually handled through general ledger and monthly closing, often by an office manager/bookkeeper, with taxes and reports prepared or reviewed by an outside accountant who is a CPA.
Entry-level accounts payable/receivable positions can grow through increasing levels of responsibility, as can a payroll clerk or assistant bookkeeper position.
Following is a brief description for a controller position within a large builder company:
- Manage accounting department.
- Hire, develop and train accounting staff as needed.
- Provide direction of day-to-day accounting work. Establish department policies and procedures. Review staff work for accuracy and compliance with procedures. Monitor workloads and deadlines.
- In the building industry, review loan draws, interface with lenders on loan issues and review required reports for lenders.
- Budget reviews: review proposed land acquisitions budgets, development project budgets and pro formas. Also monitor project status and actual costs vs. budgets, as well as prepare annual operating budgets.
- Financial reporting: review monthly financial statements for multiple entities — sales journal entries, bank account reconciliations, loan statement reconciliations and related journal entries, monthly closings and financial statement review among other duties.
Earlier Articles in This Series
- To read, “Marketing Yourself for Success: The Resumé,” Part 1 of this series, published March 15, click here.
- To read, "Marketing Yourself: Be Prepared for the Interview," Part 2 of this series, published March 22, click here.
Lee Terry is president of the San Mateo, CA-based Lee Terry & Associates, Inc., an executive recruiting firm specializing in the building industry. Terry is also the immediate past chair of the NAHB Women’s Council. Terry can be reched at 650-570-7913 or via e-mail.
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