Re: Ask The Mineshaft: Mo' Money Edition

1

One MILLION dollars.


Posted by: TJ | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 12:05 PM
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I'd just say that I'd prefer to discuss compensation when I have a better sense of what the position will entail.


Posted by: Flippanter | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 12:06 PM
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I remember asking this question once on my own blog and not getting much in the way of useful answers.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 12:06 PM
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"How much you got?"


Posted by: Not Prince Hamlet | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 12:07 PM
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I remember asking this any question once ever on my own blog and not getting much in the way of useful answers.


Posted by: Wrongshore | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 12:08 PM
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My dad worked in HR all his life and his advice to decide on the number you need and ask for that number + 10 percent. If you get that, that's great. That's ten percent more than you essentially bargained for. If you don't, you have wiggle room, because (unless you're wildly overestimating your likely salary range) employers won't ever lowball you by 10 percent.


Posted by: Armsmasher | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 12:10 PM
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And if I could get your answers ASAPish, that would be really helpful.

Do I need to give my current salary or can I dance around that at all? I have the feeling I might be below market and don't want them to think "ooh! a bargain! let's offer her nothing."


Posted by: The Asker | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 12:11 PM
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s/b: his advice is to decide


Posted by: Armsmasher | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 12:11 PM
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If there's any way to respond "I'm willing to consider any reasonable offer", do that. If they kvetch about that, you can point out that what you'd be willing to accept is naturally going to vary depending on the situation. (E.g., it'd take more money to get you to work further from home.)

Current salary is absolutely none of their business.


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 12:11 PM
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6 gets it exactly right.


Posted by: Bave Dee | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 12:12 PM
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what i finds, i keeps


Posted by: Bart Simpson | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 12:14 PM
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Er, sorry, but my dad's other advice is to not say something like "You'll accept any reasonable offer". Makes you look wishy washy and, anyway, your employers know perfectly well what their reasonable offer is, they just want to make certain it's within your ballpark.


Posted by: Armsmasher | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 12:14 PM
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5: Well, yes, but this one particularly so.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 12:14 PM
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12: I've done it twice now, and gotten the high end of the range for my position.

The first person to name a number loses.


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 12:15 PM
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Last time I was in this position, 2 years ago, getting hired, I was earning $0 and had for been doing so for 3 years. I put that and said I wanted what was 150% of what I'd been earning the last time I'd earned more than 0. Negotiations ended with me getting 125% of my previous salary. I justified aiming high by saying I was simply the most qualified person in the world for the job, and cost of living in the area required more. You rarely get what you ask for, but if you make them believe that you feel justified in asking, you will get something. So ask for a lot, and justify it.


Posted by: MrBitchPhd | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 12:16 PM
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Last time I was in this position, 2 years ago, getting hired, I was earning $0 and had for been doing so for 3 years. I put that and said I wanted what was 150% of what I'd been earning the last time I'd earned more than 0. Negotiations ended with me getting 125% of my previous salary. I justified aiming high by saying I was simply the most qualified person in the world for the job, and cost of living in the area required more. You rarely get what you ask for, but if you make them believe that you feel justified in asking, you will get something. So ask for a lot, and justify it.


Posted by: MrBitchPhd | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 12:16 PM
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You know, B's husband doesn't post here much, but when he does, it's hard to miss.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 12:18 PM
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crap.... how'd that happen??


Posted by: MrBitchPhd | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 12:18 PM
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23: did you press post more than once?


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 12:18 PM
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Makes you look wishy washy

Also, I have to say that IME it's the precise opposite of wishy-washy. Both times the person I was negotiating with was pressuring me heavily to name a number, and I refused. They really didn't like that.


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 12:21 PM
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I cleaned up some of the extra posts. (Not too deeply anon here.)

Also, MrBitchPhd, you might know this -- they want to know if I'm eligible for a security clearance. Is there any reason I wouldn't?


Posted by: The Asker | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 12:21 PM
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(Not too deeply anon here.)
they want to know if I'm eligible for a security clearance. Is there any reason I wouldn't?

I dunno, maybe BEING IRANIAN?


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 12:23 PM
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21: Ogged.


Posted by: Not Prince Hamlet | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 12:24 PM
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You are not eligible for security clearance if you are financially insecure (like, radically so), have a history of documented mental instability, are known to have plotted against the government.

My understanding of salary negotiation has always been that the first number-namer gets suckered.


Posted by: Sybil Vane | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 12:24 PM
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You are not eligible for security clearance if you are financially insecure

So really, asking about desired salary is just a way to see if you're nervous around money.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 12:25 PM
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We need more info. "As a precondition to an interview" means what? They are already looking at you, and then say "hey, how much money do you make?" or it's part of the initial batch of info they require when you apply. If it's the latter, just ignore them.


Posted by: m. leblanc | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 12:26 PM
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If the position is cut+dried (accounts receivable, Java XSLT duct-tape programmer), do your homework on median salary and ask for 10-20% more, explaining that you're special or dedicated or something. If you're underpaid now, I wouldn't give current salary; if they push, maybe say but don't write that your responsibilities at your current employer have increased more than your salary, which is partly why you're looking. Writing a current salary that's low seems like a mistake.

If the job is a unique snowflake (you need an accountant-bouncer?), start from something knowable and extrapolate, explaining your reasoning.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 12:27 PM
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What if your possible employer is Teh Man?


Posted by: TJ | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 12:29 PM
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You should refuse to participate, pointing out that practices such as theirs are partially responsible for women earning systematically less than men, since women tend to underestimate how much they can ask for, and future raises are made to the initial salary, compounding the effect. You might want to add that you're not calling them sexist, but merely drawing their attention to the way their practices, while intended merely to save money, actually (and predictably) perpetuate inequality.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 12:29 PM
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28: Tell him you've weighing competing offers from The System and The Establishment.


Posted by: Flippanter | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 12:30 PM
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Rejecting the question on the basis of phallogocentrism seems a promising approach.


Posted by: Sybil Vane | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 12:32 PM
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If it's a job that requires a security clearance, maybe you could get some sense of the appropriate range by figuring out where the comparable federal position would fit in the GS system and then adding a (largish?) fudge factor.


Posted by: Not Prince Hamlet | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 12:32 PM
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I'd go with 27: Do the research to find out what the range is for the job you want, and then ask at or above the top of that range. Don't give them your current salary unless they insist.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 12:32 PM
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ben makes an excellent point. Not that you should point it out to them, but if you are a woman, you should take the approach Josh suggests.


Posted by: m. leblanc | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 12:33 PM
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You know, there's a real problem I have with the `name a figure' approach. I have a huge variation on what I'd accept for nominally the same job, depending on a lot of factors.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 12:33 PM
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Alternately, be completely forthright. As Josh observes, the first person to name a number loses; let them know that you know that and refuse to name a number. Don't offer any wishy-washy lies ("I'd prefer to wait until I have a better sense of what a pussy I am") as the reason for not stating a preference, just be totally honest about its being strategic. See what their reaction is, and then tell me.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 12:33 PM
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Last time I was in that position, I always asked for what was reasonable + 10k. I've never got to the point of numbers and been turned down, which leads me to believe I've been suckered.


Posted by: foolishmortal | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 12:33 PM
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38

Yeah, but how do you know where to shoot on a (formerly GS) published pay-scale?


Posted by: TJ | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 12:34 PM
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A comment along the lines of "depends on role/responsibilities/travel requirements/etc." is probably not going to go too badly wrong. If they do make you narrow it down, be aggressive, unless you want the new job for reasons other than financial.


Posted by: Chopper | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 12:34 PM
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Seriously, I really do think you don't name a number. It's bad negotiation and there's no way it can hurt you for your potential employer to know you are savvy. And 27 is right about the way to approach current salary, phonocentrism aside.


Posted by: Sybil Vane | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 12:36 PM
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I was interviewing for a job once and got this question in person. I would really love for someone who doesn't actually need or even particularly want a job, but who knows that s/he will get that question in person, to respond along the lines laid out in 29, just to see what kind of reaction s/he gets.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 12:37 PM
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Seriously, I really do think you don't name a number. It's bad negotiation and there's no way it can hurt you for your potential employer to know you are savvy.

To think you are savvy. She doesn't seem to actually be savvy if she doesn't know what kind of salary would be good.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 12:37 PM
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38: Look for positions that look vaguely similar on USAJobs? Ask contacts who do or know people who do similar work in the federal system? I'm assuming that someone who has relevant expertise may also know where else such expertise is to be found.


Posted by: Not Prince Hamlet | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 12:37 PM
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42: sexist.


Posted by: Sybil Vane | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 12:38 PM
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42: Huh? The point is to be savvy about negotiating, which refusing to name a number displays.


Posted by: m. leblanc | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 12:38 PM
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If this is who I think it is, don't these people have a fair bit of money? Don't name a salary, let them do it. See what they give you.


Posted by: m. leblanc | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 12:40 PM
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45: Bluffing isn't quite as savvy as actually having a number in mind, though.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 12:40 PM
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NPH, that's what I'm trying to do at this point. Widely varying numbers, unfortunately, depending on "Pay band." Also unfortunately, the job hires at both (the relevant bands).

So, so cryptic. Freaking Teh Man.


Posted by: TJ | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 12:40 PM
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49

48: So pick the top band.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 12:41 PM
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No one's suggesting that the Asker shouldn't decide what kind of salary she wants, merely that she shouldn't tell them what it is.


Posted by: m. leblanc | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 12:44 PM
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49 is probably right, but... it just seems wrong that anyone would pay me that much.


Posted by: TJ | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 12:44 PM
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(any branch of the government, that is)


Posted by: TJ | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 12:45 PM
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At my current job, we never did any discussion of "current and desired salary," which is probably good. I nearly wet myself when they offered about $20K more than I'd been hoping, only later to realize that they'd probably low-balled considering that new hires with no experience were being offered nearly the same a year later. Which, of course, strongly supports the "don't answer" position -- if they'd asked, they would have realized they could have had me dirt cheap!


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 12:45 PM
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I worry about advice to simply not comply with a reasonable request from a prospective employer -- while I could see not giving a salary request as being a good move, it also seems hard to pull off politely.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 12:46 PM
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Actually, I have a question about this subject that I think I sort of alluded to when I posted about it but didn't get much of an answer to. What's the risk here? Do employers generally view the salary you name as a filter (say the wrong thing and they throw away your application) or a starting point for negotiations (say the wrong thing and they just give a much lower counteroffer). At in-person interviews I suppose it's mostly the latter, but what about when the job announcement requests it in the cover letter?


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 12:47 PM
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It's not reasonable request, LB. It's an attempt to screw you, couched as a reasonable request.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 12:48 PM
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54: Yeah, but I figure 1) this is probably not the first time someone has tried to skirt around the issue, and 2) I think an employer who wouldn't consider you cause you refused to name the first number sucks anyway.


Posted by: m. leblanc | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 12:48 PM
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I nearly wet myself when they offered about $20K more than I'd been hoping, only later to realize that they'd probably low-balled considering that new hires with no experience were being offered nearly the same a year later.

Yeah, this is the other thing: nobody opens with their best offer. Whatever they start with, NEGOTIATE. You have to be able to back up asking for more money, so just saying "O HAI, I KNOW YOU HAS MORE CASH" won't work, but absolutely do not accept the first number.


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 12:48 PM
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But if it's a precondition to interview they are using it to weed people out. So there's no way of knowing whether your actual desired/current salary will do that work for them. I get what you are saying, the refusal to comply could also weed you out. But as risks go, it seems the easier one to take.


Posted by: Sybil Vane | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 12:49 PM
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LB, this really is an issue of negotiation. Whoever names a figure first is giving away information that is useful to the other party. I think you can avoid or at least redirect a request so long as your are signaling that you are engaging with the process in a way they understand.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 12:50 PM
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while I could see not giving a salary request as being a good move, it also seems hard to pull off politely.

What w-lfs-n said: it's not a reasonable request, particularly not the request for current salary. The *only* reason they want that is to low-ball you.

This is why I suggest saying "I will consider any reasonable offer". It's perfectly polite, and has the virtue of being true. You'll get pressured to back off from it, but business is business.


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 12:50 PM
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56: I know that. But on its face, it's a reasonable request, and saying "I won't tell you what I want, because you're just trying to screw me over" is a tough position to pull off. Having a well-researched high-ball answer for the question seems a lot easier.

55: My understanding is that both are risks -- if your request is too high, out of their range, your application gets trashed. If it's too low, you get what you asked for.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 12:50 PM
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59 to 55. Definitely when they ask up front it is a way to filter the applicant pool.


Posted by: Sybil Vane | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 12:51 PM
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Oh, I missed the `precondition to interview' part of that. Sorry. That's pretty bad, actually. I'd be tempted to say in that case that it is impossible for me to state an exact figure without more information about the position. I might give a ridiculously wide range, but that at least fixes a minimum for them, so I probably wouldn't.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 12:51 PM
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60: Again, if you can evade, it's a good idea. But you can only evade if the employer doesn't make your naming a number a precondition to going forward, and some employers do. It's good to have a number to name if they hold you to it.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 12:52 PM
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Salary history is a standard thing to ask for, so it seems like a problem not to give it if specifically requested. On target range, if you have to give a figure if you have to give a number, then LB's advice is spot on. Figure out what the salary range is and ask near the top of the range. Of course, if it's true that you're more interested in opportunity to grow + get promoted than in the starting salary, that's not a bad message.


Posted by: baa | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 12:53 PM
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But you can only evade if the employer doesn't make your naming a number a precondition to going forward, and some employers do.

You'd be surprised at how flexible those rules can get.

The other part of this is, the employer is giving you valuable information about them by acting this way. Do you really want to work for some place that starts out by screwing you?


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 12:54 PM
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65: This is true. If you can't go forward. Any number I gave at the front end would probably be a little high-ball (but not extreme) and have a caveat attached that I can imagine +/-25% or so depending on circumstances (which I don't have enough information yet to analyse)


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 12:54 PM
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Off topic, here's my latest bad joke. (they're never much good, just ask B..)

What do you call a Republican who supports Obama?

An Obamacan.


What do you call a Republican that supports Clinton?

A False Hope...


Well I liked it. I always do.


Posted by: MrBitchPhd | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 12:54 PM
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I would say don't use GS scales. Initial salary for a given skill-set runs low, long-term benefits are great, making GS scale a poor comparison for the typical private job.

How reasonable the request is depends IMO on job uniqueness; an employer's insisting on applicant salary req early is a screening mechanism, reasonable for square hole seeks square peg jobs, not otherwise.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 12:59 PM
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While I generally agree that you don't want to be the first person to name a number in any negotiation, there are malign reasons to want to know salary history. E.g., you may want to know if someone will even consider the job at the pay scale that you can offer. If you are planning on a job at $X/year, interviewing a bunch of people making 2x isn't likely to be productive.


Posted by: baa | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 1:01 PM
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Definitely when they ask up front it is a way to filter the applicant pool.

Indeed it is, and as I think about it my question was actually pretty different from this one, since I was looking at it in a context where the employer has much, much more leverage than the applicant. My question was really "what's the way to answer this question that maximizes my probability of getting an interview without guaranteeing me an absurdly low salary?"


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 1:03 PM
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If you are planning on a job at $X/year, interviewing a bunch of people making 2x isn't likely to be productive.

In this situation the employer really ought to state a salary range. They should know the market well enough.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 1:03 PM
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there are malign reasons to want to know salary history.

Great freudian slip, there. Of course you're right, and the benign possible motives are compatible with the negotiating-advantage motives.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 1:05 PM
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71: You never know. (Of course, I work in an industry where it's not uncommon for people to simply not draw a paycheck for a while, until their new company can get off the ground.)


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 1:07 PM
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On a related question, I was talking to someone who is interviewing to leave academia into industry. They were asking me how to handle salary expectations, and I didn't feel that I had good advice for them. It's not exactly equivalent to `entry level', after all. I suggested researching what they could about roughly similar positions, giving themselves credit for roughly the same number of years experience as they spent in grad school (they'll be applying for jobs alongside people who don't have graduate degrees, but their graduate work is directly applicable). Then aiming a little high in the range (for reasons people noted here)

Anyone have iadvice for this situation?


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 1:15 PM
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Widely varying numbers, unfortunately, depending on "Pay band." Also unfortunately, the job hires at both (the relevant bands).

Oh yeah, I forgot the idiot DOD broadband thing. That's pretty new, so I'd assume they're still basically thinking in GS terms and converting, e.g. if it's hiring at Pay Band 2 or Pay Band 3 I'd be starting with GS-13 and GS-14 as your comps, with 11s and 12s maybe in the mix if you're looking to come in at the bottom and work up to full performance level and 15 in the mix if you're already pretty expert at what they want. Make sure you've got the locality pay included and then add a substantial fudge factor for the absence of federal benefits and the fact that contractors generally pay better.


Posted by: Not Prince Hamlet | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 1:18 PM
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67

"The other part of this is, the employer is giving you valuable information about them by acting this way. Do you really want to work for some place that starts out by screwing you?"

This seems a little harsh. It is reasonable for you to try to get them to name a number first but unreasonable for them to try to get you to name a number first? Trying for the last dollar can blow the deal entirely which is also not good unless you have a lot of equally attractive alternatives.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 1:22 PM
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It is reasonable for you to try to get them to name a number first but unreasonable for them to try to get you to name a number first?

When they make it a precondition for an *interview*? Goddamn right it's unreasonable.

I have no problem with them trying to get me to name a number first when it comes to actual salary negotiations; I'm trying to do the same thing, and it's a challenge to stick to my guns. But this is different.


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 1:25 PM
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I'm going to threadjack the implicit good will in this thread since I, too, have an interview that would mean for some dramatic changes in my life.


Posted by: Armsmasher | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 1:29 PM
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I was interviewing for a job once and got this question in person. I would really love for someone who doesn't actually need or even particularly want a job...

Such a person needs to rethink how she spends her time.


Posted by: asl | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 1:29 PM
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I'm with baa/LB/Smasher: get a sense of the band, ask for the high end. Perhaps I'm mistaken, but I don't think the job seeker is in a field where everyone moves in lockstep from first salary. If there's a problem, it'll last for a year. Or you can move.

Generally speaking, I think people overthink negotiating strategies. Either the strategy is obvious or it's unlikely to be, long-term, important. But experiences differ.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 1:31 PM
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I don't remember the URL, but on the official Washington State website, (I think its access.wa.gov) there is an excel file, High Wage Occupations200715221.xls, that lists over 2000 jobs by title and gives salary percentiles; 10th, 25th, Median, 75th & 90th, as well as the hourly average. Times the number you like best by 2080 (the actual number of hours in a work year) and voila a number you can take to the employer.

Why yes, I am an accountant.


Posted by: tamens | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 1:37 PM
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83: Dude! Useful delurking, and with an attractively memorable pseudonym.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 1:39 PM
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79

"When they make it a precondition for an *interview*? Goddamn right it's unreasonable."

Doesn't seem that bad to me, just give them a big number.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 1:45 PM
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85: Without, of course, guessing high enough that they toss your application -- there's a big penalty for guessing too high, which makes it hard not to lowball yourself. I wouldn't say that it's wrong for them to do that, but it's hard bargaining, and I can see not wanting to work for someone who approaches their relationship with their employees that contentiously.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 1:48 PM
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86

Why are you worried about getting your application tossed if the alternative is not applying at all?


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 1:58 PM
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87: I think they're trying to guess the top of the market--which I gather is hard--but they're in the market regardless.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 2:00 PM
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Because you're not just worried about getting your application tossed, you're worried about working for people who are going to approach their employment relationship with you in a strongly adversarial manner: that is, they're trying to screw you. Just because you guess right, and your application isn't tossed, doesn't change their tactics.

It's not necessarily a reason not to work for someone, but it's a consideration.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 2:01 PM
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Giving your present salary isn't going to matter if the job you're going for is clearly a step up in responsibility (and if it isn't, why are you considering it?). So go ahead.

Otherwise go with Armsmasher's advice.

See if you can get hold of a copy of the contract they're working on. There may be numbers in it for various labor categories.

Clearance is a matter of level. To get a plain SECRET clearance, you have to be breathing, basically. Intel or SIOP (do they still do SIOP?) is harder: piss test and lie-detector stuff. In any case, someone will eventually come round and interview your neighbors/roommates. In my case, there was a Larouchite living on the top floor of my building (this was in Inwood in the '70s) and the investigator kept asking people if I had any relationship with her.


Posted by: jim | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 2:03 PM
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Me: My desired salary will depend on the responsibilities associated with the role. I would like to learn more about the position during the interview process before making this determination.

Her: Here's the job description.


Posted by: The Asker | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 2:04 PM
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(Unless the conversation's over already)You: Excellent. Once I get my further questions answered during the interview process, I'll be able to give you a number. (Unless that clearly won't work.)


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 2:06 PM
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89

"Because you're not just worried about getting your application tossed, you're worried about working for people who are going to approach their employment relationship with you in a strongly adversarial manner: that is, they're trying to screw you. Just because you guess right, and your application isn't tossed, doesn't change their tactics."

Asking me for a number by itself doesn't strike me as "strongly adversarial".


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 2:24 PM
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I once highballed what I wanted by an extra $10K - essentially requesting what I thought to be a completely ridiculous salary.... the guy wrote it down and said "Don't you wish you had asked for more?" D'oh!

I miss the dot com boom....


Posted by: Spike | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 2:25 PM
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Then I wouldn't make job-hunting decisions based on it if I were you.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 2:26 PM
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NPH,

Actually the opportunity in the gov't. I think that I basically ought to shoot for the low end of the third band, if it does come to that. We'll see, though. Thanks for the advice; my thinking tracked yours pretty closely.


Posted by: TJ | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 2:38 PM
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Completely unhelpful for the asker, but this sort of thing is why I'm so glad I've never had a job (as an adult) without a union contract. Want to know the range for your (and every other) position? Look at the contract. No trying to parse the mysteries of HR or figure out how to "win" the negotiation.


Posted by: Sir Kraab | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 2:43 PM
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96: Makes sense--maybe ask at the 14/4 or 14/5 level and be prepared to negotiate from there. One thing to have in the back of your mind is that being in the third band will mean you're eligible for GS-14 or 15 positions if you want to move to an agency that's in the GS system later on. From the lower band you can't jump directly to a 15.


Posted by: Not Prince Hamlet | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 2:48 PM
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97 gets it right. I dread the day when I will eventually have to amateurishly negotiate something essential to my life like this, and wonder why companies and agencies have professional negotiators doing it, while I have to represent my non-adversarial, uninformed self.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 2:51 PM
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80: Tell!


Posted by: Sir Kraab | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 2:52 PM
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More on the hard-ball "first to name the number loses" approach: http://www.valhenson.org/howto_salary/ , based on "Women Don't Ask", which has similar information to Ben w-lfs-n's suggestion that women's salary inequality is mostly based the compounding of their lifetime starting salary by the unwillingness of current and future employers to ever give them large raises over their present salary.

The equivalent for jobs where there is an agreement or law on salary steps is trying to get the job title at the next salary step up. This is sometimes possible for academics to do.


Posted by: Pineapple | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 2:54 PM
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The link in 101 is great, particularly this.


Posted by: m. leblanc | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 2:57 PM
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To the GS thing, I would say don't even go here. I used to work for a section of the government involved with pitching stuff really high into the sky, really really high. The thing is that there was no way anyone could survive on a GS scale salary even with the cost of living adjustments. Well that may be a bit harsh but they were not paying prevailing wages for computer geeks. So everyone and their dog was a contractor making significantly more than GS scale.


Posted by: ukko | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 3:05 PM
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A nice variation of 53 that works on young people, probably especially women, is to make a first offer that radically undervalues the position. A friend was offered 50% of the median salary for her position, and she thought she was an AMAZING negotiator for a while because she talked them into adding 40% to it. Two years later she finds out (without having received a raise in the intervening time) that she managed to talk them up to 70% of the median.

So if you do do the "you can name the range" tactic, you need to know when to laugh heartily at the response.


Posted by: Pineapple | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 3:05 PM
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Remember, everyone, the bosses are out to get you.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 3:10 PM
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This thread is getting me so pumped up that the first time I have to negotiate a salary, I'm totally going with comment 1.


Posted by: m. leblanc | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 3:12 PM
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103: GS 14/5 with DC/MD/Northern VA locality pay is $111,104/year. Quite a few people can manage to live on that, especially with federal benefits.


Posted by: Not Prince Hamlet | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 3:13 PM
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94: re dot-com boom ... a friend of mine accepted a (good) offer, and was flying out from NY to SF to start the job. While he was traveling they got worried he was going to get poached. So they call him at the airport and offer him a signing bonus, then they got more worried during the flight and couldn't talk to him so they just gave him another $10k raise while he was in the air. He was bemused, but wasn't going to argue.

On the other hand, the job didn't last all that long and his options went under water while he was locked in. Win some, lose some (to the the of 8m, iirc) I guess.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 3:16 PM
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So if you do do the "you can name the range" tactic, you need to know when to laugh heartily at the response.

This pretty much falls under the heading of : Don't negotiate from a position of ignorance.

Academics are really pretty bad at this, and in a lot of cases get fleeced I think.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 3:17 PM
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Depressingly, I've only once had a serious job where negotiating the salary was possible, and I got nowhere. (Big law firms have lockstep salaries, so there's nothing to negotiate, and my new job is government, and also lockstep.) I had two offers for about the same money, and tried to play them off against each other, I didn't make the first offer, and I still didn't budge them an inch.

(I did talk myself up from 12 to 20 bucks an hour as a temp receptionist before law school, but that's my only success.)


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 3:19 PM
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I did talk myself up from 12 to 20 bucks an hour as a temp receptionist before law school, but that's my only success.

Whoa. Is that place hiring?


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 3:24 PM
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Well, the people at that other website seem really sure you should never reveal salary history. But this doesn't (necessarily) accord with my anecdotal experience. Often, when hiring, you have a range you you are going to hit regardless, and where you go in that range is a function of how much you want the person rather than calculating a delta vs. their prior job. Is there evidence on this?

It's also usually appropriate to ask what the last person at the same responsibility makes. Also, what you would make at one level up. These are numbers that shouldn't change, and are a good way to get the HR person to ground in reality.


Posted by: baa | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 3:28 PM
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This thread is getting me so pumped up that the first time I have to negotiate a salary, I'm totally going with comment 1.

Conversely this thread just makes me feel vaguely unhappy at the fact that the potential range of pay for a given position/type of work is so wide. (104 followed by 108, for example).

Only vaguely, of course.


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 3:48 PM
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It's also usually appropriate to ask what the last person at the same responsibility makes. Also, what you would make at one level up. These are numbers that shouldn't change, and are a good way to get the HR person to ground in reality.

This is really sensible, assuming a real interview/offer situation not a filtering process like specified.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 3:50 PM
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112: I could see there being circumstances where it wouldn't hurt to reveal your prior salary, but not ones where it would do you any good. A flat rule against revealing it, if you can make it stick, makes sense.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 3:50 PM
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115: How about: I can tell you my salary history, if you can tell me the salary of everyone in [the group you are applying for].


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 3:52 PM
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baa, I think the thing about the delta is that the maximum you'll agree to pay is set by how much you really want the person. The minimum is set by what they'll accept (which you as an employer can work out based on what they previously accepted), and can go very low in some positions. In software engineering, I've known people who had colleagues making twice as much as they did for at least approximately the same responsibilities and exactly the same job title.

The negotiating tactics being discussed are mostly aimed at not revealing that minimum, especially if you have an unrealistic sense of what the low end of the range *should* be (women in general, people just starting out in the field), rather than doing much to affect the maximum. You're probably only going to affect the maximum by having a competing offer, and then not by much. The idea is meant to be that if you can hide your minimum well enough, the initial offer is going to be somewhere in *their* range, probably low to middle, and you then have the knowledge you need to negotiate within their numbers. If you give a range $X-$Y, they will offer in your range, probably near to $X since you've already agreed you'll work for it by offering it in the range at all, and if their initial estimate was well above $Y they never say a thing.

I am reasonably sure that this is how it does in fact work in many software positions.


Posted by: Pineapple | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 3:54 PM
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I am reasonably sure that this is how it does in fact work in many software positions.

True. And then there is cultural pressure not to discuss salaries.

I knew one smallish group of engineers that decided at lunch one day to share salary info. Two of them were getting absolutely screwed.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 3:57 PM
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And then there is cultural pressure not to discuss salaries.

This is so fucked up. Everyone should know what their peers make.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 3:59 PM
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110

"... (Big law firms have lockstep salaries, so there's nothing to negotiate, and my new job is government, and also lockstep.) ..."

Even when the salary is given there is often other stuff to negotiate such as vacation time, expense account, work hours, office size and location etc.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 4:02 PM
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And then there is cultural pressure not to discuss salaries.

Forget cultural pressure. At at least one job I've had, it was written into the NDA.

Of course, that information (along with options grants) ended up coming out in rather spectacular fashion later...


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 4:03 PM
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121: I would absolutely never sign and NDA on that. If presented with it, I'd assume it was a boilerplate problem and cross it out. If they don't accept that, screw it. The company already bargains from a position of power in most cases --- there is absolutely no reason to let them play you off against each other.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 4:07 PM
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115

"I could see there being circumstances where it wouldn't hurt to reveal your prior salary, but not ones where it would do you any good ..."

How about if you were grossly overpaid before? And if you weren't you can lie (not that I would recommend this but people do).


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 4:08 PM
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At at least one job I've had, it was written into the NDA.

Which I think is illegal, but happens anyway.


Posted by: Not Prince Hamlet | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 4:10 PM
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This is so fucked up. Everyone should know what their peers make.

I make $43K. This is fun!


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 4:17 PM
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Yeah, I had nondisclosure of my salary written into a job contract once. I got them to remove it by pointing out this, particularly the "protected activities...2 or more employees discussing pay or other work-related issues with each other."


Posted by: Nathan Williams | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 4:21 PM
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Are we disclosing salaries now? Awesome. My salary is $37,500. I have about another $20,000 in non-taxable "income" that goes directly toward paying my law school loans from various loan-repayment assistance programs. I never get to spend a dime of it, although it does mean that I only have to contribute a few hundred bucks a month from my actual salary to loan indebtedness.


Posted by: m. leblanc | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 4:22 PM
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126: You have to in general be careful with NDAs. Not so much for the stuff that's in there but illegal so they can't hold you to it --- but avoid the stuff that may be legal but you should never, ever, agree with. Lots of NDAs are written pretty expansively.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 4:22 PM
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I make about $60K.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 4:23 PM
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21: When they say "security clearance," what do they mean? A background check and seal of approval by DoJ* or a real security clearance, complete with interviews of friends and relatives? I've been through the former, had friends go through the latter; I am not immediately aware of any reason why you wouldn't qualify for either but in the case of the latter it's awfully nice to warn your friends and family first.

* DoJ named only because they did the background checks for multiple agencies who were clients of mine in another job, not because I'm assuming or suggesting anything about The Asker.


Posted by: Robust McManlyPants | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 4:24 PM
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I make $43Kthe ass-men of the world happy. This is fun!


Posted by: TJ | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 4:25 PM
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My salary last year was ridiculous for a post-doc, so much so I'm not sure I should say. I am, however, going to get badly reamed on taxes (for complicated reasons) so perhaps that evens things out a bit.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 4:27 PM
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My salary last year was ridiculous for a post-doc, so much so I'm not sure I should say.

Sure you should!


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 4:29 PM
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Remember what Elbie says: "This is so fucked up. Everyone should know what their peers make."


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 4:29 PM
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The majority of my peers make $26,200. Until they graduate, and it jumps to $90,000. Bastards.


Posted by: TJ | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 4:31 PM
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I'm pretty sure I could ask for significantly more money given my responsibilities, but I'm pretty sure they'd expect me to work a lot harder if I did that. I much prefer to almost never stay late, set my own deadlines and take 90 minutes at lunch to swim to extra money and losing all that flexibility. Lowered expectations all around: win-win!


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 4:31 PM
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Everyone should know what their peers make.

What do I make? Young children cry.


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 4:31 PM
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Are these salaries people are citing gross or net?


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 4:31 PM
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Nobody cites net salary.


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 4:32 PM
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If I had kids, I'd probably ask for more money and buckle down, but that seems perverse in some ways, since my arrangement is pretty family-friendly now. I just need to be sure that my seed isn't as fruitful as apo's.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 4:33 PM
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136 is basically what I was talking about in 35. There are things that I guess I would be willing to do, but it's going to cost them quite a bit. I'd rather have the flexibility than the money.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 4:33 PM
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139, performed as Patrick Swayze castigating Jerry Orbach for discussing his after-tax income.


Posted by: TJ | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 4:33 PM
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Nobody cites net salary.

Why not?


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 4:34 PM
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I get paid 16K/yr. But my household income is significantly more.


Posted by: Sybil Vane | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 4:35 PM
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143: It's not an annualized number most people know offhand.


Posted by: | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 4:36 PM
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Your husband pays you? There's a word for that.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 4:36 PM
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145 was me, I don't know what happened to my name.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 4:37 PM
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piss off.


Posted by: Sybil Vane | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 4:37 PM
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143: Net salary sounds a hell of a lot less impressive.


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 4:37 PM
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It's not an annualized number most people know offhand.

Fair enough. It is the more meaningful number, though.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 4:38 PM
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Why not?

Insofar as a salary is a way to measure the value of a job in a market, net salary, with variations for how much is taken out for insurance or IRAs and the like, isn't very informative. If you want to know what people are able to live on, net is probably more helpful, but it depresses people to think about net when the number they have in their head is gross.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 4:38 PM
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I suspect 149 plays a role as well.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 4:38 PM
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But don't you like/want kids, ogged?


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 4:39 PM
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besides, some folks here might not want to reveal the success of their tax avoidance schemes.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 4:39 PM
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See, see the illiberal deception inherent in withholding! You should all think of your net salaries. That money is going to persecute Andy Pettite!


Posted by: baa | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 4:39 PM
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Insofar as a salary is a way to measure the value of a job in a market, net salary, with variations for how much is taken out for insurance or IRAs and the like, isn't very informative.

I suppose so. Put another way, gross is the more informative measure from the employer's perspective, net from the employee's.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 4:39 PM
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Not three of them, Ben.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 4:40 PM
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when the number they have in their head is gross.

This is certainly true of investment bankers.


Posted by: Gonerill | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 4:40 PM
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I note that no one from NYC or CA has stepped up to reveal their salary.


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 4:40 PM
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oh, and ok hbgb; near eighty.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 4:40 PM
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Those of us who are paid by the hour, btw, don't necessarily know our gross annual income offhand either.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 4:41 PM
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I'll be making $78K in the new job.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 4:41 PM
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162: You named a number first, didn't you?

(I kid, I kid!)


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 4:42 PM
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161: the standard multiplier is 2080, mileage may vary with particulars.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 4:42 PM
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near eighty

As a post-doc??? What was your title, Love Slave To Craig Venter?


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 4:42 PM
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oh, and ok hbgb; near eighty.

Wow, I can't believe you caved. After all that talk about sticking to your convictions.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 4:42 PM
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I note that no one from NYC or CA has stepped up to reveal their salary.

You are such a person, Josh.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 4:44 PM
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163 is funny.

165: I told you it was ridiculous. National fellowship + local fellowship + blah blah blah.

you'll all be happy to know I'm about to take a hefty cut.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 4:44 PM
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164: It's an easy calculation, of course.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 4:44 PM
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After all that talk about sticking to your convictions.

?


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 4:45 PM
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167: And you'll note I haven't stepped up to reveal my salary!


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 4:45 PM
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you'll all be happy to know I'm about to take a hefty cut.

Wait, are you moving? Are you on the job market this year?


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 4:46 PM
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165 and the courtship-ending remark in 146 are among the reasons people don't like to reveal salaries.


Posted by: Sybil Vane | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 4:46 PM
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Anyway, I make $19,500.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 4:46 PM
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?

Oh, just teasing you because you caved to peer pressure. Go peer pressure!


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 4:47 PM
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Don't lawyers generally know what the other lawyers at their firm make? I recognize that it doesn't correlate perfectly to annual salary, but isn't everyone's billing rate generally available?


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 4:47 PM
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167: And you'll note I haven't stepped up to reveal my salary!

It's all fun and games! What's the worst that could happen. Nothing. Exactly.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 4:48 PM
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I get a check for about $1800 every month. That's net, post-taxes, and I only get taxed by the federal government, not the state or local government.

It was a check for $1600 every month for three years, and then they gave us all a raise for some reason.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 4:48 PM
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It doesn't correlate simply at all to salary. The numbers of hours people bill are all over the place, and once you get into partners, compensation is Byzantine. But for associates, most big firms it's lockstep by year of graduation.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 4:49 PM
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172: I'm not moving yet, my fellowship runs out. So I'll be an overpaid post-doc (relative to prevailing) rather than a ridiculously overpaid post-doc. I am on the market nominally, and seriously in the fall.


175: Actually it wasn't that -- it was because you asked. I resisted at first just because I knew it was a bit ridiculous, but then thought that people should know the realistic range.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 4:49 PM
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the courtship-ending remark in 146

Oh, come on, it was a little joke on "household income." I'm sorry, baby, take me back.

And I contend that 165 was precisely the kind of response soup was expecting/looking for.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 4:50 PM
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And I contend that 165 was precisely the kind of response soup was expecting/looking for.

I mean, what's the point of being Venter's love slave if you can't even brag about your salary?


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 4:51 PM
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yeah, 165 wasn't problematic. I know it was 15 or 20k above average t-t starting salary, ffs. Which makes those sort of negotiations fun, I'll tell you (here's how much less I'd like to make for a `real job')


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 4:52 PM
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So are you looking for tt positions next, soupy?


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 4:53 PM
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for what it's worth, I had to look up Ventner.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 4:53 PM
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184: Yeah. Unless I get annoyed at it all again and look at industry.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 4:54 PM
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I had to look up Ventner.

It's a street in Atlantic City. But you've got it spelled wrong.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 4:54 PM
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I'll scale it back to just 'on notice.' Now I'm off for a yummy dinner that I could not afford on my own salary.


Posted by: Sybil Vane | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 4:56 PM
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The publish (internally) all the salary averages for each position, across the school, here. I'm a little under the average for assistant prof. Given that math should be a little more lucrative than average, I wonder if I was low-balled, or failed to negotiate, or something. I did negotiate, though. I got them up $3K, from $39 to $42. We're a pretty poor school, but I still wonder.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 4:56 PM
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What's the worst that could happen.

One of you could lowball me.

Sybil, how's the smoking-quitting coming along?


Posted by: Magpie | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 4:56 PM
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I made $37k as a legal assisstant in Chicago, and now make not much more than half that and live in a more expensive area.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 4:59 PM
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But at least I get to read about Nietzsche!!


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 4:59 PM
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189: They publish them here too, and I think the actual salaries too (but not mine, not being regular faculty). Being research-oriented they have to spend a bit more, but it's hardly a school with money to burn. I think the average starting AP salary is about 60 but I could be misremembering that. I haven't looked closely, it just came up in conversation.

Good on you for negotiating though. I was reading an article recently claiming that the majority of ap's don't.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 5:02 PM
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I made $37k as a legal assisstant in Chicago

When was this? That's way high compared to what the market was like in the Bay Area in the mid- to late-'90s.


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 5:03 PM
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BTW, Josh's advice is a lot easier to follow when you've got him pestering you in person several times a day not to spill on salary numbers.


Posted by: Magpie | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 5:03 PM
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BTW, Josh's advice is a lot easier to follow when you've got him pestering you in person several times a day not to spill on salary numbers.

I'm available for hire. Reasonable rates.


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 5:05 PM
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I make about $24k in my current, half-time admin position, which is super flexible about letting me do my academic work and gives me a nice office, computer, and printer, and pays my cell phone bill. As a TA, I made around $14k and had a desk I had to share with another TA, in a big bullpen. I just went for a campus visit for a job where they told me the most they could probably offer me would be $43k.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 5:05 PM
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194: 2004–5. It was way high then, too.

Reasonable rates.

Frex?


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 5:06 PM
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Good on you for negotiating though. I was reading an article recently claiming that the majority of ap's don't.

I almost laughed out loud on the phone when they offered me a number in the 30's. I was really kind of appalled. It's tenure-track, for god's sake! But hell, I'm happy here.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 5:07 PM
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194: Legal salaries have gone way up. I had a friend who was making about that working as a paralegal for a Big Firm in 2004. Of course, with the overtime they made him work, it was at least $15K more. So.

Slightly sad because w-lfs-n made as a legal assistant what I do as a lawyer. Of course, my job is fun and fascinating and hilarious and I Help The Community and all that, but still.


Posted by: m. leblanc | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 5:08 PM
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Legal salaries have gone way up

It's an ill wind ...


Posted by: Gonerill | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 5:10 PM
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Slightly sad because w-lfs-n made as a legal assistant what I do as a lawyer. Of course, my job is fun and fascinating and hilarious and I Help The Community and all that, but still.

This stuff can get to you if you focus on the numbers. I made more before grad school than I'm likely to as faculty anywhere (at least for many, many years). Clearly it wasn't a decision to make on financial grounds, but I'm (mostly) happy with it.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 5:10 PM
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But hell, I'm happy here.

This is hard to underestimate the importance of. Once you can actually pay your bills, natch.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 5:11 PM
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Frex?

Available by e-mail. Don't wanna post 'em where they're easily searchable, of course.


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 5:14 PM
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Once you can actually pay your bills, natch.

It's not like they'll shut off your water and power.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 5:14 PM
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that was can, heebie. Not bother to


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 5:15 PM
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I've already paid this month's bill, two weeks in advance!


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 5:20 PM
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It would probably be interesting to see academic salaries localized for cost of living. I have the feeling that they aren't as elastic that way as they probably should be.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 5:22 PM
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Coming late to this. I have a ton I can say about the issues with NSPS, but that For Official Use Only stamp limits me. As Ben guessed there has been disparate impact (somewhere, not in DoD, no sir). I will say that you should negotiate and start higher than you think especially if you have STEM (science, technical,. engineering, and mathematical) skills. If they are talking to you about interviewing then you are already in the recruitment pipeline so have some confidence.

Me, I work for a contractor and my employer requires applicants to show a pay stub from the previous job. I think that is really shitty and adversarial. Nonetheless, I enjoy working with/for them. Must be Stockholm syndrome.


Posted by: md 20/400 | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 5:27 PM
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I believe I make about 38.5K as a mid-level curatorial staff flunky, albeit with a four-day work week and very good benefits. If I held about the same level position at an institution in Boston, working five days and in something like development rather than curatorial, I'd make around 60K. But I mostly like what I do, and I definitely like that day off.


Posted by: JL | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 5:29 PM
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209: thanks, that's more or less precisely my position, and more or less what I'll hope to be able to do.


Posted by: TJ | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 5:34 PM
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besides, some folks here might not want to reveal the success of their tax avoidance schemes.

Mine


Posted by: asl | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 5:40 PM
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I make... lessee... carry the one... $0. I left a $108,000/year job to do it, though, which may or may not make me an idiot.


Posted by: mrh | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 6:06 PM
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213: Not if you're happy about the change, not at all.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 6:12 PM
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I've changed jobs five times and taken significant pay cuts twice. No regrets.


Posted by: Not Prince Hamlet | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 6:16 PM
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(Although a couple of those changes were kinda dumb moves. One was pay-neutral and the other was a cut, but it wasn't the cut that made it dumb.)


Posted by: Not Prince Hamlet | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 6:46 PM
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Let's see: Before I retired (in 2004), $140K. Now, pension about $55K and adjunct teaching $29K. It's not so bad, though. The youngest daughter will finish her MA in May, so no more bills there, and the house is now paid for (and with the house price decline, my taxes will actually go down!).


Posted by: jim | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 7:28 PM
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I'm leaving my email address off this one.

I make a little shy of ninety thousand a year. At a software company in the San Francisco area, doing quality assurance (which is less prestigious than real development). I suspect -- though I've never checked -- that I'm a little overpaid for my job title and considerably underpaid for my skills. But life's too short to fret over it, providing that you're making enough to live in a lifestyle that you enjoy.


Posted by: Epoch | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 8:31 PM
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Oh grawr. This interview is going to be full of "how many ping pong balls can you fit in a 747"-type questions. I hate that.


Posted by: The Asker | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 8:50 PM
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That's what you get for interviewing at microsoft.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 8:53 PM
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219: "You mean me, personally?"


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 8:53 PM
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"You mean me, personally?"

Ha! Can I offer you tenure in my department?


Posted by: Gonerill | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 8:54 PM
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I doubt it -- wouldn't you have to check with someone first?


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 8:55 PM
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(And I had no idea being a smartass was an academic field of study.)


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 8:58 PM
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I had no idea being a smartass was an academic field of study

Doesn't w-lfs-n blog here?


Posted by: Gonerill | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 9:00 PM
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"Thousands. But it will take a really long time to get them in there using that move I learned in Tijuana."


Posted by: The Asker | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 9:00 PM
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That's what you get for interviewing at microsoft.

Ha! Mine was, "You get one read through a ticker tape, with all the numbers from 1 to 10,000 appearing once, except scrambled. Except! One number has been removed! There are really 99,999 numbers. At the end of your pass, how would you know what number was missing?"


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 9:06 PM
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227 - You'd add them?


Posted by: Becks | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 9:07 PM
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227: There's an answer to that?


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 9:08 PM
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You get one read through a ticker tape ... At the end of your pass, how would you know what number was missing

A ticker tape? What century is this company in?


Posted by: Gonerill | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 9:09 PM
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Also, there is a famous solution to the problem of "Five coworkers are going to lunch and want to determine their average salary without anyone revealing their individual salary to the rest of the group. How can they find their average salary without anyone being able to figure out another person's individual salary?"


Posted by: Becks | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 9:09 PM
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228: Oh, you've got a calculator or a perfect memory?


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 9:09 PM
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It's an algorithm question, so you presume a calculator *and* perfect memory, just perhaps not as much memory as you would need for the brute force solution. Or maybe you do assume that - I think a lot of technical interview questions these days are properly answered with a brute-force solution, because it is fast enough and it saves programmer time.


Posted by: Nathan Williams | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 9:16 PM
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Ah. I was thinking of it as a "Find a trick that an unassisted person could plausibly do" problem, which seemed impossible.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 9:20 PM
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234 - No, whether you ask if you have a calculator is part of the test.


Posted by: Becks | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 9:21 PM
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231: This probably isn't the real solution, but I'd have each person drop pennies in a coffee cup in ratio to their salary, and then empty the cup and divide by five. If they're at lunch, I figure they have an opaque cup and something they could use as tokens.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 9:22 PM
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232: They're not asking the answer, I don't think, just how you'd get there. And if you can presume a calculator, then you don't need a perfect memory. (Run it in pairs from 1-10. 1+10 = 11, 2+9=11, 3+8 = 11, 4+7 = 11, 5+6 =11. 55 total. If I add it all up and get 50, I know the five was missing. Now make it an algorithm for the big sequence. 10001, 10001, 10001, etc.)


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 9:24 PM
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236 - Someone could deduce it by listening to the penny drops.

237 - How was the interview? Did you get nutso questions? (Or did you not go? It sounded like you did from the rain lament.)


Posted by: Becks | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 9:26 PM
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Yeah, I can see how to do it with a calculator, I just made an unwarranted assumption about the restrictions on the problem.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 9:27 PM
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I did go, and I thought the interview was a lot of fun. I didn't get any nutso questions but I did get an interviewer I didn't click with.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 9:27 PM
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238: Sure, if you dropped them one by one. But fold a napkin in the bottom of the cup to muffle it if you like.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 9:28 PM
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232 right... N(N+1)/2 - sum

How was the interview?


Posted by: | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 9:28 PM
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but I'd have each person drop pennies in a coffee cup in ratio to their salary

How do they do this without one of them volunteering their salary?


Posted by: Gonerill | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 9:30 PM
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Attire question: can I bring a bright red tote that's kind of like this to the interview to hold my paperwork (and in lieu of a purse)? It's bright red but it's from Franklin Covey (it's not that one, but similar) so conservative-ish.


Posted by: The Asker | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 9:31 PM
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You can have (and need) a calculator for mine, too.


Posted by: Becks | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 9:31 PM
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They could do it relative to a dollar. OK.


Posted by: Gonerill | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 9:32 PM
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243: They're physically at lunch, right? Count pennies in your lap under the table where everyone else can't see, palm them into the cup and hold out the cup for the rest of the people to palm their pennies into. For this to be impractical, there's got to be some restriction on what you can physically do (like, your hands have to be visible at all times) not stated in the problem.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 9:34 PM
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first person enters their salary plus an arbitrary number (positive or negative) into the calculator. Second person does the same, third the same, etc. Then you do another pass around with everybody subtracting their arbitrary number, then divide.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 9:34 PM
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244: I would totally bring a red tote but after being surrounded by black-suited clones all day I was ready to go and buy lime green pumps.

245: What if they all just take turns typing their salary and the plus key in a calculator with the screen covered and then the last person types their number, hits equals, and divides by five?


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 9:34 PM
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LB, you're cracking me up. No pennies!


Posted by: Becks | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 9:35 PM
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244: Yes. That's totally business-acceptable.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 9:35 PM
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248 wins.


Posted by: Becks | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 9:35 PM
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249: That'd work, but it's the same solution as mine, no?


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 9:35 PM
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Mine doesn't involve pennies!


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 9:36 PM
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252: Okay, but what are the restrictions on the problem that make it a better solution than Cala's?


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 9:37 PM
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I'm never getting that consulting job.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 9:37 PM
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255: it doesn't allow the second person to cheat and sneak a peak at the first person's salary.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 9:39 PM
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255 - Because with Cala's solution, person #2 could see person #1s salary if they snuck a peek. And Person #3 could calculate the average of P1 and P2s salaries if he snuck a peek, which could be wildly different than P3-5. And it's harder for people to collaborate (P2 asking P4 what the salary read when s/he typed hers in.)


Posted by: Becks | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 9:39 PM
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No artificial covering up the screen of the calculator. More elegant. You could also have the first person add a fake number to their total, restrict her from watching the others enter their numbers, and have her subtract it out before dividing.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 9:39 PM
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249 is more elegant than 248. However, I support the penny solution.


Posted by: Gonerill | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 9:40 PM
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Oh, I missed the other puzzle!

252: Sort of depends if you want to assume honesty or not. If you offset the sum the others can peek and still won't know.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 9:41 PM
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No artificial covering up the screen of the calculator.

Typing in random numbers (while also covering the keypad with your hand, I might add -- this "snuck a peek" thing doesn't go away) is more natural than just covering the screen?


Posted by: Gonerill | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 9:42 PM
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They made me do a lot of arithmetic today. I'm not really sure why, but it's not a nice thing to do to a philosopher.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 9:42 PM
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259: that'd be easier. I wasn't sure whether to assume perfect information at every stage.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 9:42 PM
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They made me do a lot of arithmetic today. I'm not really sure why, but it's not a nice thing to do to a philosopher.

"I may not know what the right answer is, but I do know what numbers could not be."


Posted by: Gonerill | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 9:43 PM
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262: Right. Peeking is still a problem.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 9:44 PM
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262: add the number in your head.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 9:45 PM
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On the other hand, just knowing the mean might not be that helpful with 5 people. You might want variance, too, at least.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 9:45 PM
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erm, and median.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 9:46 PM
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267: But if someone peeks at both your numbers -- the initial sum, and then when you add or subtract -- they've got you anyway. You've got to hide the keypad.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 9:46 PM
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231

248 252

This is vulnerable to collusion, the person before and after you working together can determine your salary. Perhaps a more elaborate version in which several pases in different orders are taken to remove the added number would not be.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 9:46 PM
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I'm still confused about 227; scrambled how? Encoded? Permuted?


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 9:47 PM
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They made me do a lot of arithmetic today. I'm not really sure why, but it's not a nice thing to do to a philosopher.

I seem to have given up on my MBA plans, precisely because I don't want to do math. (As I told my boss today: "I don't know how to quantify that. I'm just Mar Comm. You do the quant." Felt good.

(I make 80k plus bonus.)


Posted by: Chopper | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 9:48 PM
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270: yeah it's tough if everybody has perfect knowledge.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 9:49 PM
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274: And if they don't, pennies work fine. Hrmphf. I'm lowbrow, and I like it that way.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 9:50 PM
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But if someone peeks at both your numbers -- the initial sum, and then when you add or subtract -- they've got you anyway

By now I'm wondering why I'm even working with these asshats, let alone having lunch with them.


Posted by: Gonerill | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 9:51 PM
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272: pretty sure that just meant permuted, so they're looking for the n(n+1)/2 - sum of values thing. If they were ordered, you'd just scan until you saw the missed one.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 9:51 PM
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I managed to get the numbers, but I felt slow and stupid, but they didn't seem to think I was slow and stupid.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 9:51 PM
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276 is exactly right.

but it wasn't claimed to be a real world problem.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 9:52 PM
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Hey, the guys I met interviewing today would all be totally not having pennies.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 9:52 PM
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but it wasn't claimed to be a real world problem.

THEN WHY WAS THE PENNY SOLUTION DISMISSED?


Posted by: Opinionated Gonerill | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 9:54 PM
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277: I was thinking they'd be coded somehow, so given 9999 unique values, you'd have to figure out what integer each corresponded to, and which was missing. On balance, what?


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 9:55 PM
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I'm being a brat about the problem, but that really is an interesting feature of logic problems like that -- they very often have very specific unstated restrictions that you need to make the interesting solution the right one. And if you're fluent in the sort of questions that are being asked, the type of answer you want makes the restrictions obvious.

It's like the flip side of the joke about the physics test saying "Use a barometer to measure the height of a building" that gets answers like "Drop it and time its fall"; "Flip-flop it end over end to measure the building in units of one barometer"; or "Offer it to the janitor in exchange for his telling you the height of the building."


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 9:57 PM
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283: well, right, ask a programmer, get a vaguely combinatorial answer, ask a lawyer, get... well, some weird shit with pennies.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 10:01 PM
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271 is true, but beyond the specification. If you start off with `how do you contribute your number to the computation so that it isn't possible for the others to figure out what it is' it's a very different problem, no?


Another possibility without calculators. You split your salary into 2 parts. share one with the person on your left, keep the other secret. Everyone reports the sum of the number given them and their `secret' amount, then you just add those. This is also obviously vulnerable to collusion, but can be made more complicated by using more parts. If you assume everyone is out to cheat you collectively, it's difficult. Variations can be made much more secure.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 10:02 PM
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they very often have very specific unstated restrictions that you need to make the interesting solution the right one

Another way to say this is that the people asking these questions typically have not had to think through the answer themselves from scratch, and so come up with various reasons to reject responses that answer the question as asked but are not the one written in their Bumper Book of Shitty Interview Questions That Make You Feel Clever.


Posted by: Gonerill | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 10:02 PM
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We don't bring calculators to lunch. Probably not pennies, either, but I figured we could get them from the waiter. Or drop back to toothpicks or mints if necessary.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 10:02 PM
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281: Was it?


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 10:03 PM
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287 to 284.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 10:04 PM
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286: Well, if it's done badly, yes. If it's done well, the point is to watch you come up with something. I'm not sure it's a great interview technique anyway.... but the answers should be irrelevant (nearly).

287: Hence my non-calculator (or pennies) approach.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 10:05 PM
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281: Was it?

Following LB's proposed solution, I think you can find evidence of what sociologists used to call normative sanctioning, yes.


Posted by: Gonerill | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 10:05 PM
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282: Yeah, I dunno. Ask heebie, it was her question.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 10:07 PM
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291: Ah, I missed all that and haven't read back.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 10:07 PM
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Which, in an interview setting, is appropriate of course, assuming the point isn't general problem solving but looking for skills in a specific area that Sifu's and soup's methods address but mine doesn't.

Someone complaining for getting marked down on a physics test for measuring the height of a building with a barometer by dropping it would be lawyering, not demonstrating knowledge of the physics being tested.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 10:09 PM
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286: This is why my preferred interview questions tend to be stuff like "You have a file in Unix whose name starts with a dash. How many ways can you come up with to delete it?" I get a sense of how well they know Unix (because there's one canonical answer, and the man page tells you what it is) *and* I get a sense of how inventive and inquisitive they are.

Unfortunately a lot of people I've interviewed just kind of freeze up on that question.


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 10:11 PM
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These "case question" answers are crap, too. It really seems like a test of whether you can bullshit and give an answer pulled out of your ass with a straight face. Like this one:

Question: How many ATMs are there in the country?
Sample Answer: I live in Needham, Massachusetts. The population of my town is approximately 30,000. There are fifteen ATM machines in town so I'll assume that each ATM services 2,000 people. I'm going to assume that the population of the US is around 260 million people. Next I'll divide 2,000 into 260 million and come up with 130,000 ATMs.

That's such BS. First, how the hell do you know there are 15 ATMs in your town? Second, how can you extrapolate from one town to different environments, like cities? I MEAN COME ON.


Posted by: Becks | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 10:11 PM
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Lawyering like that doesn't work very well with some physics profs, ime. I had one in undergrad that insisted you must have the correct answer to get any points at all, then took them off where he didn't like your discussion.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 10:12 PM
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294: LB gets the job!


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 10:12 PM
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296: Yeah, if I get a bunch of questions like that I generally figure that's not someone I want to work with. (Although that depends on how they respond to "I dunno. Lemme check Google.")

Life's too short for stupid interview questions. This is why I'll never get hired at Google.


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 10:14 PM
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296: Buck was asked at his first serious job interview:

If a chicken and a half can lay an egg and a half in a day and a half, how many pancakes does it take to shingle the roof of a doghouse?

He replied: "All of them." But that was journalism, so the quantitative analysis was cut with a fair amount of vaudeville.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 10:15 PM
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296: Questions like that are nominally useful if you are trying to see if people can do decent back-of-the-envelope estimates. Which is a useful skill. The point isn't the accuracy, but the process, including when assumptions are made, and how.

So for certain types of work, watching the process the candidate goes through to estimate that is useful, I guess. The problem is, someone got a bug up their ass about these and published lists of them, and lots of people picked them up for the wrong reasons entirely.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 10:15 PM
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284: well, right, ask a programmer, get a vaguely combinatorial answer, ask a lawyer, get...

Hang on, hang on, I have a solution based on a complex combination of subpoenas and gag orders and I'm this close to making it work.


Posted by: felix | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 10:15 PM
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285

"271 is true, but beyond the specification. If you start off with `how do you contribute your number to the computation so that it isn't possible for the others to figure out what it is' it's a very different problem, no?"

I was generalizing the problem. You can't guard against collusion by everybody else as they can always deduce your salarly from the average but you can ask that no additional information be leaked that can't be deduced from the average.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 10:16 PM
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296: the ATMs of Needham are famous throughout eastern Massachusetts.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 10:16 PM
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295: Reading your question I was kind of hoping someone would have suggested manually walking the inodes, but sounds unlikely.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 10:17 PM
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285: Yup, you're screwed if you assume the other 4 collude against you, but different methods would be more secure against, say, 2 colluders.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 10:20 PM
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295 - I came up with three answers off the top of my head (use a regular expression that would match the rest of the filename instead, try escaping the dash, use the ASCII code for the dash, put it in quotes). Googling for the answer reveals that none of these are the canonical answer and probably only #1 would work but I hope I'd get points for brainstorming. (The rest work for other special characters! And if I get dinged for not knowing that, well, I've never screwed up and named a file starting with a dash. Also, seeing the "real" answer, were I faced with an actual command line, I know I'd get to that after a few tries.)


Posted by: Becks | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 10:21 PM
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(Josh is reevaluating his "come to California and we'll give you a job!" after 307)


Posted by: Becks | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 10:23 PM
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296: My dad explained to me that in general, the back-of-the-envelope calculation is more so you're not wholly reliant on the spreadsheet for kicking out a number. So the example is dumb, but knowing what number to expect isn't, and what assumptions you're making (so in case one is wrong, you know where to find it) isn't, but none of my case interviews were like that. Except I couldn't get a straight answer out of the one interviewer so I just calculated lots of numbers and threw them at him with all the 'if you meant this, then this; if you meant this, then that.'


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 10:24 PM
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I know I'd get to that after a few tries

rm -rf /


Posted by: Gonerill | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 10:25 PM
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The canonical answer to 295 is rather clever, innit?


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 10:30 PM
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307: I guess (my unix cmd line is rusty) canonical is probably full pathname e.g. rm /path/to/-filename won't give you a problem like -filename would, but depending on the parser you might switch options off, iirc -- works. i.e. rm -- -filename. rm ./-filename should work too. or you can rm -i * and walk past the other files. istr unlink doesn't take flags, so just use that (as noted though, i'm rusty).

Escaping tricks are for the shell, so that's a different issue slightly than flags. You could do silly things like fire up emacs in dired mode. Or use your gui (not so silly). Or really, really silly things like editing the inode as I mentioned. There's probably a dozen other ways.

As far as how much credit you'd get, I guess that would really depend on what job you're applying for. Outside of *nix guru, probably full marks, I'd guess.

This isn't completely academic, because many times `baddies' hide things in your filesystems with related sorts of tricks. Maybe not so much these days, I dunno.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 10:31 PM
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Okay, here's what I do when I have to quote a price to a new client.

"So what is your rate?"
"It depends somewhat? Where do you live? Is your child a good student? How many lessons are you looking for? How flexible are you about meeting times?"

Then a bunch of um, hmmm, yes, I see, while they answer whatever it is - then, based on their level of insecurity and eagerness, I pick the highest price I think I can reasonably get away with, and plan to settle for a price usually 5% lower in exchange for nominal compensation. (e.g. prepayment of 10 lessons, agreement to take a less desirable time-slot etc...)

Translated for the professional - ask a bunch of questions about vacation time, benefits, autonomy, perks, personal development support. See if they flinch and then ask for a lot of money - take less, but only if you get one or more of the trivial things you've listed - Also NO BROWN M&Ms - It's a deal breaker.


Posted by: Zakko | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 10:31 PM
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309: That's about right. In sciences, order-of-magnitude approximations are really handy to point out when you've done something stupid in your computation or code. Similar to not trusting the spreadsheet blindly.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 10:34 PM
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(Josh is reevaluating his "come to California and we'll give you a job!" after 307)

Not at all; that's exactly the kind of answer I'm looking for. It shows me both that you're pretty technical (because you know about regular expressions) and that you don't just look for one answer and give up when you can't find it.

It's not just about technical knowledge. If someone tells me "I'd move every other file out of the directory, then delete the directory", that's a great answer. I want people who'll think of unorthodox solutions to problems. (Gonerill, you're hired!)


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 10:40 PM
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314-- I have a good story about that. A friend of mine was taking a GR course from one of the grandees and had a homework problem: find the rate of graviton production from you standing and waving your arms.

She got two possible answers, separated by seventeen orders of magnitude.

Ooops.


Posted by: TJ | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 10:42 PM
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Oh yeah, and you'd be surprised at the number of people who, if they're completely stumped, don't say something like "I'd see what I could find on Google" or "I'd read the man page for rm". The latter is particularly rare.


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 10:43 PM
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We laugh, but quantum and GR disagree about vacuum energy by more than that, iirc!

What is really frustrating: you'd get an undergrad come back to you with a zero mark on some homework, and they'd ask "Why did I get 0 on this, I did all this work". You point to their answer and ask if they really believed that the ball was rolling down hill at 4.7642x10^17 m/s . Blank stare ... um... [looks at paper] ... um ... yes. What's the speed of light, you say. 3x10^8 they chirp, immediately. 3x10^8 what, you ask. .... um.... meters per ... per ... second??? Right, you say. Blank stare.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 10:49 PM
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Do a lot of your students go on to look for jobs in tech in the Bay Area, soup? I think I've interviewed them...


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 10:51 PM
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You could do silly things like fire up emacs in dired mode.

Thanks for coming in. Don't call me; I'll call you.


Posted by: Magpie | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 10:53 PM
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320: Hey, I said it was silly!


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 10:56 PM
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319: Oh dear. The ones I describe don't make it, mostly. So I don't know where yours are coming from.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 10:59 PM
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O HALP! I CAN INVADE NEW BLOG?


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 11:00 PM
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I HAS A MANDATE


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 11:04 PM
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After you turned down apo and w-lfs-n, teo?


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 11:06 PM
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Well, I was just sitting in the bathroom stall, when suddenly...


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 11:08 PM
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318: I had a student once who insisted that there were 724149894 three digit numbers that don't repeat a digit. She compounded the fun by telling me that it definitely deserved at least 6/10 in partial credit -- she basically knew what she was doing! she told me -- and was extremely irked when I refused.

PS: Thanks for the thread, quoth the lurker. I'm also planning a career transition and this has been extraordinarily helpful.


Posted by: Anarch | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 11:08 PM
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I CAN HAZ NECK LIFT?
NO MORE CHEEZBURGERS I IZ THIN
O HAI I IZ A COWBOY
DONUT WANT CAUCUSES


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 11:11 PM
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329

Cala's on a roll.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 11:12 PM
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327: But whatever will your father think of that?


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 11:12 PM
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IM IN UR ELECTION SUPPRESSING UR TURNOUT


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 11:13 PM
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IM LIKABLE ENUFF
WHUH? MAH VICTORY NOT COUNT?


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 11:14 PM
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MICHIGAN IZ A HAT!


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 11:14 PM
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SHHHH I IZ NOT MUSLIM


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 11:17 PM
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Tee hee


Posted by: gswift | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 11:18 PM
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330: That he can finally sponge off me?


Posted by: Anarch | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 11:19 PM
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O HALP I HAZ WHIRLY-EYEZ


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 11:20 PM
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I CAN HAZ CONSTITUTION BACK NOW?


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 11:21 PM
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330: Didn't you learn anything yesterday? You're not supposed to treat the old folks; it makes them feel bad.


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 11:21 PM
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DONUT TOUCH THE HAIR.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 11:23 PM
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Cala, you have to go into consulting. They could use the personality.


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 11:26 PM
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I'm not sure I can stop. This is too much fun.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 11:28 PM
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I HAZ JESUS YOU HAZ BUPKUS.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 11:30 PM
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I LIKES UR BLING-BLING. O HALP U LET DOGS OUT.

I CANNOT BE WHITER.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 11:32 PM
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I ban myself. Before I take the thread to 1000.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 11:33 PM
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I CAN HAZ FRIED SQUIRREL?


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 11:33 PM
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I'd take over, but I don't think I've been paying close enough attention to the race.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 11:33 PM
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I don't even like lolcats. I must be really tired or wired or something, because this activated all the parody-centers of my brain. (About 75% of its capacity.)

You don't have to pay attention, teo, it's funnier when they're generalizations.

I IZ WHITE MALE I COUNT NOW?


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 11:36 PM
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BILL RICHARDSON HAS A BUCKIT


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 02-13-08 11:48 PM
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I can't believe I missed this shit because I was talking about Nietzsche.

Sifu, don't even pretend your answer in 248 was even vaguely combinatorial.

I came up with three answers off the top of my head (use a regular expression that would match the rest of the filename instead, try escaping the dash, use the ASCII code for the dash, put it in quotes)

Jesus, Becks, even I knew the canonical answer. Also, you want "glob", not "regular expression". (Actually, I assumed that "rm -- whatever" would be the canonical answer, but rm, when you run it wrongly, actually suggests "rm ./whatever".)


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 02-14-08 12:11 AM
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350 sounds perhaps snippier than it should. I plead, in my defense, the fact that I was reading on the train an article that I couldn't finish because it made me want to retch.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 02-14-08 12:29 AM
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351 doesn't sound snippy at all.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 02-14-08 12:29 AM
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Thanks, my mood must be improving.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 02-14-08 12:31 AM
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More.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 02-14-08 12:32 AM
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A friend of mine was taking a GR course from one of the grandees and had a homework problem: find the rate of graviton production from you standing and waving your arms.

I CAN HAS QUADRUPOLE MOMENT?


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 02-14-08 1:50 AM
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And, in the interest of pedantry and joke-ruining, "quantum and GR disagree about vacuum energy by more than that" s/b "experiment and theory disagree about vacuum energy by more than that", and that's a little bit of an overstatement since theory doesn't actually predict the vacuum energy, it just gives us some expectations of what its natural scale is.

If it were as large as is "natural", we wouldn't exist. Which depending on your point of view might or might not be sufficient explanation for why it's so tiny.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 02-14-08 2:12 AM
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but I'd have each person drop pennies in a coffee cup in ratio to their salary, and then empty the cup and divide by five

I must be missing something since no one else objected on these grounds, but doesn't this only work if the salaries either have the same order of magnitude or the participants already know about any differences of order of magnitude? I mean, if one person makes $100, another $1,000, another $10,000 and another $100,000, how can they be expected to convert these to the number of pennies that is a ratio to their salary in a uniform fashion?


Posted by: washerdreyer | Link to this comment | 02-14-08 2:25 AM
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So you start with everyone stating what the floor of the log base ten of his/her salary is.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 02-14-08 9:26 AM
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350: very vaguely.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 02-14-08 9:42 AM
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Call the waiter over. Explain the situation. Everybody writes their salary on a bit of paper and gives it to the waiter, who adds them up and tells you the total. Divide the total by five. The waiter then destroys the pieces of paper.

What? I'm a people person.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 02-14-08 9:49 AM
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360: There's probably some important personality diagnostic about the people whose solutions depend on being at lunch, rather than bloodlessly calculator-based. Mine had coffee-cups. And optional napkins! Maybe even toothpicks!


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 02-14-08 9:53 AM
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There's probably some important personality diagnostic about the people whose solutions depend on being at lunch, rather than bloodlessly calculator-based.

It shows that you consider all the relevant information before giving a solution, which arguably is desirable.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 02-14-08 10:03 AM
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When I thought about the lunch aspect, I kept getting hung up one the idea of: why the hell am I going to lunch with a bunch of wankers who want to know our average salary but want to be secretive?


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 02-14-08 10:07 AM
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Forget cultural pressure. At at least one job I've had, it was written into the NDA.

Illegal. Well, maybe legal in an (allegedly) voluntary NDA, but absolutely illegal as a policy. I don't really know from NDAs as a separate legal contract.


Posted by: Sir Kraab | Link to this comment | 02-14-08 10:45 AM
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364: Employers peddling illegal terms? Shocking!


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 02-14-08 10:48 AM
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No, no, I'm sure they thought it was in the best interests of the employees. So cynical, soup.


Posted by: Sir Kraab | Link to this comment | 02-14-08 11:05 AM
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339: Don't think of it as treating, think of it as payback.


Posted by: Anarch | Link to this comment | 02-14-08 11:29 AM
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We were disclosing salaries? I must have missed that because I was working.


Posted by: SP | Link to this comment | 02-14-08 11:35 AM
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368: Sucker.


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 02-14-08 12:06 PM
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I echo 327's gratitude for the thread. It was serendipitously timed to a job ad (that asks for salary reqs) to which I am currently responding.


Posted by: hermit greg | Link to this comment | 02-14-08 12:06 PM
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For the record, yearly since grad school:
84-100-107-112-122. The first jump makes me suspect I was initially lowballed, and I also failed to negotiate that first offer at all (it looked very nice compared to the 25 of grad school.)


Posted by: SP | Link to this comment | 02-14-08 12:11 PM
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Bay Area, software engineer, 104+options. I get the sense that the 104 is low.

I've also never heard of people getting successfully prosecuted for violating bullshit NDAs. Even blatant violation of non-recruit clauses was met with "ok, fine, you hired all these people. cut it out, or we'll sue you."


Posted by: water moccasin | Link to this comment | 02-14-08 12:25 PM
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Yeah, I've been involved in litigating them, and even reasonable ones are a brute to enforce. Courts don't like them much. (This Is Not Legal Advice. I Am Not Your Lawyer.)


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 02-14-08 12:31 PM
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Yeah, the counsel from the place I was leaving thinks a former employee recruited me to my new job (he didn't really, the only employment-related contact he had was interviewing me which is part of his job) but he graciously said he'd let it slide and gave me a Stern Warning not to do the same.


Posted by: SP | Link to this comment | 02-14-08 12:38 PM
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