When the Reality of the Salary Dashes Hopes for the Dream Position

By Mary Ellen Slayter
Sunday, July 20, 2008

Q I have been at my private-sector job for four years. Finally, after months of applying, I got an interview in late March at a well-known nonprofit organization. This is my dream place to work. I was offered the position, but the pay cut was too steep, and I don't exactly rake it in now. When the interviewer called in April to offer the job, she prefaced it with, "I know we're going to lose you, but this is what the position is budgeted for," in an apologetic way. I know nonprofit groups aren't known for pay, and I would have taken a small pay cut, but this was too big a decrease. She encouraged me to keep checking the Web site and said she would keep my résumé should other positions open up because I was her top choice. She also said, "I hope you keep checking with us, I think you'd fit in very well here."

This was in April. I've checked their job listings weekly, and the position I applied for is still there.

Is it appropriate to check back three to four months later and inquire about the position or just check in with her to stay on the radar? How do you suggest approaching this?

A Yes, you should absolutely check in. Like, tomorrow. Drop her a friendly e-mail letting her know you are still interested in working there, and ask if there are any current openings for which you would be a good fit.

If the job is still unfilled, the organization may be ready to negotiate on the salary. Its inability to fill the job after all this time should be a wake-up call that the budget for this position needs adjusting to move a little closer to economic reality.

Psychic dividends may be part of the compensation for nonprofit jobs, but mortgage lenders won't accept an envelope filled with warm fuzzies as payment.

Is it legal for employers to ask employees their full birthdate and age after hiring?

Not only is it legal, but it is also a requirement to comply with the Immigration Reform and Control Act, said Mary M. Willoughby, director of human resources for the Center for Disability Rights in Rochester, N.Y.

Willoughby, who also serves as an adviser for the Society for Human Resource Management, said after a person is hired, the employer must verify the person's identity and employment eligibility by the end of the third day of employment. The I-9, the form that serves this purpose, requires the person to provide his or her date of birth.

She said there were a few exceptions to this requirement: People hired before Nov. 7, 1987, independent contractors and employees who are contracted to a business. (In the latter case, the employment agency or employer of the contractor must have the I-9 on file.)

Bottom line, if the person is an employee of the organization, the employee must provide employers their full birth date for I-9 compliance within the first three days of employment, she said.

Aside from that legal requirement, there are other valid reasons an employer may need to know your birthdate, including benefits administration.

What do you think of résumé-writing services? I've only had one interview, so perhaps [the problem is] my résumé. How should one evaluate different companies? They are quite pricey. Are they worth it for entry-level positions?

Résumé-writing services can be a good investment, even for entry-level jobs. A good one can save you from the most common mistakes, including typos and inappropriate formatting. Even more valuable: A professional résumé writer can save you from wasting a weekend obsessing over margins and bullet points.

And the cost may not be as high as you fear. Many companies use tiered pricing, charging a discounted rate for recent grads and other entry-level workers.

Finding a firm is easy enough. Just use your local phone book or search online. Before you hire someone, ask to see samples of résumés they have written for workers in your field and at your experience level. You can also ask to speak to recent clients to find out how their job search went with the professionally written résumé.

Finally, if you are a recent graduate, call your college's career services office. Many of them offer free résumé consulting and writing services or will refer you to low-cost, reliable firms with which they have made arrangements.

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