Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Why the idiot at the next desk makes more money than you

Here's the thing about hiring people: it's a lot like dating. As a manager, you're going on first impressions. While a resume tape shows talent and/or potential, it's the interview that can tell you a lot about a person.

Or not.

Interviews are like first dates. We're all on our best behavior. Best clothes, hair looking perfect, saying the right things. A manager has a few hours to decide if the person sitting across from him is the right one for the job.

And many times, managers are wrong.

Trust me, I've been fooled by people who were great interviews then turned out to be the opposite of the total package I thought I was hiring. I remember one young lady who appeared to be the ultimate team player during the interview. After I hired her, she turned out to be the ultimate drama queen who did nothing but stir the pot in the newsroom and cause me massive headaches.

Point is, you never know what an employee will be like until they're actually working in your shop.

Which brings us to the crash dummy working at the next desk. Every station has one of these. The person who is the laziest in the newsroom, has little talent, and doesn't bother with all that "team player" stuff. And this person makes more than you do.

Several years ago I was working at a station and a reporter made an incredible discovery. He went to make a copy and found that someone had left the station budget in the machine. Which contained all the salaries. (This has happened at plenty of stations.) Naturally, this news made the rounds and caused a lot of hurt feelings when people found out the hardest working staffers were making the least money.

How does this happen? Why does a News Director pay someone who is incompetent more money than you when you're the ultimate team player who consistently knocks out great stories?

A lot of it goes back to that interview.

Let's say I hired you as a reporter for 30 thousand. I've got another reporter opening and this candidate knocks my socks off. She's got a great tape and nailed the interview. She's already making 35 thousand, so I can't offer her what I offered you. So I offer her 38.

Or that same candidate has less experience than you but has other offers. I find out another station is offering her 35. I realize she has less experience, but I'm banking on her potential, so I offer her more.

Or I simply see a future star for the station, someone who can be my main anchor someday. She's got a great tape and I know she'll get other offers, so I make a preemptive strike and offer her more money than I'm paying you.

Now think back to the day you took the job. You may have been happy to get 30k, you may have been desperate, you may have been a bad negotiator. Maybe the ND liked you but you didn't knock his socks off during the interview. Maybe the ND didn't see your potential or team player attitude.

At every station there are salary discrepancies. There's always something that isn't fair. Just don't let it drive you crazy. All things being equal, people aren't.



Anonymous said...

Speaking of negotiation, is there any room for that on your first job? Or do you pretty much take what is offered and deal with it?

-The Grape said...

You really don't have much clout unless you have more than one offer for an entry level job.

But whatever you do, DO NOT sign a three year contract for your first job.