What’s a Fair Wage for Transferable Skills?

In this month’s Ask an Expert column, we address the question, What’s a fair wage if I hire a candidate with transferable skills?

Q: After months of searching, no one could find a candidate with the highly specialized skills required for our medical device manufacturing company’s hard-to-fill Operations Manager position. You’ve brought us Tom, a candidate with closely aligned, transferable skills from a commercial manufacturing background. We like Tom and think he’s a good fit for our company, but he will need specific training to get up to speed. What’s a fair salary offer? Should we hire him as a contract worker, or start him out as our employee?

A: While Tom has solid transferable skills, he fully understands that he won’t be up to speed for several months. Before you offer him the job, develop a training plan and clearly define what success will look like by outlining his expected accomplishments for the next 30, 60, and 90 days. (I recommend using the SMART Goal format: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Time-bound.) Include these expected outcomes in your offer letter so that Tom can decide whether or not he’ll be able to meet your expectations.

Tom’s interest in your position signals that he is thinking long-term and may be willing to accept less now to advance his future career goals. Your compensation offer needs to find a balance among three considerations:

  1. What is Tom earning now in the job he’d be giving up to accept your position?
  2. What competitive salary would you offer a fully trained, experienced person in this position? (If you need help researching competitive salaries, just ask us. We subscribe to a national salary database.)
  3. Knowing that Tom won’t be immediately 100% productive, but relying on his ability to master the position given time and training, what salary level will both attract him and offset your training costs?

If the competitive salary is higher than what he’s currently making, you could offer Tom slightly higher than his current wage but less than a fully trained manager’s wage, with the agreement that in 3-6 months when he is trained and up to speed, you will increase his salary to equal the current market salary of a fully trained operations manager. This validates your belief in his worth, while taking into account that he doesn’t currently have all the skills you are looking for in a new hire. Now would also be the time to revisit why Tom’s moving to a medical device company may benefit his career long-term.

I can think of several reasons why you might not want a new hire on your payroll:

  • You’re not sure he will be able to master the skills quickly enough.
  • You’re uncertain about whether your business will be able to sustain his position.
  • You want to avoid any liabilities associated with hiring a new employee.

In Tom’s case, I’d recommend that you put him on your payroll. Remember that his motivation in changing jobs is to advance his career. Although he’s interested in your position, Tom is not very likely to leave his current job for a temporary assignment. As an at-will employer, you can let him go at any time without explanation or cause if, for some reason, it turns out that he doesn’t satisfy your expectations.

Do you have a general hiring question or situation you’d like us to address in an Ask an Expert Q&A? If so, please email a paragraph of 250 words or less to psherman@www.amtec.us.com. Amtec’s Ask an Expert columns are written for the benefit of our employer audience and should not be construed as legal advice. Names, situations, and details will be altered to protect privacy. If you need immediate hiring help, call (714) 993-1900 or contact us.

Amtec Bitz Newsletters

Essential industry highlights & expert insights every month.

Latest Posts

View all posts