One of the most uncomfortable things to talk about is money. Our society doesn’t make it easy. Worse than anything, we have trouble negotiating salaries because a salary is an actual measurement of what you are worth.
It is almost a numerical value of how much self-esteem you should have. People are afraid to ask for too much, not wanting to sound like they are too self-assured and not wanting to price themselves out of the market. People don’t want to ask for too little because then they have shot themselves in the foot.
So, what do you do?
Timing is Key
The problem with bringing up the salary topic too early in the hiring process is that it can take the focus away from the case you’re trying to build for why you should be hired.
The goal in an interview is to convince the company that you are the best person for the job. By bringing up salary before this happens, the job seeker runs the risk of making money the focal point of the conversation rather than their fit for the job.
That being said, if you get to the second-, third-, or later-stage interview, compensation should have come up by now. If not, that’s a red flag that their hiring process is disorganised or that the compensation is low and they’re waiting until the last possible minute to let you know. Perhaps they’re hoping you’ll have gotten so excited about the role or feel so invested that the low compensation won’t matter.
Assess the Budget
Ask the company for its budget (rather than offer up your expectations or salary history). Ask the HR contact or the hiring manager about compensation in the context of the overall role:
This role sounds exciting and clearly a priority for the company. When are you looking to fill it? Has the budget been approved? What is the budget for the role?
This way, you maintain your interest, but you also put them on notice that you are confirming the viability of the role. You don’t just want to have informational meetings and brainstorm – you’re too busy for that. You need to confirm there is indeed an opening and that the opening will meet your expectations.
Know your Worth
Each job has a general market value. You can learn the compensation range for your job by researching it online. Visit multiple online employment sites, where you can search by job title and location to narrow in on current compensation rates in your field.
Before you share your salary expectations with an employer, think holistically about what you’re earning presently, including salary, bonuses and benefits. Then, use the research you’ve done to set a realistic target for what kind of compensation you want in your next job. What base salary are you looking for? Which benefits do you value the most? What other perks interest you?
If you’re changing career tracks or interviewing for a job at a company that’s structured differently from your last employer, you should be able to articulate what you’re gaining or losing in terms of compensation. You need to be clear – to yourself – what you’re prepared to accept.
This minimum figure will probably come with the proviso, ‘for the right role’. This is the salary you would be happy to work for, with no ill feelings, if the benefits of the job are sufficient. This should also be an amount that you’re still happy with if you find out further down the line that you could have got more.
Back to You
If you do ask for the salary or range, be prepared to be asked what range you’re looking for, or what you’re currently making. Know ahead of time how you want to answer these questions. Responding with lots of “ummms” and “uhhhs” will make things even more uncomfortable for both of you.
If you’re asked about your current or recent salary, try to give a range first. Try not to back yourself into a corner. This can seem like a ping-pong match, so come prepared to play and know the rules.
Attempt to defer the subject until you have more information and a better idea of whether this is the right job for you. When you have that information, you will be able to assess whether this is a job where you have something to offer and what the value should be. In other words, what you deserve to be paid.