Prepared and ready for the money question?

Updated: Oct 14, 2019

Why do employers ask the salary question? Initially, managers and HR professionals like to know if they can afford you before they spend time and resources attracting you to come and join their team.

Some employers are looking for a competitive and lower cost staffing options to meet budgetary constraints. Despite a general market value for certain positions, some companies place a bigger premium on certain positions than other companies. This means that the salary they expect to pay for a certain position may be lower or higher than the going rate.

Be Prepared:

Sell them on you, create your value proposition, and convince them of your worth to their business before you reach the point of salary negotiations. You are in charge of your own personal brand, so be aware of your net worth in terms of salary.

Here’s how to do it:

Generally, “the salary question” is one or both of the following:

· What is your salary / total package expectations?

· What is your current salary package?

Each of these questions come with different challenges. The questions can come up initially as part of the screening process or can crop up later towards the end of your meeting.

In some respects, it’s a good thing when the salary topic comes into the interview discussion. It indicates that there is some interest.

The other side of this though, is that when you’re not prepared, it’s easy to make a blunder on this question that could prove costly.

Be prepared: Expect the salary interview question and have plans in place to address it before going into the interview. Do your research either online or through discussions with other professionals in a similar role / business. You could also ask your Recruiting body that you have been referred through.

Answering “What is your salary / total package expectation?”

It appears to be a harmless enough question. It makes sense that potential employers would want to know an estimated figure for your expectations, right?

Slow it down. Be mindful that openly stating your expectations too early in the interview process can lead to a few challenges.

Challenge 1.

Early on, the potential employer isn’t convinced on you suitability just yet. They’re still assessing and making a comparison between you and other professionals. You’ll have better leverage to negotiate later, so it serves you better to avoid talking about a specific number too early.

Challenge 2.

You may be tempted to sell yourself short to move forward in the process. While some businesses will jump at the lowest offer, there are plenty of others out there that understand the marketplace and will shy away from candidates who seem eager to lower their standards to get the job. It may make them concerned that you will lower your standards elsewhere.

Challenge 3.

A high figure can price you out of the recruitment process before you’ve even had an opportunity to make an impression. High or low, if you set a salary number that’s outside of their range, it can remove you from the short list.

Challenge 4.

Naming a figure that is too low can also compromise you where you can’t afford to take the job yet can’t afford to turn the job down. This is especially true for people who offer low-end figures out of desperation in hopes of getting the job. This rarely leads to a happy outcome.

Be Prepared: Before answering, it’s essential to learn the market rates for jobs in your field, industry sector and in your location. These can be found at websites like:

Research to understand the range for the position and size of the company. You will probably find some conflicting information and wide ranges in some places, but at least you’ll get a general idea if you look at a few sources including talking with your recruitment consultant.

Your aim is to arrive at a realistic range that seems actual based on market value and your current or most recent salary. Then, if compelled you can quote a number that’s based on real data and present it as the market range and not just what you want.

Naturally, some interviewers will press further for a specific number. At this point, you can say something like:

“Well, according to my research and past experience, my understanding is that 85-105K per year is standard based on the role and requirements.”

This frames the number as “here’s my understanding of what’s competitive” as opposed to “here’s what I want.”

If you’re not making the market rate, or close to it, potential employers may begin wondering why. The challenge is that many people choose jobs with lower salaries for reasons including the following:

  • Bonus/commission incentives

  • Flexible working options or reduced hours

  • Better benefits — health, superannuation, study options, etc.

  • Fewer work hours

  • Permanent role V's contract role

  • Location (cost of living, local job market, etc.)

  • Opportunity to take on new responsibilities and gain experience even if your salary didn’t increase accordingly

Be prepared: Think about your ideal number (what would make you say yes on the spot) and the deal breaker number (a salary offer that you couldn’t possibly accept).

Sooner or later, you will have to address this question. However, you will be in a much better position if you can deflect until they already love you, then you have more leverage to negotiate.

Advice on negotiating what you’re worth

Congratulations, we want to hire you! Good news until you see the less than desirable figure.

But remember that the offer is simply that. An offer. A number to start with. The way you respond can change everything.

When negotiating keep things positive – even if the offer is one, you’re having a hard time being enthusiastic about. Show appreciation for the offer and enthusiasm about the prospect of joining the company before you commence negotiating.

Make your counter offer one that is fair, well-reasoned, and thoughtfully presented. Provide a salary range as part of your counteroffer.

Though if you do provide a range, make sure the lower number is one you can work with. Providing a salary range also gives the employer the impression that you’re flexible – a quality they often prefer in employees.

Finally, keep in mind that some companies may have a limit on salaries they can offer, but that doesn’t mean they can’t offer compensation in other ways. If you get pushback on a higher salary, try negotiating for other benefits that could improve the offer for you:

  • Performance bonuses

  • Signing bonuses

  • Future pay raises

  • Additional annual leave or study days, company shares, superannuation contributions,

  • Benefits or flexible work hours

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