Career Communications Recruitment — 30 August 2011
Let’s talk salary (no, let’s not)

It’s an interview tip often dished out to aspiring job seekers; don’t talk about your salary expectation during the interview. But what if your prospective employer does?

Ahhhh, money. It makes dreams comes true when in abundance, can turn life into a living nightmare when in short supply and, in between, makes a lot of people very uncomfortable to talk about. The job interview is one such setting where money, according to many, should not be on the agenda, but this has always made me wonder. If not during the interview, just when is money okay to talk about throughout the job seeking process?

Picture this: you’re sitting in the interview, and everything is going well. You’ve progressed through the initial application process and phone interview, and you’re convinced the company is a good fit for you. So far during the interview, you’ve made the hiring manager smile – even laugh – and her associate is also nodding with approval as you explain what you can contribute to this great company.
And then, with five minutes to go until you leave, the question comes. What salary are you looking for?

There’s a slight pause and then, the big elephant in the room comes over, crashes all over the table, spills your barely-touched glass of water and really shakes you up. What the hell are you going to say? Say too much and you may be written off as delusional, greedy, grasping. Say too little, however, and you might get the job you want, but you’ll commence it with an underlying feeling of not being paid enough, a gripe that only breeds resentment over time.
You know how much you want, or think you deserve, or think you can get away with. You’ve thought about it long and hard, done some market research on market averages and read the salary surveys released by a swag of recruitment companies and specialists. You’ve even had the gall to ask your friends working in the same industry what they earn!

So why now, when you’ve been justifying to yourself for days why you’re worth that amount, are you thinking about dropping five or $10K off that amount, just to land the job?

Someone once said to me, “be proud of your price”; good advice, but only if you know your price is a good one.

If the question comes (and it will at some point), it’s important to justify why you’re worth your stated salary; think about the value you can offer your employer. Money may make the world go round, but it’s not everything. Many employers these days may offer slightly lower salaries, but offer much more in terms of workplace culture, perks and benefits like flexible work alternatives. Understand the trade-offs involved; higher salaries can be synonymous with horror hours, for example.

Know what you want, and be confident in articulating your value-adding capabilities. Ultimately, we all want to go to work somewhere where we enjoy our work, can be challenged and take home a decent salary that allows us to live comfortably.

While talking about money is rarely enjoyable – particularly with strangers during a job interview – it is a necessary part of life. Equipped with the right information, confidence and realistic expectations, talking about salaries doesn’t have to provoke fear or dread; it can be just another positive step along your journey to securing the right job.

For other interview related articles see:

Counter Offers – just say “no”!

Interviewing tips Part 1 – Before the interview

Interviewing tips Part 2 – The interview


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(15) Readers Comments

  1. Ah the inevitable “money talk” it’s always a delicate subject especially if you have gone through the process of job hunting on your own (without the help of your trusted recruiter) but as you suggested, know your worth and what the fringe benefits are and then make an informed decision based on all the facts.

    You also need to stick to your guns, if you believe you are worth what you are asking and you are not being unreasonable then don’t be ashamed of that figure, every company is looking for the best value for money so don’t devalue yourself just to get the job.

    Good post Carolyn

  2. Salary seems to get brought up more these days in interviews and if you know your market value there should be no issue mentioning this.

  3. The wonderful whats you price game.

    I always hate this game as its a cat and mouse game, the person asking wants to get you for the lowest price possible, and yo have to try and wrangle the best deal you can.

    I also found, over the many years, that the people you are negotiating work in marketing, meaning that they are masters of selling a bag of poop.

    As Stuart says above pick a figure and stick to it.

    • Agreed Paul. Feel confident in your abilities and your right to earn what you are worth, and stick to what you want to receive, as long as it is within the range of what talent with your skills are paid in the industry.

  4. What if you want the role so bad you are willing to cut your salary by 35%, becasue you know you will kill it and the role will only grow. Then you get it.

    How do you let the new employer know your worth and personal investment (ie rem drop), when your previous package was hidden by the placing recruiter and you did not have the opportunity to negotiate?

    How does one balance not spooking the new employer vs socialising a timeline for growth to clawback lost income.

    The Tricky Dilemma !

  5. I have had the question of my salary expectation asked in every interview I’ve had this year. With a recent role, they confirmed my first interview then insisted on my answering this question “as they didn’t want to waste each others time” if I was too expensive.

    I think its a approach of make candidates try to guess the salary range and look for value bids as this ultimately will lead to the employee looking for another job once they realise they’ve come in 10-20% too low.

    Recruiters know their company size, job scope and relative salary range to industry. They should be up front about this from the start. It is then the responsibility of the candidate to demonstrate their greater relative value to the company for this salary, and the return they will deliver in exchange for this “investment”.

  6. I generally always ask for too much – but I know i am worth it. What i generally say is that i can do a reduced rate for 1-3months while i get up to speed and then i want the full amount after that time. It shows i am confident of what i am worth, and decreases their risk of committing to full salary when they are unsure at the get go.

  7. Personally, I think it’s not a bad idea to get the numbers out on the table.

    These days, in the advertising/media industry, the job titles may be over-inflated and on other hand for some, it just does not necessary reflect the depth of expertise the potential candidates possess.

    I have been in situations where I clearly indicated upfront that the salary is not meeting my expectations (less than 35%) off my current and yet was pushed by the recruiter to go into the meeting with the prospective employer.

    Needless to say, they like me very much but can’t afford me. So after getting me into 2 rounds, I was dropped in favor of someone more junior.

    I am not bitter but seriously just be frank upfront will certainly help!

  8. Yes interesting article here, well saying our price is definitely a sign off confidence in ourself and this will also might be among the characeristics that a company is looking for. But at the same time, we need to be careful that often people promised too much but in the end did not perform accordingly.

    So always keep a cautious mind that if you think that is your worth, then by all means go for it. Sometimes, if there is a non successful interviews is not always about the salary but is about the company willingness to pay the salary intended.

    We could not forsee that as it might be an internal affair. The hiring manager might even get a direct instructions from the senior management to not go beyond the recomended salary by the company. So again in short, is all about the company and its financial stability.

    So hope this justifies some of the concerns in the article. At the same time, I myself as well is also looking for a better job opportunity but at the same time as I mention earlier, I do my research first of the company before I proceed for the interview so I know what to expect if there is such questions like this.

    Thank you.

    Wan Azhareezal Wan Aziz

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