Job Hunting: Discussing Salary


What’s the most uncomfortable question you can be asked in the job hunting process? Sometimes, it’s “What salary are you looking for?”

Of course, the optimistic view is that they’re looking to pay you something. That’s a good way to take it. But sometimes it means, “Will you be worth my time to interview?”

You really want to avoid leading the discussion with a number. You want them to give the first number – preferably as an offer. Then you can negotiate.

To negotiate right, there are three things you need to know:

1. What is your skill level in your field?

2. What is the average salary for your field and skill? (it’s good to know local and national numbers – check here for a salary calculator)

3. What is the minimum you’re willing to accept (you know, to feed your family)?

This is information you need before the interview. In fact, you should make sure you know it (and can live with it) before you submit your resumé for a position.

Once you’re in the interview, be ready to discuss salary. BUT – not until there is an offer. Make sure the job sounds right for you, and that they see you’re right for them.

A couple of tips:

1. Never give them a range, unless you’re prepared to take the lowest number in that range.
2. Don’t immediately accept the first offer, even if it’s more than you expected.
3. Remember to finalize salary first, then discuss benefits. They are two separate things.

How do I know? I tried it. I was on a phone interview and the recruiter asked what salary range I was looking for, and I told her. My offer? The bottom of that range. Lesson learned.

Getting ready for the salary discussion is easily as important as getting ready for the interview itself. Starting salary will dictate future raises, bonuses and possibly other status considerations.

Take your time and do your research. Every company, every situation and every job title is different. Prepare for each one separately.

Be ready!  Then when you finish the discussion, you can have the salary you were expecting.



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