Learn How to Handle Salary Discussions with Confidence
By Helen Godfrey, MA, NCC, BCC, LPC
The most challenging part of a job interview for many candidates is the question of salary. Being able to discuss money matters with confidence will help you get the compensation you want and may even improve your job satisfaction. These are some steps to take before you get a job offer, after you get a job offer and in specific circumstances.
Steps to Take Before You Get a Job Offer
1. Postpone the discussion. It’s always best to let the employer go first in any salary discussion. Try to postpone discussing compensation until you receive a job offer. That way you have a better chance of staying in the running and negotiating with an employer who truly wants you on their team.
2. Assess your individual situation. The exact approach you take will depend on the situation. You may be required to fill out an application stating your salary expectations. In that case, try putting a range rather than a specific figure. For example, low $50’s, mid $50’s or high $50’s.
3. Stress your interest in the position. Let the people interviewing you know that you’re enthusiastic about their company and the position. Explain that monetary compensation is just one factor for you and that you’re also interested in career advancement, gratifying work and other considerations.
4. Conduct background research. Gather all the information you can about average salaries for the openings you’re looking at. Check online on websites such:
Salary.com has a side by side salary calculator that compares the cost of living in various cities
Steps to Take After You Get a Job Offer
1. Ask for clarification. Congratulations on receiving a job offer. Now is the time to discuss salary. It’s still advantageous if you can get the employer to take the first step and let you know the budget they’re working with.
2. Be honest about your salary history. Any salary information you provide can be verified, so tell the whole truth. You may be able to strengthen your position by citing other relevant benefits including bonuses and commission.
3. Evaluate the whole package. Remember that your salary is just one item in your entire compensation package. Pay attention to all the details including paid leave, health insurance and retirement accounts.
4. Negotiate in good faith. Aim for a win-win solution. To start off on a good relationship with your employer, you both want to feel that you were treated fairly.
5. Put it in writing. Ask for a written letter of agreement or cite everything you discuss in your thank you letter or email following up on the job offer. You want to be sure you’re on the same page.
Steps to Take in Special Circumstances
1. Juggle multiple offers skillfully. It’s common to use one offer to leverage a higher offer for the position you most prefer. Give each prospective employer a firm date for making your decision and decline graciously if you choose to work elsewhere. Once you accept an offer, the expectation is that you are taking the offer. I recommend staying at the job for at least one year.
2. Interview for lower paying positions. Go ahead and check out a position that sounds promising even if the stated pay is less than you need. You may be able to propose how you can be of extra value and wind up making you and your new boss very happy.
3. Consider taking a pay cut. There are times when your income is likely to decline. If you’re faced with a difficult economy or looking to change careers, a pay cut may make sense. Remember, once you are in the company, you can network your way to another position. Of course, be completed committed to the original position for at least one year. What I mean is: don’t be too obvious that this is not your dream job. Treat it as though it is and you will establish yourself as a competent professional. Other opportunities will open up.
Show up for your next interview feeling ready and able to handle the question of compensation. There are many factors to consider when making a career move and money is one of the important issues we all need to be able to address.