Claire Kittle Dixon
And that’s why I couldn’t believe our last comprehensive article about salary was more than 50 Talent Tips ago! I’m ashamed!
Let me make it up to our dear readers by providing 10 tips for discussing salary during your job hunt. You’ll get five this month and five next month.
- Be ready to answer the question, “What is your desired salary?” – This might be the most critical piece of information you’ll need at the ready. I usually suggest candidates have a range instead of just one number so that you have built-in flexibility. A range should span roughly 5-10k for mid-level employees and 10-20k+ for senior staff with higher salaries. Note that providing too broad of a salary range (for instance, 50k-500k) looks silly and makes the hiring manager think you’re a smarta$$. And no one wants to hire a smarta$$.
- Have a response ready if asked about current salary – As you may know, asking about current and past salary has become less common in recent years. In fact, some jurisdictions around the country have banned employers from asking candidates about current and previous salaries during the hiring process. (We can discuss the merits and demerits of these regulations over cocktails at a later date.)
But just because it’s not as common as it used to be doesn’t mean you won’t get asked (legally!) about your current salary. So, be prepared to respond. You may choose to respond with a straightforward answer (“I currently earn 90k”) or something more vague (“My current salary is in the high 5 figures and I’d like to earn six figures in my next position”). But however you respond, do not be evasive or rude…which brings us to #3.
- Don’t give the Heisman – Sometimes candidates try to hedge when asked direct questions about salary. My favorite candidate response is, “I’d prefer to talk about salary later in the process.” Well, I’d prefer to be independently wealthy and have fewer crow’s feet, but as the Stones said, you can’t always get what you want.
Think about why hiring organizations want to know a candidate’s salary expectations upfront: it’s because they have limited resources (time and money), and it simply doesn’t make sense to invest hours of interviews with someone whose requirements are significantly higher than the organization can afford. So, instead of stonewalling, be ready to respond to salary questions with a smile on your face.
- Do your homework – Some of you probably read #1 above and thought, “But how do I know what my range should be?” It’s not as complicated as some think; but you will need to take into account a menagerie of factors, including your most recent salary/salary history, your experience, your tenure in each position, the role at hand, the budget of the hiring organization, geography, education, and market conditions. The more homework you do, the more comfortable you will be when it comes time to discuss salary with a potential employer.
- Know thy market – As mentioned above, you’ll want to consider market conditions when determining your desired salary range. Make sure to take into account current economic trends, cost of living, demand for your skill set, etc.
One of the quickest ways to be eliminated from the running in a job search is to ask for an outlandish salary that doesn’t reflect the current market (and your market value!). This is especially true when you’re interviewing with a nonprofit organization. Remember that 990s will provide useful information about an organization’s recent budget and pay scale.
Ok, we’ve hit our salary tips quota for the month. But tune in next month when we finish our top ten list! Until then…