Talent Tip #81: Five Tips for Discussing Salary During Your Job Hunt
Life is full of painful but necessary events: visiting the dentist…paying taxes…watching a Lifetime movie marathon at the request of that special someone…discussing salary during a job hunt.
Unfortunately, I’m not well-equipped to help you deal with the first three; but on that last one, I’ve got you covered! In fact, I’ve put together ten tips to help make the process painless. Here are the first few:
1. Be Ready to Answer the Question, “What is Your Current Salary?” – If you’re applying for a job, you’re going to get asked about salary at some point. Don’t be caught off guard when the question gets tossed your way. And, for the love of money (pun intended), be ready to answer!
You would be surprised how many people cannot actually remember their exact current salary (“Well, I was making 60k, but I think I got a raise last year to 62,500…or maybe it was 63k. I don’t know.”). Before you start your job hunt, pull out your W2s, 1099s, or last year’s tax returns and figure it out. In addition to salary, you should also know how much you made in bonus and a rough idea of your benefits package.
UPDATE JANUARY 2018: Several states and cities around the country have started banning employers from asking candidates about previous salaries during the hiring process. Furthermore, employers are prohibited from taking a candidate’s pay history into account when determining a new salary offer. Please visit here for more on this topic.
2. Be Ready to Answer the Question, “What is Your Desired Salary?” – Another critical piece of information you’ll need at the ready is your desired salary. 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.
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 we can’t always get what we want.
In all seriousness, think about why hiring organizations want to know a candidate’s salary expectations up front. 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 provide your range with a smile on your face.
4. Honesty is the Best Policy – As noted above, you will likely be asked about your current salary. You may even be asked for a salary history dating back some years. Whatever numbers you are asked for, be honest. Some organizations engage in employment verification to confirm prior employment and salary. If a candidate is caught in a lie, it’s all over but the shouting.
5. Do Your Homework – Some of you probably read #2 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.
Due to space constraints, I’ll save the last five tips for next month’s e-newsletter. In the meantime, I’d suggest visiting the dentist and blocking the Lifetime channel from your cable package.