How to address the salary question
The one question that trips EVERYONE up when I talk with them is compensation. I talk with hundreds of job seekers every year – from entry level to senior executives – no one nails this question. So, it’s time to talk about it. Seriously, it’s not an
elephant in the room. I’ll assume that if you are interviewing for a position, you actually think you should be paid for the role – assuming you and the hiring manager agree that you are qualified. Am I right?
This is the question that you should be best prepared for – yet in my experience, you are least able to answer in a believable manner. Here are the steps to ACEing it!
1. Do your homework. Regardless of what you are making today you should do your homework on what you should be making. Maybe you’re at market, or maybe you are under market. There are a number of salary comparison sites that will help you determine your asking price. Salary.com, Glassdoor, Indeed.com, payscale.com. Asking your buddies isn’t usually recommended since they will likely inflate their salary (like you do when they ask you).2.
2. Consider all reasonable impacts on your take home pay. Healthcare is the big one here. Medical/Dental coinsurance costs are ALL OVER the place right now. When you are
thinking through your salary requirements you need to consider your out-of-pocket costs for healthcare. For instance, if you currently pay $800/mo for your family and the company you are
interviewing with has a plan for $300/mo with comparable benefits then you can easily ask for a lateral salary (or even a bit less) and still end up with a raise.
3. Company size does matter. The larger the company, the bigger the salary. This is almost always the case. Small companies have limited budgets and will likely offer you flexibility and other non-compensation types of perks. Larger companies who can’t offer undocumented perks and flexibility will rely on salary to lure new employees. You might consider setting yourself “salary bands” for small, mid and large companies.
4. How important is salary anyway? Not everyone is motivated by money. Some people rate time off, work at home options, casual dress, location higher than compensation. Guess what? That’s ok – your success is not dependent on the amount of money you make, rather how satisfied you are with your professional situation.
5. How much “at risk” compensation are you comfortable with? Bonuses, stock options and other forms of variable compensation are expanding beyond the sales group. Personally I think this is a great idea. If the company makes more money, then they share it with you! But, you need to evaluate how comfortable you are with a portion of your compensation being a bit fluid.
6. Don’t expect your future employer to pay for your past mistakes. This is a pet peeve of mine. You have allowed yourself to be undercompensated for some reason. Now you are interviewing for a new role with a new company and you think you should get a 30% increase. That’s probably not going to happen. Be reasonable – it’s not your next employer’s fault that you are currently underpaid. You’ll likely have to get back to a market salary in 2 steps, not one.
7. Rehearse. The salary question WILL come up during an interview. You need to prepare to
answer this question and rehearse it until it flows out of your mouth. The answer will be in 2 sentences. 1. What you earn today and 2. What you want to earn. That’s it – no over answering, no stuttering, no apologizing – just answer the question.
8. Commitment and confidence. Since you’ve spend time rehearsing the answer this will be easy. Sit up straight, make eye contact, smile and answer the question. DO NOT slouch, shrug your shoulders, whisper or stutter. When you talk with confidence about your compensation, you are demonstrating that you are worth what you are asking for.
Do your homework, know your numbers and be prepared to answer the one question that will always come up during an interview. The outcome will probably be – they will pay you what you ask for. To your Salary Success!
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