Most people think that salary expectations questions are some of the most challenging questions to deal with in the interviewing process. But frankly, after convincing the hiring manager in your ability to do the job, connecting on a personal level and being liked, managing your nerves, and performing well in the panel interview scenario, after all of that the questions about money are relatively easy to deal with. In fact, the answers to these questions are merely an outgrowth of all the previous ones.
There are four parts to salary negotiation preparation:
1. Research your market value
2. Rehearse your answers to salary expectations questions
3. Prepare to negotiate and come up negotiation conversation openers
4. Think through how to react when they say there is no flexibility in the offer
In this article, I am going to address all four parts, and, as always, give you actionable tips, examples, and scripts that you can use right away.
1. Know Your Value
Before you think about starting a conversation about your salary, you have to have a good idea of what you are worth. This is known as your market value and is a range based on your role, location, field and years of experience. Knowing this information will help you quickly determine if what the company is offering is aligned with what you deserve and help negotiate a fair salary.
Do your research using payscale.com, salary.com, glassdoor.com or indeed.com and use this phrase when answering the salary expectation questions:
“Based on my salary research in the [city] area,……..”
You can also talk to your peers in the industry. It may seem like an off-limits subject, but with the right phrasing, the question does not have to put them on the spot. Instead of asking them point-blank what they make, say something like
“ I am considering an associate marketing role with a healthcare technology company. From my research, it looks like I should be looking at a salary of 55 to 60K. Since you work in that industry, does that range sound reasonable?”
In the new world of work, compensation also includes everything from vacation days to flextime to benefits. It can be helpful to rank the factors of the offer by how important they are to you. Maybe salary first, followed by paid vacation time to a flexible schedule. Or perhaps you'd be willing to accept a slightly lower salary knowing that there is an option to work from home twice a week, or that you get a month of vacation. If you are looking at start-ups, look into equity as a part of your total compensation.
2. How to Answer Salary Expectations Questions
Before you get to negotiating the details of your offer, you want to position yourself for success by answering the salary expectations questions with confidence and indicating a range rather than a specific number. Here are the most common questions and suggestions on how to approach them.
What did you make at your last job?
When asked about your previous salary, it’s wisest to deflect until an actual offer’s on the table: Say that you were always paid a competitive rate, for example, and that you’re sure you can work out something agreeable for the new position. For example:
I'm focusing on positions in the 70 to 80K range. Is that going to work for this opportunity?
My salary history has followed a steady upward path.
What is your salary range? / What are your salary expectations?
I want to be paid what’s consistent with the rest of the market. What is an adequate reward for this position?
Salary isn’t the main consideration when making a decision, but in recent years my compensation has ranged between x and y.
Well, according to my research and experience, my understanding is that 75-90K per year is typically based on the role and requirements.
What I'm looking for is something in the range of $70,000 to $75,000. I believe that's the range this company pays for my level of employment, and it's a range I’m comfortable with.
You have been making X and the money associated with this position is significantly less. How do we know that you will be happy?
I realize there is a difference between what I have made (or what I am making now) and this position. However, I have found that if the opportunity is right and I am able to perform at my best, the difference in the money isn’t as important as the quality of the job and the opportunity.
What do you consider most important: a high salary, job recognition, or advancement?
I have found that the better job I do and the harder I work, recognition, advancement, and money usually take care of themselves.
3. Negotiating Your Offer
Congratulations! You made it through the job search process, and now you have an offer in hand. While it's great to be excited about a prospective new job, there is one more vital step you need to take before you sign on the dotted line: negotiating the details of the offer. Plenty of doubts may enter your mind as you approach your negotiation conversation: will the hiring manager get angry? Does bargaining make you seem ungrateful? Will she assume you don’t want the job? Those worries are completely normal but remember: companies expect candidates at every level to negotiate. But according to Salary.com, only 37% of people always negotiate their salaries, while 18 % never do.
Here are three negotiation conversation openers that worked well for our clients:
Is there any chance you can go up to X?
Do you have any flexibility on the salary? I had something closer to X in mind.
If you are willing to do X, I’d be thrilled to accept.
The key is to sound casual, mention it matter-of-factly and say no more. Don’t get into too much detail and don't explain yourself. Make a pause and wait for them to respond.
4. What if the Answer is “No”?
If the salary has no flexibility (or so they say), there are a couple of things you can say to come out of the negotiation with a win.
1. Make them commit to revisiting the salary question:
“If I do an extraordinary job in the next three to six months, will you agree that we can revisit this and renegotiate my salary at that time. And would you be willing to put that in the contract/offer letter?”
2. Negotiate flexible schedule, continuing education, vacation time or lifestyle perks:
I am excited about this opportunity and think I'd be able to immediately jump in and begin bringing new clients. However, I am surprised to see that the position doesn't pay market rate. Would you consider allowing some flexibility on hours or increasing the number of vacation days?
1. Companies make offers with the expectation that you'll negotiate, so in many situations if you miss an opportunity to negotiate, you'll end up with less than you are worth.
2. You also have more to work with in today's marketplace – companies are often willing to consider factors beyond salary, so you can negotiate for other benefits, such as vacation time, a flexible schedule, moving expenses, and more.
3. When answering salary expectations questions, focus on the range rather than a specific number.
4. Know your market value. Go beyond PayScale and Glassdoor and talk to your peers in the industry.
5. If the salary has no flexibility, have them commit to revisiting the salary question in three to six months if you do an extraordinary job and meet the goals. Negotiate flexible schedule, vacation time or lifestyle perks.