Most job seekers dread being asked about their salary. Some are uncomfortable revealing personal information. Many are concerned that sharing their current salary will influence potential job offers.
The truth is, you can’t dodge the salary question.***
But, to some degree you can control it. You do this by understanding the process and being prepared.
Why do recruiters ask about your salary?
As a former recruiter, I know they don’t ask your salary requirements to put you on the spot. They ask because they need to know if you are in the salary range for the position they are filling. Remember, recruiters don’t work for you, they work for the employer.
Each job has a predetermined salary range which has been provided by the hiring manager and/or human resources. Experienced recruiters know that salaries at the higher end of the spectrum will go to the most desirable candidates, those who have everything they are looking for, and salaries at the lower end will go to those with fewer skills or less experience.
Basically, recruiters need to know if you are affordable. While there may be some flexibility or “wiggle room” in the salary range, there is still a limit. Employers will only go so high even if the “perfect” candidate, or proverbial “purple squirrel” in recruiter speak, comes along.
Learning candidate’s salary requirements is a fast way to weed out candidates who are too expensive.
No matter how awesome you may be if the top of the salary range is $175K it’s highly unlikely they are going to pay you $225K. Although I’ve spoken to candidates who don’t believe this.
On the other hand, your salary range may signal the recruiter that you are underqualified for the position.
If the salary range is $150K to $175K, for example, and you say your target salary is $100K it makes the recruiter wonder if you are not experienced enough. The recruiter wonders if you are underpaid or exaggerating your qualifications.
How should you respond to questions about salary?
If you want to be considered for the position you need to have an answer regarding your salary. You can begin by asking what the range is for the position and they may tell you. They may not.
Should the recruiter give you the salary range you can say either that’s within your range or, if pressed, you can pick a number somewhere in between.
Just remember that the highest salary in that range will go to a candidate who meets most if not all of the requirements. This may mean having experience in that industry as well as holding a similar position.
It may include having particular skills and several years in a comparable role. For example, if you’re a creative director whose primary experience is with print you probably won’t be commanding a top salary at a digital advertising agency.
If the recruiter won’t share the salary range, the ball is in your court. To keep the conversation going you can give the recruiter a salary range. Most employers will see the lower end of your salary range as your bottom line. So, make sure that is a number you can live with.
Not every recruiter will ask your current salary. But, if they do be honest with them.
Some companies ask for W-2’s as part of the background check. If an employer discovers that you lied during the interview process your offer may be rescinded.
One thing to remember, when stating your current salary be sure to note whether that number includes your benefits. While many companies have more standard benefits such as health insurance other companies offer professional development, tuition reimbursement, and more.
***Recently, some states have passed laws prohibiting employers from asking job applicants about their salary history. Here is a running list of Salary History Bans.
How to you decide on a salary range?
Research, research, research. The best way to be ready for the dreaded salary question is to prepare in advance. There is plenty of information readily available.
One of the easiest ways to find out salary information is online. There are websites that offer solid salary information. Start with these:
Bureau of Labor and Statistics (Wage Data by Area and Occupation)
Occupational Outlook Handbook (Earnings)
After conducting some online research get additional information by talking to people either familiar with or working in your target position. Start with your friends and family. Next ask for introductions to anyone they know who might be helpful. Don’t forget your college or university alumni association which can be an immense resource.
Remember that compensation is more than just salary. Compensation includes numerous benefits including: healthcare, vacation, tuition reimbursement, flexible schedules, summer Fridays, etc. Don’t discount the value of a corporate cafeteria with discounted, healthy meals or the option to work remotely even if it’s only one day a week. Make a list of the criteria that’s most important to help you evaluate job offers.
Talking salary is tricky for both sides. Therefore, there will always be some anxiety when the topic of salary comes up. However, until people start working for free, there’s no way to avoid it. Prepare your answer to the salary question before you begin your job search to avoid getting caught off guard.