How to discuss salary expectations (and how a recruiter can help!)
The salary question can bring even the most smooth-sailing interviews to an uncomfortable halt. Salary negotiation can be a volatile game. If you highball your offer, you risk seeming greedy, and if you undersell your value, you risk losing out on a potentially higher salary.
Do your research
The most diplomatic and succinct response to the salary question is 'I would expect the fair market average increase'. While this sentence is sometimes enough, your interviewer might press you for a number. Though it is probably easiest to find salary information through friends and job sites, it is unwise to rely on these numbers alone as people may inflate their salaries to seem more important. Instead, consult market reports for a more reliable starting point. A thorough market report will disclose average salaries for your role, as well as salary trends, such as frequency and size of pay increases.
Calculate your minimum salary
Before your interview, calculate the minimum salary you require to afford your expenses and achieve your financial goals and, if you have no indication of the salary or benefits you will be offered, prepare a few scenarios. For example: if the company gives me a housing expense, I need a minimum of X, if the company reimburses my commute, I need a minimum of Y. Keep these numbers private. There is no reason to disclose all your expenses at your interview, but having an idea of your requirements ahead of time will allow you to recognize if an offer is viable for your circumstances. After all, no one wants to do momentous mental maths during an interview!
List your accomplishments
An interviewer might ask you why you think you deserve the salary you have proposed. This is when you really have to sell yourself! Come prepared with a list of achievements to prove the value you can add to their company. Discuss how you took initiative, thrived during challenging times, and went beyond your job responsibilities. Having quantitative data for your achievements can be even more compelling. For example, saying ‘I increased sales by 20% within my first year of joining’ sounds far more impressive than saying ‘I increased sales’. Make sure you’ve gathered all the correct information you need before heading to your interview. Putting together a list of achievements is also an exercise in instilling self-confidence; not only will it give you a clear idea of what to mention during your interview, but it will also help you sound more self-assured when conveying your salary expectations.
Redirect the conversation
While there isn’t much you can do to avoid the salary question, employers like to see candidates who are motivated by more than just money, and redirecting the conversation can demonstrate this. Discuss what drew you to apply for a position at their company. Perhaps their mission aligns with your passions or you can picture yourself working there because of the team and work culture. Indicating an interest outside of financial compensation can be refreshing for an interviewer to hear and can calm a tense atmosphere.
Consult a recruiter!
Working with a recruiter you trust can ease your salary negotiation worries. Not only can you be more candid about your salary expectations with your recruiter, you can also gain some valuable industry information. A recruiter specialised in your field of interest will be able to tell you what a typical salary is for someone in your position with your professional experience. Additionally, if a recruiter has previously placed candidates in the company you’re interviewing for, they can provide you with an even more accurate salary range to expect. After all, the salary for the same role can vary from company to company, based on profitability. Finally, recruitment agencies charge companies a percentage of the salary they can arrange for their candidate. Keep in mind that this does not come at any cost to you, but it means that recruiters are more incentivised to negotiate a higher salary on your behalf.
Discussing your salary expectations can be stressful, but being nervous shouldn’t discourage you from earning what you deserve. Just remember the famous George Addiar quote: 'Everything you’ve ever wanted is sitting on the other side of fear'.