May 13, 2021

Career AdviceProfessional Development

Tips for Talking About Salary

By: AF Editors

Everyone dreads talking about salary. In fact, it is one of the most dreaded conversations one can have with a future boss, perhaps only second to the “the birds and the bees” discussion with your child.

One of the most common questions many entry level employees grapple with is,“How do I respond when an organization asks for my salary requirements?”

Fear not, my friends, we’ve put together some advice to make the process as painless as humanly possible.

Be Prepared – If you’re applying for a job, you’re going to get asked about salary somewhere along the way. Typically, you will be asked a salary range as part of the application. But, don’t be surprised when the question gets tossed your way; and for the love of money, be ready to answer!

Don’t Give the Heisman – Sometimes candidates try to hedge when asked direct questions about salary. Bad idea. Do not skirt around the topic. Hiring managers are going to keep asking until they get the information they need, and the hedging immediately raises suspicions. Not to mention, hiring managers do not enjoy making you uncomfortable, so be direct and have a mature conversation.

Tell the Truth – You may be asked specifically what your most recent salary was, and sometimes you may even be asked about your salary history. Be honest. Some organizations will call to confirm prior employment and ask about salary. If a candidate is caught in a lie, it’s all over but the shouting.

Have Your Numbers Ready – The most critical piece of information you’ll need is your desired salary. I usually suggest candidates have a range instead of just one number so that you have built-in flexibility. Employers actually prefer a salary range instead of a hard & fast number because it shows them what they can and cannot work with. A range should probably span 5-10k for mid-level employees and 10-20k+ for senior staff with higher salaries.

Do Your Homework – Some of you probably read 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, the role at hand, geography, education, and market conditions. Speaking of….

Know Thy Market – Consider current economic trends, cost of living, demand for your skill set, etc. This is probably also a good time to remind you to know your own worth too! Do not undersell yourself.

Stop Talking – The best bit of salary advice I’ve gotten came from a fellow who told me, “After you answer the salary question, stop talking.” He said too many people can’t stand the deafening silence that occurs after the number has been uttered; therefore, they keep talking…and talk themselves right down to a lower salary. Going into the conversation, you need to know your floor and don’t budge unless it is absolutely worth it.

It Will Get Easier – Negotiating the salary (and you should always negotiate!) for your very first job is always hardest, and employers know that. They are not aiming to fluster you. Once you’ve done it a few times, you will be comfortable being transparent while also sticking up for yourself and the value that you bring to that table.