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Speaking about money—even in situations where it’s entirely appropriate, such as a job interview—is rarely easy. Despite it being a normal and necessary part of any professional job application, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed and intimidated at the prospect of arguing in favour of the salary you feel that you deserve.
We get it: talking about money can be difficult. Especially if you’re a candidate and go underprepared into the conversation. This can make the subject more difficult to discuss than it should be. Moreover, it can harm your long-term earnings potential. So, let’s get some facts straight.
No matter how uncomfortable the discussion may be, it’s imperative to take the initiative. The immediate and most obvious reason to do so is, quite simply, to have more money, but it goes a little deeper than that. Here are a few more reasons you might not have considered:
Talking openly about personal and professional matters is far more accepted than ever before, yet money still feels a somewhat taboo topic in the UK and beyond. It can be extraordinarily uncomfortable to assign a stark monetary value to yourself and your efforts, especially in the context of a negotiation where the other person is trying to barter for the lowest possible salary.
One part of the solution is to be confident, direct and not to say any more than you have to. The right approach is to remove any stigmas from the conversation altogether and approach this discussion in a purely practical, businesslike way. Once you take an emotionless stance, negotiating becomes that much easier.
Another key consideration is that you don’t have to finalise anything on the spot. While you need to be prepared enough to make your case clearly and succinctly, you don’t need to be prepared to give an immediate “yes” or “no” to whatever response or counter-offer you receive. When in doubt, thank the employer for their offer, and tell them you’d like a little bit of time to consider it. Then ask when they need an answer by. Just like that, you’ve removed the stress of a back-and-forth, and bought yourself some time to go home, do some thinking and decide what you want.
“Being transparent, consistent, and thoughtful are my biggest recommendations for candidates when preparing for salary questions,” said Katherine Safar, a recruiter at a large tech company.
“Transparent because your hiring manager is getting to know the person who will be a potential employee. Consistent, in your responses and attitude, to show that you have done your research and also know your worth as a potential employee. And thoughtful in how you approach this. Salary conversations and negotiations are important to your career, so do your homework and be prepared before kicking off a conversation.”
This can vary greatly depending on the industry, company and hiring manager you’re speaking to. Generally, there are two schools of thought:
Which approach you take is up to you. According to Nicole Drummond, a career development coach, in either case, “It’s always ideal to get the company to talk compensation first, and many companies will ask during the phone screen to assure that any perspective employee/interviewee financials align with the company’s budget. If you haven’t had the conversation by the second or third interview, don’t hesitate to open up the conversation by asking, ‘What’s the salary range you’re budgeting for this role?’”
Remember, knowledge is power. When negotiating salary, you should have several data points in your head to either reference internally, or use to negotiate. Additionally, this is a normal part of any hiring decision. A recent survey found that only 55% of job candidates attempt to negotiate for a higher salary, despite 70% of hiring managers expecting it, so go in with the confidence that this is all part of the process.
Here are some concrete ways in which you can prepare for this conversation.
Use websites like Glassdoor for your research on both, the relevant title across different companies and industries, and different positions at the company you’re applying to. This will give you an idea of the industry average, and how well or poorly your target company seems to be matching those averages.
This includes friends or mentors who have or have had jobs similar to the one you’re applying for. First-hand knowledge of the industry rate and any personal experience you can glean about negotiating for your role are terrific points of reference.
After you’re done researching, give yourself a firm salary range that you’re comfortable with. It needs to be a range that you believe is fair, achievable and suits your ambitions. Once you’ve established a range you think is fair, you should also know your “personal range”, according to Drummond. Ideally, this would be the same as your projected range for the role, but it may be slightly lower if the job is one that you feel extremely passionate about, and you’d be willing to accept it even if the rate isn’t quite in line with industry standards. However, Drummond said, “Know that there might be times you have to decline an offer because it doesn’t fit into that range.”
You should consider how valuable benefits are to you and how much they’d affect the minimum salary that you require from a new role. Drummond said “Don’t hesitate to ask if they offer other things that might mean more to you when looking at an overall package, such as personal development funds, a sign-on bonus, the ability to assess salary after six months on the job rather than the traditional one year, more PTO [holiday] days, a gym stipend, the ability to work remotely or flexible work hours.”
Once the groundwork is done, all that’s left to do is get down to brass tacks and negotiate! While it’s never a relaxing experience, if you’ve done all your homework and have a handle on your preferred approach, the whole process will be a lot more manageable.
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Writer, editor and digital content specialist