How to Handle Salary Conversations with Confidence

How to Handle Salary Conversations with Confidence image How to Handle Salary Conversations with ConfidenceHow to Handle Salary Conversations with ConfidenceIn both my recruiting and my job search coaching, I’ve been hearing a lot of questions about salary negotiations lately so I’ve put together a little Q&A of common questions.

First, though, let’s talk about the mindset of salary for your new job.

It’s disconcerting talking about money, isn’t it? Many of us have issues around worthiness and putting the right price on our own services (which is all a salary is… the price for your services).

There’s also usually a little distrust triggered on both sides. Job seekers don’t trust employers to be fair and employers prefer to minimize their investment until a new hire proves their worth.

Here are a few ways to not get in your own way when it’s time to talk salary:

  • Keep your ego out of it. It’s a business conversation, so approach it logically and openly, and don’t let your feelings get in the way. This is not an argument, and the people at the company are not your enemy.
  • Know what you’re worth. Salaries depend on the scope of the job, the geographic area, the industry and the stage and size of the company. Glassdoor.com and Salary.com are great resources, and don’t be afraid to ask around.
  • Be honest. I know a lot of people encourage you to lie about your past salary, but don’t. I’ve seen great people lose a job when their lie was discovered. The truth is always the better choice, given with the right explanation.
  • See the other side’s perspective. Think about the company’s priorities and situation. Your worth to them changes depending on what you have that they need and how well you will solve their problems.
  • Know your limits. You need to know the number that would thrill you, as well as the rock bottom salary package you will accept. Crunch the numbers now so you can quickly respond to a job offer later.
  • Be willing to ask for what you want. This should be obvious, but if you don’t ask, then you can’t get.
  • Don’t negotiate for the sake of negotiating. If the offer is what you want, that means you and the company are on the same page. Don’t make a game out of it.

Okay, now that your mind is in the right place, here’s are my answers to some of the salary negotiation questions I’ve been asked.

Q: What do I say if they ask for my salary history?

It’s a smart idea to provide everything a company requests or you might be eliminated from consideration simply based on not following directions. If your current salary is not outrageously high or low, share it. If it is outrageously high or low, explain why that is without badmouthing the employer. (“They’re cheapskates” is a bad answer. “The chance to lead marketing was well worth taking a big cut” or “My company is known for high salaries, but there is more to life than money” are good answers.)

Q: What should I include when I tell them my salary?

Include your base salary, and if you have commissions or bonuses built in, say what your target earnings are when you hit your goals. Don’t try to pad the number by adding the value of benefits, perks or expense allowances, though you can mention them.

Q: What should I say when they ask how much I want?

Don’t pin yourself to a specific number, but don’t blow off the question, either. Instead, give them a wide range by saying “I’m looking at jobs from $60K to $100K. I know that’s a wide range, but the right salary depends on the demands of the job and what I can bring to the company.” Follow that up with “Can you tell me your budget for this job?”

Q: Should I bring salary up in the interview process?

Try to wait for the interviewer to bring it up. Companies with low salaries want to screen out the unaffordable people quickly. If your interview has gotten serious and you suspect they can’t afford you, you can ask, but keep it casual by asking “Can you give me the ballpark of your salary budget?”

Q: I was underpaid at my last job so it looks like I want a big increase. What should I say?

Tell the truth, but give an explanation. “Because the company was new, we all accepted far less than market rate plus a lot of options. Our competitor pays at least $25,000 more for my job. Most important is that I’m paid in alignment with others at the company.”

Q: I’m burned out from my high-powered job and want something less stressful. How do I explain being willing to accept so much less money?

No one wants to hire someone who is settling, so it’s up to you to let them know why you would choose to give up title, status or money. Avoid saying things like “I’m burned out” (who wants to hire a burnout?) and find a way to make it seem like a fair tradeoff. For instance, “My current job is great, but it requires me to work 80 hours a week and be away from home three weeks out of four. It’s time for more balance in my life now, so trading money for time will make me very happy.”

Q: I really want this job but it pays $10,000 a year less than I want. The company says their offer is at the top of their range. How can I get more money?

Sometimes a company’s hands are tied, but it’s worth seeing if there are other ways you can get more money. Tell them that you were hoping for a higher offer, but you’d like to see if there’s a way to work things out. Ask if they ever give signing bonuses, or if you can arrange to have a salary review in three or six months. If the answer is no, try asking for non-cash tradeoffs, like being able to work from home one or two days a week, or getting an extra week of vacation.

Most important when you’re talking about salary is to remember that the company and you really do have the same objective: to get you on board feeling happy and appreciated. Approach your conversations with that in mind, and you’ll do great.

Photo courtesy of 123rf.com

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