Overwhelmingly, most of us feel uncomfortable when answering questions about salary during a recruitment process. And not simply because of the awkwardness factor of verbalising your ‘worth’ but also the dilemma of pitching yourself at the right level while not missing out on the opportunity. However, as part of a recruitment process, it is a necessary question to ensure both parties are aligned in their thinking.

Here are some practical suggestions from our team on how to confidently discuss your salary expectations.

Be Prepared

Before you commit to applying for a job vacancy, do your research and understand either what the salary range is for the role or what your value/worth is. If it is not clear on the advertised role listing, you can try online sources like Glassdoor, LinkedIn, PayScale or SEEK for insights into similar roles.

Start a conversation with the recruiter/hiring manager; it’s not an unreasonable question to ask. Recruitment processes can be lengthy and there’s no point being part of that journey if there is not alignment on something fundamental like remuneration.

Determine Your Value

For most of us, there’s an expectation that a job change equals a salary increase. Either because you are applying for a role that is a step up in your career or you feel you have been undervalued in your previous role.

There are however many variables that determine salaries, from the sector/industry you’re working in through to the type of company and its approach to remuneration. What you have previously been paid is sometimes not an accurate reflection of your actual value.

How do you determine your value?

Again, it comes down to researching your worth based on what is happening in the market and how roles are being remunerated. Seek out an expert like a recruitment consultant who can provide their opinion on where you should be pitching yourself, based on your skills and experience, relative to the type of roles you are considering.

Understanding market conditions, particularly supply and demand, is important but even for highly in-demand talent our advice is to proceed with caution when it comes to employers who are advertising overly generous salary packages, in an attempt to lure talent. While it may depend on your situation, you should always consider the longevity of a role as well as the culture of the workplace and the expectations placed on employees.

More Than Money

For any job seeker, there is a lot to consider when making a decision about accepting a new role – think career progression, work-life balance, social impact, dissatisfaction etc.

In our experience working alongside candidates, salary alone is not an ideal ‘sole’ driver when considering a career move.

The research backs this up, at a certain level there’s no correlation between your wage and emotional wellbeing.

How an employer structures their compensation strategy differs remarkably. And that’s why it’s important to understand the entire package being offered for a role, as well as what benefits and perks are important to you. Rank them in terms of their priority and value (such as extra annual leave, health benefits, and flexible hours). Then determine whether these factors are a possibility for the role you are considering pursuing.

Options When Answering

If you do decide to share your salary expectations you can either answer based on your understanding of the role and the market value, or by sharing your existing salary range and expectations for the future.

If you know the role is pitched at a certain level, then responding with a simple “I’m comfortable in the range being offered” is sufficient without committing to an exact figure. Just be clear in your own mind that your target salary does sit in that range, particularly your absolute bottom line figure.

You can also add to the discussion with insights into what other benefits are important to you and touch on “creative” ways to build a package that meets everyone’s needs.

Respectfully Redirect

Maybe you feel the timing isn’t right to answer the salary question or perhaps there are reasons for not revealing your position first. If that’s the case, then you can always flip it back to the interviewer and ask them what the salary range is or whether what you are asking is aligned to what they are offering.

Similarly, stating that you are still trying to fully understand the role and what’s expected of you, is an effective technique to move the conversation along.

There is nothing wrong with being vague, for example “I’m looking for a competitive salary that reflects what I can bring to a role”. There is however a problem with either party ignoring the expectations of the other party, in the hope that they can influence them at some point in the future.

It’s A Negotiation, Isn’t It?

When you are offered a position, the actual discussion about your remuneration is essentially a negotiation. You are aiming for a salary commensurate with your experience and the position, and ultimately, a “good” employer will be driven to do the same thing.

There is a belief that being offered the position before having this discussion gives the candidate more leverage – they want you in the role and will be willing to pay in order to secure you. To a certain extent this may be correct BUT to get to this point in the process while knowing your expectations are not aligned with the employer, is disingenuous, not to mention a waste of your time.

Quickfire Tips

  • During the actual interview, wait for the interviewer to ask the question. At this stage in the process, you should have an approximate idea of where the role sits. You want to spend the bulk of your time in an interview talking about your suitability for the role.
  • Base the range on your background and understanding of the current market, against the responsibilities of the role.
  • Keep your response concise, it’s a one sentence answer.
  • Include an explanation of how the salary range you provided is commensurate to your skills and experience i.e., back yourself.
  • You do not have to share your current/previous salary or provide an exact number.
  • Practice answering the question – it will help take the awkwardness away, so you respond clearly and factually.

In Summary

Pre-interview, you should have some idea of the salary for the role you have applied for – if it hasn’t been shared already, there are lots of ways you can research this. If asked, remember this isn’t a salary negotiation, that comes further down in the process. It’s simply an opportunity to make sure both parties are aligned in their expectations for the role. Be prepared for this question (it will be asked) and don’t feel uncomfortable about answering.

Online resources available on our website for job seekers:

How to answer ‘tricky’ interview questions
Popular online tools for job seekers
Virtual interview guide

Need Help?

At Decipher Group, we take your career as seriously as you do. We’ve been connecting talented people with exciting opportunities for over 15 years. Our team are fully committed to making a positive impact for our candidate communities – empowering and enabling talented people to meet their career ambitions. Let’s talk.

The Decipher Team

To stay on top of current recruitment trends and hear about new role vacancies, follow Decipher Group on LinkedIn.

Frequently Asked Questions

A short Q&A with our team on related questions that people commonly search for on Google.

Why do interviewers ask for my salary expectations?

The short answer is because they want to make sure your expectations are aligned with the budgeted salary for the role. In some instances, it can also give them an indication of your level of experience, which helps in assessing your fit for a role. Ultimately, there’s no point progressing in a recruitment process if both parties are not aligned when it comes to salary.

How do I research salaries?

There are many online sources like Glassdoor, LinkedIn, PayScale or SEEK that can give you an indication of what salaries are available. You can also speak with recruiters who will share market insights. Simply searching ‘salary guide’ will bring up a number of useful salary snapshots from recruitment and career sites that offer current salaries, based on a number of criteria like role type and location.

Should I accept a role for less money?

There are many factors that you need to consider as a job seeker when it comes to accepting a job offer – how much you will be paid is important but not necessarily the key driver. Taking a pay cut for a role in a company with clear progression pathways for example, could be a very attractive proposition. Alternatively, you may be actively considering a ‘step-down’ role to free up your time for other pursuits, in which case it’s likely that there will be a drop in salary.

The starting point is being clear on your own financial situation and then assessing what will you gain and/or lose professionally, personally and financially.

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