Benefits of Openly Discussing Compensation

When searching for a new job, one of the key things on a person’s mind is, of course, money. People say it makes the world go round, and whether or not that is true, it is certainly a central focus for job seekers. Despite this, many job seekers are caught off guard when faced with one simple question: “What are your salary expectations?”

This question, while daunting, is an important one. It is best for it to be raised at the beginning of the interview process because both parties need to make sure they are on the same page in terms of salary expectations. When a hiring manager offers up this question, it is best for you, as a candidate, to be prepared to answer based on both your own needs and experience, plus your informed expectations of the company.

When hiring for a vacant position, companies establish a potential pay range based on rigorous research of the current job market and the company’s position within that market. Because of this, hiring managers already know how much their employer is willing to pay a candidate to fill that role. The hiring manager’s job is to find a qualified candidate that is compatible with that pre-established pay range.

Recruiters and hiring managers ask this question at the beginning of the hiring process in order to understand where candidates are in terms of expectations. This is done so early in the process for efficiency. It is important to understand a candidate’s expectations as soon as possible so common ground can be met early on. The sooner this is established, the less time is wasted for either party.

However, there is hesitancy when approaching this discussion on both sides. Candidates don’t want to pigeonhole themselves or end the interview by saying the wrong thing. Hiring managers brace themselves to approach the subject delicately. Compensation is a very sensitive topic and therefore needs to be approached objectively. This is why hiring managers/recruiters use specific phrases during these conversations. They often ask candidates “what they are looking for,” rather than asking them what they are currently making. This is not only a faux pas, but it is actually against the law in some states to ask a candidate what they are making. In most cases, it can already be assumed that a candidate is looking for an opportunity to grow beyond the job, and salary, they may currently have.

When it comes to salary, keep in mind: at this point in the interview process, it is a matter of discussion, not a negotiation. Negotiations may come later, but a final salary most likely won’t be outside of the company’s pay range. 

In short, do not be afraid of having a salary conversation early in the interview process. For hiring managers/recruiters, this is an opportunity to discuss the specific job duties and expectations with candidates. For the candidates, this is an opportunity to make sure that they are able to get what they want from an opportunity. It is also a good way to open up a discussion about their qualifications and previous accomplishments. Candidates should be confident when expressing compensation expectations and justify it with demonstrable evidence (such as awards, accomplishments, figures/number) from their previous experience.

When you’ve put thought into your answer about salary expectations, hiring managers will take notice. This level of preparedness shows foresight, competence, and confidence. With all of this established early on, you are setting yourself up for success through the rest of the process.

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