“So, what are your salary expectations?” You know you are going to get asked this at some point during your job search – it’s a key piece of information for both the recruiter and hiring manager. And yet for many, being asked this question is still enough to make you shift about uncomfortably in your seat.
You’re not alone – many candidates find discussing their salary expectations a daunting prospect. More often than not, this is because they aren’t clear on: A. Who this conversation will be with – is it the recruiter, the interviewer or both? B. When exactly they will need to have this conversation – is it during the first meeting with the recruiter or during the interview with the employer? C. How much money should they ask for, and how should they negotiate this figure if needs be?
To help you prepare for these conversations and confidently ask for the salary you want and deserve, we have shared the following advice:
1. Know your worth and your priorities
Determine your ideal salary before meeting with a recruiter or hiring manager. How do you put a numerical figure on your skills, experience and potential? There are a number of factors to consider here. Think about your desired job title, location, industry, company size, skills and level of experience. Then consult a salary guide to ensure your salary expectations are in line with current market rates.
Next, consider how flexible you are willing to be with this figure, taking into consideration your other key criteria for your next role, such as flexible working, bonus schemes, training courses and so forth. Some organisations may not have the resource to pay you your desired salary, particularly if they are a start-up or a not-for-profit, but they could meet your other career needs in terms of progression opportunities or work-life balance. The key is to assess your list of “must-haves” for this role, and identify where salary sits on this list.
2. Work with a recruiter
Next, arrange a meeting with a recruiter who can put you forward for suitable roles. In your meeting, your recruiter will ask about your salary expectations. When they do, it’s best to be completely open and honest with them. After all, even though you have done your own research, your recruiter also knows the market rate for your role and level of experience. Furthermore, they know what their clients are able to offer. You may be asking for too little or too much – and it’s best you find this out sooner rather than later.
Rest assured, the recruiter will keep salary information confidential, and only disclose this to the client who is going to be interviewing you, which takes me onto my next point.
3. Get ready to talk money during the interview
The next step in the recruitment process is to attend interviews that your recruiter arranges with employers who are hiring. The hiring managers you meet with will be aware of your salary expectations, but very rarely will they try to discuss this directly with you in the interview. Instead, these conversations typically happen via your recruiter. However, be prepared to discuss your salary expectations on the rare chance the hiring manager raises the topic with you directly. Go into the interview with a clear idea of your salary expectations, based on your discussions with your recruiter. If they want to discuss salary further, particularly if they want to negotiate and lock in a figure, you can advise them to speak to your recruiter who will negotiate on your behalf.
Make sure you communicate confidence (read our advice on that here) in your salary discussions by sitting up straight, making eye contact and answering simply, avoiding filler words such as “just”, “might” “like” and “um”. For instance, rather than saying, “I feel like I want X amount ideally, just because of Y and Z. But what do you think?” it is better to state, “I am looking for X amount”.
4. Prepare to negotiate via your recruiter
If the interviewer wants to make you an offer, they will do so via the recruiter. When you hear the offer, whatever you do, don’t accept a verbal offer there and then if you are not happy with it. Talk to your recruiter about the offer and ask if there is room to negotiate. Your recruiter can negotiate on your behalf without jeopardising the offer, so make sure you fully utilise their service.
You could also give your recruiter some bargaining chips in case your salary expectations can’t be met. For example, perhaps you would consider flexible working or training and development opportunities.
Being clear on when and how to talk salary is essential to your career, whether this is when you are applying for new roles or asking for a pay rise in your current one (read our blogs on negotiating a pay rise subject here). It takes practice, but you will soon find yourself able to confidently and assertively ask for what you deserve both now, and throughout your future career journey.