When is it appropriate to discuss salary?

Money makes the world go round. But of course we don’t want to come across as money being the only source that drives us.  So how do we go about discussing salary when interviewing for our next role?

The truth is that, for most of us, we go to work to get paid. So is it unrealistic to have an expectation of what salary we want? Of course not. The more important question to answer is: is the figure unrealistic for the job that you are going for? For example, if you are starting in a graduate role are you asking for a salary level that would be more realistic for a Manager? In which case, you will be greatly disappointed with the outcome!

So there are two questions you need to be clear on: 1. What is the salary you need to live the lifestyle you want to live? 2. What is realistic for the position you are applying for? Ideally – the two correlate, otherwise you may need to change your lifestyle, or the job that you are applying for.

Once you are clear on your own finances, you now need to research the salary levels for the jobs you are applying for. Review salary survey information, salary information listed on online job boards, or salary data collected from professional associations. You cannot expect to get a salary increase from your current job, just because you want it, you need to back-up your salary request through evidence. Once you are clear on the salary levels appropriate to your position. You are now ready to negotiate.

There are many different thoughts as to when it is appropriate to bring up the salary question.

Sometimes, early is best.

For example, I remember applying for a job once (before finding this great role within Challenge!) that offered some very exciting opportunities and I applied straight away. I was successful in getting to interview. However, it was only when I asked about salary was it confirmed that the salary level offered would be at that level for at least a minimum of two years, with no additional commission or benefits, and that level was at least $10k less than what I was currently earning. Ouch! While I would have liked to have considered the role, the pay decrease would have been a considerable personal sacrifice and I made the decision to say no and move on.

But when is there room to negotiate? And if you have at least an idea of range on offer, what then? Penelope Trunk provides 4 Tips to Salary Negotiation that I have summarised below:

1. Don’t disclose your pay requirements during the interview process. If you provide a number first during the interview process, the interviewer will most likely tell you if you are in the same ball park or if you are too high. There is also the other case that if you ask for a figure that is lower than the employer expected you will most likely get the job without ever knowing that you could have earned more. Try asking the interviewer what he/she would pay someone for this role. If it seems lower than expected, see if there is an opportunity for increase at a later time.

2. Do not negotiate until you have an offer in writing. Get the full offer in writing so you know what you have to work with during your bargaining. You may never know about the bonus, extra commission, or salary package details, and like the finer details of any contract, you cannot work on a counter offer unless you know all of the details of what you will receive. Not only this but negotiation will require confrontation and taking action in order to receive results, and you will never know what the outcome is unless you ask.

3. Do your research and plan your attack. In order to know what to ask for in negotiations, you must first know the pay range for your position. And make sure that what you have researched is less than ten years ago so that it is relevant and recent. You can discuss this with friends or contacts in the same industry and with access to so many different types of industry news and articles it is amazing what you can find! But remember if you are requesting the top range salary, you will need to work hard to show management why you deserve that rate.

4. Know what you need. Does the company provide you with other benefits other than monetary value? Make sure your priorities do not cause you to sacrifice something you love to do for something you could care less about that has a higher pay rate. No salary report will tell you what you need in your life to be happy but you need to be honest with yourself. With that said, don’t give up on being paid more because you hate negotiating.

When do you bring the salary question up? Ever been in this situation before where you had to use your negotiation skills? What was the outcome?