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Best Practices for Talking Salary

             How to approach the SALARY question when interviewing

An important part in any job search is money, of course, but this topic is one where many fear to tread. When should you bring up salary and should you go high or counter for more money?  There is plenty of advice on the subject, but I am going to share Talis Group’s suggestions based on years of experience hiring. 

In preparing for this article I googled the subject and cringed at some of the advice being offered.  There are so many ‘consultants’ and ‘experts’ that do not hire for a living, giving terrible advice.  Of course, you want to maximize the salary you are offered, but this isn’t a time to make up a number. 

How do you determine your salary?  Some advice suggests you google a title and the related salary range and you are free to just pick a number.  The hiring manager is a ‘buyer’ and wants to know what the item for sale, ‘you’, will cost them.  They need to see the level of skill correlates to the duties of the position being hired.  A good estimate is what you previously made plus some.  Some articles I have read make that sound like the hiring manager is unfairly targeting your past to pigeon hole the salary offer. 

When you buy a house, don’t you look at comps?  You want to know what was previously paid for that exact house and similar houses in the neighborhood.  Sometimes a house has selling points which gain them value in the purchase price.  Sometimes there are aspects of a house one buyer will pay more for because it is to their personal taste, perhaps being located on a court for reduced traffic. 

Hiring is no different.  A hiring manager wants to see what others have paid for your skills and weigh it against what they need. They will factor in things that are especially important to them as a buyer. Perhaps they value tenure more than others and are willing to pay for that to get an excellent employee with stellar tenure into their company. 

When the hiring manager brings up salary, which will usually be in the first interview (if not already during a pre-screen) to ensure you are in the right range for their need, they likely will start by asking what you are currently making.  Tell the truth then lead them into the range you are looking to make.   

“I am currently making $62k, but am looking for an opportunity in the $65k-70k range.” 

Please make sure once you state a salary range, if an offer is made in that range, you accept if you are happy with the other aspects of the job.  We occasionally have those that will decline an offer they’re happy with to see if they can get a few more thousand dollars out of the deal.  This is a risky proposition because you are technically turning down the offer and making a counter offer.  I have seen situations where the employer loses interest at that point.  The job seeker is shocked when they don’t go back to their original offer at that point. 

There are occasions with your salary is out of line with what you should be making. These are few and far between. Perhaps you are working at a non-profit organization which tends to have staff paid under the market.  If your industry is one such industry, it is acceptable to consider that in your discussions.  

“I am currently making $32k, but have been working non-profits for several years. I know my counterparts in industry are making $40k doing similar work.” 

Now act as if you are the hiring manager.  What do you think a reasonable salary is for this person,  assuming the skills are on track for what is being hired? 

Job 3                                             July 2015 to present                      Current Salary $45k

Job 2                                             July 2011 to June 2015                  40k

Job 1                                             July 2010 to June 2011                  34k 

If this person googled their job and determined nationwide the position should pay $60k, what would you think? (That is a 33% increase over their current wage.) 

1.        Salary guides are just generalizations.  Be careful to drill down to your local area.  Also, be careful with what duties go with each title. 

I once had a Payroll Manager come to me after working for me a few years and showed me a salary guide and thought she should make 5k more.  I reviewed the guide and pointed out a few points that showed she was overpaid $3k.   

2.       The above person’s skills are likely that of a mid- level person where a $60k person is management or upper level.

3.       The person most likely fit into a salary range between $48k-$50k, in my opinion.

4.       Negatives are short tenure on Job 1 and 3.  Reasonable tenure on Job 2.

There are many things to consider when talking salary with a potential employer.  I value honestly above all else and determining a salary range that is reasonable based on your salary history and skills.  Make sure to punch up niche skills and experience you possess that helps increase your value in their eyes.  Come from a genuine point of wanting to find a great move for your career path and good things will happen. 

By Renee Fulton, 6/27/17

Talis Group, Inc.