Dec. 18, 2020

How to negotiate your salary in a job interview

How to negotiate your salary in a job interview

How do you negotiate your salary in a job interview? What's the best way to answer the question "What is your salary range expectation?" In this blog post, I help you decide on the best strategy to negotiate your salary.

While there's no one-size-fits-all answer to this question, your aspired salary range, your leverage in the negotiation process, and laying your cards on the table at the right time in the process will help you devise a strategy to negotiate the salary you want and deserve.

Four easy steps to craft the perfect strategy to negotiate your salary

Step One: Preparing the data

Start by determining the salary range you are aiming for. What is the minimum salary you would accept? What would you consider a good offer?

Once you have a clear idea, I recommend doing some research to answer two important questions:

  1. What is the salary range for this particular position at the company you applied to?
  2. What is the average pay for this position in your geographical area? You may be able to find information on websites such as Glassdoor, Indeed, PayScale, or ZipRecruiter.

Step Two: Understanding your negotiation position

A big part of negotiating your salary relies on understanding how much leverage you have during the recruitment process. By and large, you probably fall under one of the following scenarios:

  • You currently have a great job, a good salary, and no intention to leave your position. You are having this interview because a headhunter contacted you about this role. In addition to this, you might have unique skills. Or perhaps the company has an urgent need to fill their vacancy. All these scenarios put you in a very strong negotiating position.
  • Or you may be the one who desperately needs the job. This could be because you are currently in between roles or because your existing job is at risk. Add to this that the competition might be considerable, and your negotiating position becomes less fortunate.
  • And finally, you may be somewhere in between the two above scenarios.

Understanding the leverage you have with your future employer will determine when you should have this conversation and how much you should ask for. 

Step Three: Choosing your strategy

If you have the lower hand, in most cases, I would recommend not sharing your salary expectations with the interviewer. Instead, let the company make the first offer. 

On the contrary, if you have the upper hand, you can discuss your salary expectations either during or after the interview process, once you have been offered the role.

Lastly, if you are somewhere in between - where you want the job but are not desperate to move yet - then in many cases, the right strategy might be to avoid specifying a concrete number during the interview process. Instead, you may want to wait and start negotiating your salary after being selected as the best candidate but before receiving the job offer.

How much money should you ask for? 

If you have the upper hand, it is often a good idea to pick a number between the middle and the upper end of your range.

If you have the lower hand, in many cases, the best strategy is to avoid giving any number at all.

And if you are in between, then depending on how well-aligned your expectations are with the company's range for this position, you have one of three options:

  1. If your salary expectations fit the ones from your prospective employer, you might want to ask for a figure just above the middle of your range.
  2. However, if your salary range expectation is lower than the company's, I would recommend you wait for them to make you an offer first.
  3. And finally, if your salary expectations are higher than what the company usually pays, then you might want to be putting your offer on the table first. In this case, it is often a good idea to choose a figure that is slightly over your minimum but not entirely off the company's range or the average salary for this position in your area. 

Step Four: Addressing the salary expectation question

So, what to say when asked, "What is your salary range expectation?" 

If you want to avoid giving a specific figure, you could say you'd rather not answer the question until you fully understand the whole compensation package, including potential other benefits. You could also say that you would like to understand the role and expectations in more detail first, but you are confident you and your future employer will be able to reach a fair agreement once it's established that you are the right candidate. 

If you do want to put a number to your salary expectations, you could explain that you are interested in the role and sure that you can provide value, given your skills and background. You could also say that based on your research, you would expect a salary in a specific range and then ask whether that is aligned with the budget the employer has for this position.

Alternatively, if you have the upper hand in the negotiations, you could say that you are confident you can provide value and deliver results quickly. And that you would expect a specific salary in order to leave your existing job.  

What if the interviewer asks you about your existing salary?

In case the interviewer asks you how much you currently earn, you may first need to decide whether you want to answer this or not. After all, disclosing the information will only play to your advantage if your existing salary is higher than what the company presumably is prepared to offer. But in most cases, it is best not to share your salary with your interviewer. 

Instead, you could either say that the positions are not comparable and therefore neither is the salary. Or you could say that your current employer considers their salary ranges confidential. Therefore, you are not at liberty to disclose the information. Depending on where you live, it might even be illegal for the interviewer to ask this question. And in this case, you may choose to refuse to answer it. 

You can find out more about answering interview questions on my blog or on my podcast. And if you would like more specific help on how to negotiate your salary, feel free to contact me