3 Simple salary discussion tips for the job seeker

Submitted by: Mike Lemons, MBA, CCC Volunteer Career Coach

If you are actively looking for a job you have likely encountered the salary subject, even before stepping foot into an office for an interview.

Talking about work history, even family life, seems less personal than talking about money. It can feel awkward and uncomfortable – but it does not have to be. Here are three tips to make salary discussions productive and turn them to your favor.

Tip 1: Turn the Question Around

While some states like California have banned employers from asking applicants about their salary history, states like Illinois have no such law. It is the wild wild west when it comes to compensation discussions, varying widely from one company to the next, as to when recruiters ask about comp and how they ask about it. When the recruiter asks this question, first know that you are not legally obligated to disclose your salary history nor expectations. Unfortunately, many employers will use the compensation question to “weed-out” candidates. While you are not obligated to answer the question, if you decline to answer, it may stall your advancement in the hiring process or kick you out completely. Here is what you can do:

When asked about compensation expectations, turn the question back to the recruiter by asking them what salary range they are expecting for the position. You can simply respond with whether or not that falls into an acceptable range. Taking this approach ensures that both parties are in general agreement about salary expectations and keeps you moving along process at that company.

Tip 2: Get the Big Picture

Compensation means what the prospective employer is willing to provide you, of which salary is only one (albeit important) component. A high salary, but scant benefits may not align with your personal needs, while a lower salary with more robust benefits might be.

Here are some questions you can ask to help understand the totality of the compensation package:

Who is the insurance provider, what is the coverage, and how much will it cost per pay period?

Is there flexibility to work from home? This is a great negotiation point that does not cost the company a dime but can help reduce your commuting expenses.

How many days off (PTO) are included? How do those days build-up over time?

Is there a 401(k) program? If so, what is the employer % contribution, and how soon after the hire date can you participate in the program?

Can you expense items like cell phone, home office, internet? Getting reimbursement for these items can add to your bottom-line quickly and put more money back in your pocket!

Tip 3: Ask for More

Whether you have been in the job market for weeks, months or years remember one thing; YOU have great value! If you have been out of work don’t let the feeling of “someone is giving me a job” enter into the equation. Negotiate the starting salary as high as possible since it is the baseline for future raises and salary discussions. Few companies will give you their highest number out of the gate as they try to keep salary expenses as realistically low as possible. When you counter, be respectful and thank them for the initial offer. Follow that up with concrete reasons why you need the salary you need, an example below:

“Thank you for the offer, I am very excited for the opportunity and have enjoyed meeting the team! I have reviewed the entire compensation package in detail, including the salary, and need to get closer to (salary here) because (insurance costs are higher, you’ll have higher commuting costs, etc.).”

Monetize the reasons as much as possible, it will help support your position factually and remove emotion from the discussions.

We hope that these three tips help you get what you deserve! If you have not checked out our other job search resource’s please contact the Community Career Center today!

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