You will get asked this question if you are dealing with a Recruiter or HR professional with even a little experience and are being considered for a non-entry level position. If you’re not expecting it, it’s a little disconcerting, and it will be easy to make some critical mistakes that greatly diminish your negotiating power.
Follow these tips to avoid making critical mistakes.
Know what the market rate is for the position. Talk to people who are in that role or ask the headhunter for the range (but remember that the headhunter has been hired by the company). This is critical information you must get or you’re likely to leave money on the table. If the compensation isn’t in the ballpark, don’t waste your time or theirs.
Figure out if you like the job and people before you begin discussing money.
If you’re asked about your salary expectations before you’ve figured out if you are really interested in the job, say something like this “I’d like to hold off on talking about salary until we’re both comfortable that this is a good fit.” Most recruiters will be persistent and work hard to get a number out of you. They negotiate for a living and are better at this than you. Don’t be intimidated. Don’t let them use your discomfort to get you to provide information that hurts your negotiating power. Here are some other polite ways to avoid answering the question
- “Until I understand more about the scope of the job and other elements of a compensation package like benefits, it’s not possible for me to quote a number.”
- “Before we get to that, let’s make sure future conversations are even worthwhile. What is the salary range for this position?”
- “I’m sure you have a good sense of the market rate for this position and what you’re offering is consistent with that.”
If you’re talking to a recruiter, they will almost certainly push back and come up with a slightly different question or statement to put pressure on you to divulge your expectations. Once again stand firm. Revert back to a version of “I’m not ready to talk about money. I’ve done my research and expect to be paid market rates, but let’s figure out first if it’s a good fit.” Don’t feel bad about avoiding the question. After 2-3 attempts, they’ll figure out that you know the game they are playing and back off….for the time being.
Determine what salary or compensation package would make you happy. Now that you’ve figured out that you’re interested in the job and have identified the market rate for this position from your research, decide what it would take for you to accept an offer.
Negotiate. Avoid being the first to throw out a number. You have the leverage because they can`t give you an offer without a salary number included. If they give you a range during the discussions, start your negotiations at the high point of the range. You should never give a range, because they will start at the low point of your range and try to push you lower.
What if you’re asked the question, “What is your current salary?” NEVER answer this question. You lose all of your negotiating power if you answer this question. What you are currently getting paid isn’t relevant. What is relevant is your experience and talent, and the market rate for those skills. If your current job pays you $100K, but market rate for the new position is $150K, telling them your current salary will get you an offer closer to $110-115K when you would otherwise have been paid something close to $150K.
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