Should I Ask About Compensation in My Interview?

Dec 28, 2020 | Interview Tips

Here’s a question that comes up a lot: should I talk about compensation in my interview?

It’s hard to know if it is the right time to bring it up, and because good interviewers are trained to make you feel comfortable you might misread the situation as being right to talk about it.

Sometimes you are also tempted to want to bring it up early because you genuinely want to be upfront and not waste anyone’s time.

One approach is to never talk about it until they do, which might lead you to be cornered into accepting an offer below market value. Another approach is to lead with it, which makes you seem money focused and entitled.

The answer to this question is in the middle of these two approaches.

Don’t bring it up in the first interview

Never bring it up in your first interview unless they do. Here is why:

Don’t put the cart before the horse. Asking about compensation too early signals an assumption that you have gotten the job before any offer is made. It also signals that people should be willing to invest in you before even knowing how you can help them. To be frank, it may be viewed as a false sense of entitlement!

Keep the focus on you. When a prospective employer first meets you, the focus needs to be on what you can do to help their organization. People need to know the value of what you bring before they’ll be willing to spend money. Stay focused on building trust with your interviewer by talking about how you can help, building a genuine relationship with your interviewer, your interest in the job, your passions, and your experience.

Now, if you don’t hear about compensation by the end of a second interview (if there is one) or begin receiving clear signs that the organization is interested in you, then it is absolutely fair to bring it up and you should.

Tips for how to talk about it when it is time

Here’s how to bring it up effectively with tact, or ways to talk about it if the interviewer brings it up:

Focus on non-salary information first. Ask them about benefits, vacation time, who are you working with, anticipated start date, workplace, expected hours, or anything else you may think of. Bring up the base salary last. This will help you put the base salary in proper perspective by being able to add the non-base compensation to the base compensation.

Do market research before the interview. Most companies have defined salary ranges now and you can find out a ballpark range with a simple Google Search. Use these tools if you can before the interview to be sure you are going in the right direction.

Be specific. Always be specific about your base salary expectations as opposed to offering a range. If you tell the employer your range is $60k-$70k, then you are likely going to get an offer closer to $60k. Most people try to give a range to be flexible in good faith but then leave with less than they hoped for. Remember, this may be a starting point for negotiation with some back and forth, so you need to be specific.

Have healthy confidence. Go in with humble and healthy confidence by knowing what you are worth. If they ask, give this number confidently by starting with what you think you can contribute to the organization followed up by the number itself. Let them know that you want to be able to give everything you can to them but you need to also be able to give yourself or your family what they need as well, which is why you request that amount.

Know when to fold ’em. If they can’t meet your requirements quickly and the back and forth begins to drag on, it is likely best to politely decline and move on. At this point, it’s unlikely you can find the middle ground that both parties need.

GET EVERYTHING IN WRITING! Setting good boundaries for your working relationship early will help both parties. Anything spoken about that is related to compensation should be in writing. Have never met anyone who wasn’t disappointed after taking a job when compensation specifics weren’t outlined in writing in the Offer Letter.

These tips will keep you from clumsily handling a sensitive subject to confidently projecting your worth.

If you need help navigating this tough conversation, I am here for you!

Tim Dyck
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