I speak with candidates daily about their careers. We talk about the skills and experiences they bring and the types of roles they would be interested in hearing about in the future. And then I ask about money. Sometimes the silence on the other end of the phone can be deafening.
It’s a tricky thing, this salary question. But when speaking with a recruiter, it’s important to recognize why the question is being asked so directly, and how your answer can ultimately benefit you in the end. Here are a few tips when speaking with a recruiter about salary.
1. Answer honestly and confidently. Depending on the current employment status of the candidate I am speaking with, I will ask, “What is your current compensation?” or “What was your most recent compensation?” I’m looking for both base salary and bonus opportunity, as well as any other compensation additions you may have (such as fully paid medical benefits, car allowance, etc.).
Your first reaction may be to defer the question, but I encourage you to instead answer the question honestly and confidently. If your current salary is a bit lower than previous jobs because you may have had to take a step back during the recession, or your company has not provided raises during the tough economic times, this is the time to have a conversation around those points. There’s no requirement to just say a number and stop talking.
What I typically find is that candidates are generally in an appropriate salary range for their level, experience, geographic location and industry. And typically, the salary range for the position that I am speaking with the candidate about is also appropriate for further discussion. If there is a large disparity between your salary, and the salary range of the position for which I am recruiting, I will have a conversation with you about those differences so we can determine together if it makes sense to move forward.
2. Find out if the range is a match. Once you answer the salary question, it is your opportunity to turn the question back to the recruiter by asking something like, “Is this in line with the salary range for the position that we are discussing?”
When I’m speaking with a candidate, I want them to know up front that they don’t need to worry about getting through the process only to be offered a compensation package they will never accept. While I may not share specific numbers, I will provide enough details to give the candidate the information they need to decide to move forward. And if you are much higher than the salary range of the position, I will have an honest conversation to set expectations, or take the opportunity to walk away and look at more appropriate roles in the future.
3. Remember that base salary is not the only factor. Compensation packages are a mix of salary, bonus and benefits, but there are many other factors that matter when determining how pay impacts the decision to go for a job. Commute, vacation days, ability to have flexible hours or work from home are all areas that should be discussed. It’s good to ask the recruiter questions around these areas after you’ve had a chance to share your skills and experiences – and after you know if the position’s responsibilities and opportunities are a match for you.
My goal when asking the question about money is to be sure that the job I am speaking with you about is a match for both you and the company in all areas — skills, experience, education, culture fit and compensation. Your goal is to be considered for opportunities that allow you growth in your career with an organization that values what you bring to the table. Having a direct conversation allows everyone to win.