Before embarking on any job search, it is unlikely you have absolutely no idea what salary you should be seeking. Although at some point during the interview process, you will undoubtedly encounter questions about your salary expectations.
Interviewees often feel uncomfortable when it comes to talking about money, particularly during job interviews. It is imperative that you can answer confidently and realistically because your response can result in an offer or rejection. This article will help you gauge what salary range is appropriate for you and how to answer questions about salaries.
How Salary Expectations can Become Skewed
We often speak to candidates who have highly unrealistic salary requirements. Here are two of the most common scenarios where candidates expectations may be off-kilter:
Newly Qualified Graduates
Newly qualified graduates often leave university with highly unrealistic salary expectations. For example, the average starting salary for a newly qualified Computer Science graduate is around £25,000. However, our own experience is that they expect between £30,000 and £40,000.
Most likely, this is because their course was ‘sold’ to them on the basis that once qualified, they could expect to earn *insert highly over-inflated figure here*.
Of course, there will be students who go on to command salaries possibly two to three times that of their peers. However, these people are almost certainly among the highest achievers who gained valuable work experience while studying.
Another common reason for candidates unrealistic salary expectations is when they find themselves in a redundancy situation. It is much cheaper for businesses to retain existing employees than it is to recruit new ones. Employers, therefore, often reward long-service with pay increases.
Over time, skills that were once scarce, become obsolete due to advances in technology, for example. When this happens, any associated job roles are made redundant, and those skills become worth a lot less. Upon leaving that employer, individuals having built their career based on these skills, find it almost impossible to find jobs. Never mind, ones paying similar level salaries as they are used to.
Get Your Salary Expectations in Check
In this digital age we now live, there is no excuse for remaining unaware of what salary level you should expect. Fortunately, it is easy to find this information by checking existing adverts on job boards, or salary checkers like Glassdoor.
Why do Employers ask Salary Expectations Questions?
Employers must be aware of the most up to date salary information to post the advert for the job in the first place. So why do hiring managers ask interview questions around salary expectations? In short, they want to be sure you are a good fit for the role. Here are the three main reasons:
Knowing the Value of Your Expertise
The most obvious reason is to ascertain whether or not you know your worth. Successful individuals keep their skills up to date and are aware of their market value for their level of experience. Pitching at a higher level could indicate arrogance or lack of awareness. Equally, positioning yourself too low could denote low self-esteem. Either could cost you the job or result in an offer you can’t afford to accept.
Hiring the Right Level Skills
Employers also want to be sure that whoever they hire is at the right level. Where one candidate has higher salary expectations than the rest, their skills may be considered too advanced for the position. Conversely, having lower expectations than your competitors could indicate that you are not as experienced as them.
Lastly, companies need to make sure they are within budget before making an offer to a candidate. To obtain authorisation for advertising a vacancy, the hiring manager must, therefore, estimate a budget. The interviewer must be sure that a successful candidate’s expectations lie within budget before making an offer.
If all candidates under consideration state higher than the amount budgeted, the company may have misjudged their target. In this situation, they have to go back to the drawing board. Either to request a budget increase or, realign their expectations regarding the skills they can afford to employ.
How to Answer Questions About Salary Expectations
An outdated piece of advice that careers advisers used to give was never to discuss money during an interview. This is quite frankly, crazy! After all, we go to work to pay the bills. Furthermore, we deserve a reward which is in line with the value we bring to the workplace.
One of the worst things you can do in a job interview is not to have an answer prepared for this question. To do so makes you appear unprepared and will almost certainly rule you out as a contender.
Below are five examples of how an interviewer might phrase questions regarding salary expectations. Additionally, we provide example answers which you may adapt to suit your circumstances:
Example 1 – Deflect
Question – What are your salary expectations for this role?
Answer – I recall that the advertised salary for this role is in the range of £60,000 – £70,000. I feel that my qualifications and experience place me at the higher end of that bracket. If you agree that I am a good fit for this position, I would be interested to hear your offer.
While not pinning yourself down to a specific number, this answer ticks several boxes for the interviewer. Firstly, it gives them confidence that you understand the market value of your skills. Secondly, you are aware that they have a budget, and lastly, it confirms that you’re interested in the position.
Example 2 – Ask for a pay rise
Question – What is your current/was your previous salary?
Answer – My current salary is £40,000. However, my reason for seeking alternative employment is that I don’t feel my skills are utilised to their fullest potential. This job is the step-up that I have been craving in terms of skill level and responsibility. My salary expectations for this position would, therefore, be closer to £50,000.
Again, this answer avoids quoting a specific salary, while reminding the hiring manager that you are looking for a raise. It also demonstrates your confidence in your skills and that you are ready to make that step up.
Example 3 – Offer a range
Question – If we were to make you an offer, what sort of salary would you be looking for?
Answer – I understand that similar positions advertised locally pay in the region of £45,000 – £50,000. I feel that my experience, skills, and qualifications, position me within that bracket.
This answer explains that you have done your homework on salaries in the local job market. Additionally, it offers confidence in your skills and ability to do the job. In reality, local remuneration figures are likely to span a broader range than £5,000. However, any offer an employer makes will probably be closer to your minimum salary expectation.
Therefore, if you’re looking for a minimum of £45,000, you’ll be more likely to get it if you ask for £45,000 – £50,000 than if you ask for £40,000 – £50,000. Asking for £40,000 – £50,000 will probably result in you receiving an offer between £40,000 and £45,000.
Example 4 – Accepting a pay cut
Question – Would you consider a job offer that didn’t match your current/previous salary?
Answer – Money is not my primary motivation in seeking a new position. I’m more interested in securing a role that’s a good fit for my skills and interests. Understanding what I do about your company, I am certain any offer you make will be competitive in the current market. If so, I would be very keen to hear what that is.
This answer reassures the hiring manager that you would be interested in hearing their offer even if it’s lower than you are currently receiving.
Example 5 – Demonstrate flexibility
Question – What compensation expectations do you have?
Answer – I am aware that a salary in the range of £65,000 and £70,000 is about the market average for my level of skills and experience. However, I am flexible and would be interested in hearing your offer, including any additional benefits.
It is becoming increasingly more common for companies to reward employees with a ‘total compensation package’, including salary plus benefits. Such packages are put in place to make a company’s overall offer more attractive to prospective employees. However, it can sometimes make salary appear lower. You should, therefore, consider any offer as a complete package rather than focusing on the salary.
If you are aware that you are interviewing with a company where this is the case, it’s a good idea to prepare an answer acknowledging this.
Never try to Negotiate Salary During an Interview
A job interview is not the time or place for salary negotiation. Any attempt to haggle with hiring managers in this situation will almost certainly cause embarrassment and result in rejection.
Upon disclosing your salary expectations, what if you are quoted a salary which is a lot less than you expected? It is wise in this situation to simply state that as your response. If the figure is less than you can afford to accept, it makes sense to thank the interviewers for their time and end the interview at this point. After all, there is no point in wasting time pursuing something you already know is not for you.
How do you respond if they offer you the position on the spot with a lower salary than you expected? Of course, you should respond gratefully but don’t decline just yet. Instead, ask them to put their offer in writing and give you some time to think about it.
As we previously mentioned, the company will have had a pre-set budget in mind for this salary. Consequently, there is no point trying to negotiate with them at this juncture. If you really want the job but the salary is too low, it’s much easier to have this conversation afterwards.
A Few Final Thoughts
When it comes to salary negotiation, it pays to have a good recruitment consultant on your side. Reputable recruiters work with the same clients on a repeat basis. They will, therefore, likely know whether that client has room in their budget to be flexible. If there is potential room for negotiation, they will have that awkward conversation on your behalf. This will undoubtedly result in a better outcome than if you attempted handling it yourself.
On the flip side, good recruiters have expert knowledge of the local job market. If they think your salary expectations are unrealistic, recruitment consultants will be honest with you.
Although an unsuccessful outcome this time around doesn’t mean it’s over. A good recruiter will advise what action you need to take to achieve your career goals.
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