Let’s talk about pay: 5 ways to talk salary in an interview

Perhaps no other topic is as awkward as the one that’s pressing on the minds of both people sitting at the interview table. What are we referring to here? We’re talking about the big, bad salary conversation. Bringing up compensation in an interview is enough to make a lot of people nervous.  

Why are we uncomfortable talking about salary?

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For some reason, discussing money matters is still a difficult thing to approach. Maybe it’s the whole idea of not knowing what the other person’s response will be that really shakes people up? Look at it from both side of the desk:

Recruiters often spend an inordinate amount of time picking through a candidate’s skills and qualifications. And for good reason: they want to choose the right person for the job. However, this means they often avoid talking about salary until the very end of the interview process – for fear their offer of compensation may be far out of range and they will lose a star candidate.

Candidates may be so thrilled just to get an interview that they wind up walking out of the interview without a clear picture of what kind of salary they may be looking at. Alternatively, a candidate may be worried that asking about money in an interview will paint them as just looking for another paycheck instead of a long-term career opportunity.

Five ways to talk about salary and compensation

In either case, it’s important that both job seekers and hiring managers can get past any barriers and, instead, talk openly about salary in an interview. Here are some ways to accomplish this.

  1. Check salary ranges by job type, region, and skill level before interviewing 
    Both hiring companies and candidates must do their research before the interview ever happens. Purchase a job report from a current salary source like PayScale. It will provide information about the going rates for each job title by region, skillset, and other job requirements. Have this information handy for creating job advertisements, and when going into interview sessions.
  2. Get or give salary range information up front, for informed hiring 
    All job seekers deserve to know in advance what the company can offer in terms of compensation. At the very least, make a list of the overall benefits and perks of employment of the company and share a general, industry-specific salary range.
  3. Get salary expectations out on the table first and foremost.
    Instead of waiting for the end of an interview to shyly ask about salary expectations, make this one of your first three interview questions. This may sound shocking, but it will help the candidate know what he or she is getting into, while it also helps you to learn more about what the candidate brings to the table. After all, the candidate is tasked with proving their value to the organizational bottom line.
  4. Don’t focus on dollars alone; make salary a part of an overall compensation package 
    Salary is only one part of the total compensation offered; therefore, it should be presented as such. Create a compensation statement that includes all the company benefits, the great work environment, professional development opportunities, corporate culture, and more.
  5. Creatively find ways to get around or negotiate through salary limitations.
    In the interview, if the salary is less than expected, consider ways to “sweeten the deal” by negotiating for additional perks. This could include a company car, access to new technology, a preferred office, stock options, generous paid time off, company discounts, and more. Be creative and think of ways that work can pay off for the long-term rather than just the short-term paycheck.

Compensation should not be viewed as just a salary, but rather as a gathering of many benefits that each candidate can embrace once the job offer comes. By thinking about the money topic in these terms, the conversation around salary can become much less stressful and more positive. 

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