Imagine this: You’re in the middle of a great interview for a fantastic position at your ideal company. You’re impressing the recruiter with your conversation and questions when you come face-to-face with that one nerve-wracking question: “What salary are you looking for?”

Despite the increasing availability of information and conversations about fair pay, many people are still hesitant to discuss financial matters like rent, childcare, and spending habits. This discomfort extends to job interviews, where candidates, especially women, may feel uneasy bringing up the topic of salary. While we want to show our interest in a role beyond just the paycheck, the reality is that bills need to be paid.

The moment where you are asked about your salary expectations used to make me anxious. I was unsure about what to say, whether I was aiming too high or too low, and if my answer would affect my chances of getting the job. Then, a mentor shared valuable advice that changed my approach: It’s not just about the questions they ask, but also about the question I ask. So now, when I reach the salary discussion during an interview, I no longer shy away. Instead, I inquire about the budgeted salary range for the position.

The Approach

Asking the company about their budgeted salary range shifts the focus and provides insight into the company and the interviewer. It relieves the pressure on you to give a specific number, especially regarding your current salary (Note: In some places, it’s illegal to ask about current salary during interviews). While your current pay can be a starting point, it’s essential to consider that the cost of living keeps rising, and so should your salary.

In my early roles, I didn’t ask about the company’s budgeted range. I accepted my first job offer without negotiating, a decision I regret in hindsight. By not knowing how much a company can offer, I risked leaving money on the table. If I state that I’m looking for a salary between $50,000 to $60,000 but the organization’s budget allows for $75,000, I could be missing out on $15,000 minimum. On the other hand, if I request a six-figure salary but the company can only offer $75,000, I need to consider the gap between my expectations and their budget, along with other benefits.

Source: Julia M Cameron | Pexels

When you ask the hiring manager about their budget, they may disclose it or redirect the question back to you. Ideally, an open response indicates the company’s transparency and sincerity. If they are vague or avoid answering, you can delay by stating the need to learn more about the role before discussing salary or provide a range that aligns with your expectations, requiring thorough preparation.

At every interview stage, it’s crucial to understand your value and what you are willing to compromise. A desirable job with good benefits and growth opportunities might justify a lower salary, whereas if you have specific financial goals or need to cover essential expenses, you might have to decline an offer that doesn’t meet your requirements. Your final salary range should reflect your priorities, though negotiating is often beneficial. Remember, the worst outcome is a “no.”

Source: Karolina Grabowska | Pexels

The Benefits

While it may feel unfamiliar, inquiring about the salary budget during an interview has significant advantages. Knowing the company’s range empowers you to make informed decisions on whether to proceed, negotiate, or end the process if expectations don’t align.

During one interview, I asked about the salary range early on and received figures slightly below my expectation, but workable. I continued with the process and negotiated a higher salary than the initial offer, leveraging my understanding of the budget. Having this knowledge prevented me from leaving money on the table. While I can’t change past missed opportunities, I’ve learned from them.

As you prepare for your next interview, embrace the opportunity to address salary matters confidently. Remember that the interview process should assess mutual fit for the role and the company. Your needs, whether financial or otherwise, deserve consideration in this two-way evaluation.


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