In today’s market, the salary question is coming up with increasing frequency at the beginning of the process.   Yes, even during the phone screening so which can sabotage your chances of moving ahead in the process should you not be prepared.  Being prepared and able to answer the salary question in all its potential iterations, communicates a level of professionalism that could set you apart from others.

The key to nailing this topic is to be prepared, to listen well to the question being asked and to only share what is required.  Additionally, avoid getting into a negotiation about compensation until you have a written offer which you have had time to evaluate appropriately.

Be prepared.  Most important will be to know what your past two W2 Forms read.  This will lay the foundation for fact-based answers to some of the potential questions you may encounter throughout the process.  Furthermore, when you land the job, the potential employer may request copies of your W2s to ensure that the salary information you shared during the interview process was accurate and truthful; this is occurring with increased frequency and is not at all unusual in today’s competitive market.  

Listen and do not communicate more than what is asked.  As an example, if the interviewer asks what you made in your last position it is probably not in your best interest (with some exceptions) to break down the various components of the cash compensation unless asked.  Avoid volunteering information if not asked.

While you should be authentic and develop your own answers to the salary questions, below are sample questions and answers to help you prepare.  The questions are listed in order of increasing difficulty and complexity with the more straightforward questions shown first.

Q. “What is your current salary/was your salary at your last job?"

A - "It would be very difficult for me to compare my last salary with this position for various reasons – primarily because I don’t have enough information about your whole package. I’m sure we can discuss this subject and your entire package before an offer is made.”

A - "It might make sense to talk about the role and then about the entire package as related to the role.  In my last position, I took less salary in exchange for the opportunity to own a share of the company and of profits.  We would probably benefit from evaluating the entire package you offer before comparing the two jobs or salaries."

A - “My last W2, which was for 2008, read $120,000 in earnings.”  (If you are unable to postpone the topic and if pressed for a number.)

Q: "What are your salary expectations?" or “What do you expect in the way of salary?”

A - "If possible, I'd like to have that conversation a bit further down the road, once we have a chance to talk in greater depth about the opportunity and position.  My main focus is to get a better sense of the challenges you face as an organization and, more specifically, within your group, and to talk about how I might be able to deliver value and help you work through those challenges and be successful.  Maybe you could tell me what is budgeted for the position, and how your overall compensation structure works." 

A - "At this stage in the conversation, I’d like to focus on what most important which is fit and role.  Once we determine that both the fit and the role are aligned, it would be great to talk about salary.  Salary is not the most important factor to me, as I'm looking for the right overall opportunity." 

A - "I’d like more information about the position before discussing salary. Can you tell me if you have a range budgeted for this position?"

Q. "What salary range would you require to accept an offer?"

A - "From the research that I have done it appears to be in the $80–90,000 range.  Is that the range you had in mind?" (If you are unable to postpone the topic and if pressed for a number.)

A - "Based on my previous experience and education, as well as on the research I’ve done, I would like to be in the mid to high 80s. Is that a range that fit with your compensation structure?" (Again, if pressed for a range.)

A - "I would love to learn more about your compensation structure and overall package, including the frequency of salary reviews/adjustments  first.  Could you provide me with more information on that?" (Pushed the conversation to the interviewer.) 

Q. "Would you consider taking less pay than you made in your last job?"

A - "I would really like to know more about the opportunity and the overall package before answering that question.  You may offer benefits or non-cash compensation that my last position did not and vice versa, so as much information shared would be helpful."

A - "While my focus in the next chapter of my career is not money, it is important to me that I be fairly compensated for the work I do.  I would be willing to listen to a fair offer based on the value I bring to the position and challenges you face, by the way of my level of experience and education."

A - "Opportunity is valuable to me.  I am always willing to look at the bigger picture.  I would want to be paid according to what I bring to the position, but am willing to be somewhat flexible as long as the economics make sense."

10/2/2009 02:31:12 am

Colette -

In viewing your website, I am especially impressed with your thoughtful tips for executive candidates in answering questions posed by potential employers (or recruiters) with regard to compensation/salary information.

I'm always surprised when I mention to candidates (and they hadn't realized) that it's perfectly legal (and increasingly common) for potential employers to ask for copies of W-2s to verify compensation. Being prepared to answer adequately to these questions is of utmost importance, and I'm glad you took the time to discuss this in your Blog.

With your permission, I'd like to be able to direct candidates to your website, for further insight into this and other topics.

Ginnie/SEER (972-395-0127)

10/2/2009 05:13:03 am


I'm glad you think this, and other topics, will be helpful to candidates, as you are on the proverbial front line.

Most definitely, please do direct candidates to my site, as fresh Blog content is on its way.




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