Salary Negotiation Taboo #1

One of my newsletter subscribers asked me whether or not it was okay to talk about salary during the first interview with an employer. They were worried that it would give the wrong impression. How could they avoid revealing their salary expectations too soon? They were wondering how they could postpone this discussion until the right time. My golden rule is to never lie to anyone. Therefore you need some good strategies to avoid this topic until the last minute.

In the past, I have been in the same situation, and have been pressured for a response to the tough questions on salary. My approach has been as follows.

1) First I’d just comment that I’d prefer to discuss the topic a little later on. It is too early at this time in the recruiting process to chat about this, and we do not know enough info about each other, neither about the job, nor about my work history. Also, my previous salary is not very relevant to the job I have applied to. I would rather be remunerated according to market conditions and the companies hiring guidelines for the job.

2) If put on the spot to respond during the interview, and they insist on knowing my previous salary, I mention the total value of what I expect for salary and all compensation. That includes cash, as well as benefits and other perks. I will mention holiday time, quality of life factors, and other things like pension and health plans. I also explain that what is most important to me is that the job offer is fair within the market rather than based on what I made in the past.

3) It is important for me to be aware before going into any interview what the standard salary range is for that position. I also want determine where my overall percentile would fall within that range. The vast majority of people are not at the top end of the salary range, so unless I know I have been a superstar, which I usually strive towards, then I wouldn’t recommend expecting the absolute maximum salary, unless I know I can explain why I am worth it. This is almost always confirmed by reference checks, and also, when starting the new job, it will be obvious if I am not in the 98th percentile. The goal is to be generous with your self evaluation but honest if you are not at the total superstar ranking.

4) Regardless of your past salary that you earned in that job role, you should expect to be paid fairly for the current market conditions. You should explain to the new employer that regardless of your past salary, whether it was at or below the market range, you would like to be paid at the salary level that is fair. Your reasons for having a lower than average salary in the past are not pertinent to the new job, and your life situation has changed. Therefore your goal is to have a fair salary negotiation that both sides will be pleased with.

5) If you do give in and tell them your past salary, make sure you clearly express that you expect to be paid respectably, and you just don’t want to be taken advantage of. Explain what you do know about the job market at that time. Most employers will respect you for expressing your expectation for your reasonable salary. Just remember salary negotiation is not supposed to be an offensive situation where you are demanding. Remember to be clear in your negotiations but respectful in your dealings with the recruiting manager.

Never lie to a prospective employer. This is cardinal rule number one. The new company will find out facts and do their legwork to assess your history and past performance. You need to clearly communicate the value you bring and that your past salary history whether high or low is not too pertinent to the new job. You need to be met with fairness in the recruiting process, and that your value proposition is clear and well expressed.

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