You Might Want to Know What a Job Pays, But When is it OK to Ask?￼
What does it pay? How much time off do I get? Is this job remote?
You’ve lined up a job interview and want answers to questions you’re not entirely sure how to ask or whether to bring up at all.
After all, a dream scenario becomes less enticing if it pays $10,000 less than you’re making now.
Eric Kean, Principal of The Lee Group, stresses that candidates should be prepared with pat answers whether they’re on the other end of an initial phone screening or walking into an in-person interview. Of course, if you’re a candidate working with a recruiter, feel free to discuss issues and concerns beforehand.
Let’s start with salary expectations, something you might be asked about from a human resources officer. It’s not a question meant to stump you. “Most of the time, they’re not asking to see how cheap they can they get you,” Kean says. “They’re asking to be sure you’re both on the same page, singing from the same sheet of music.”
One acceptable response if you’re currently employed:
“I currently make $56,000, and I have the usual benefits package, but money isn’t my driving factor. What’s most important to me is if I can get on board with an organization that allows me to continue to grow. If that happens, money usually takes care of itself. I wouldn’t decide solely based on a paycheck. It’s important, but it’s not my number one priority.”
That answer generally satisfies who’s asking. And it’s not an empty response such as, “Well, It’s a little early in the process to pinpoint a number … ” or something similar. That comes across as evasive. You don’t want to set yourself up as someone who dodges questions. That speaks to how you would act on the job.
If pressed, avoid specifying one number.
“Give a range,” Kean suggests, and make sure that range is wide — between $40,000 and $50,000, for example.
Mention that the costs of benefits would impact the salary you’re seeking. Again, stress that growth opportunities are more important than salary.
What if you have no current salary? You’re a recent college graduate, for example.
Prior to interviewing, you should have completed an exhaustive amount of research to find out what the job will pay. “These days with technology, you’re going to get a general idea,” Kean says.
Use LinkedIn to assist. See who else graduated from the same college as you in the last three years and who worked or is working the same type of job you’re applying for. Reach out to that person via email, a LinkedIn message or a phone call.
“Do the homework,” Kean says. “That way when you go into that interview, you already know what it’s going to pay.”
Then you can respond with something like, “From the research I’ve done, it looks like this position will pay in the $40-$45,000 range. Am I correct on that?”
Follow an affirmative answer by noting you’re comfortable with that but drive home that you prioritize aligning yourself with an organization that gives you growth potential.
If the mood is right, continue with a blunt assessment. “Right now, I need you more than you need me. I want to make myself invaluable, so you do need me more.”
Even though work-life balance has become a buzzword of sorts in any industry, Kean doesn’t recommend asking about it during an interview or cluttering up the conversation with questions like, “How many vacation days would I get?”
You don’t want to be perceived as lazy.
As far as work-life, companies don’t see themselves as ever giving employees more work than they can handle. The thinking is it’s their job to provide the work — you provide the balance.
“If you’re inefficient with your time and you can’t get your work done, you’re going to have less balance,” Kean says. “But if you’re smart enough to do it, you find the balance.”
Is it OK to bring up remote work? Unless it’s specified in the job description, steer clear of that question. You want to be perceived as a team player.
“Again, do your research,” Kean says. “Remember to be careful what you ask as often there’s far greater risk to asking certain things than reward.”