How to discuss salary at interviews

The topic of salary is a complex and contentious one for candidates. Here at AJ Fox, our view on this is not set in stone. In many ways, we do not see why current salary should be a relevant question at interview (in fact in some countries you are not allowed to ask), however, inevitably the question does get asked.

Here's what you need to consider when dealing with salary questions at an interview.

When being asked about your current salary in a job interview

Be honest.

Generally, our belief is that honesty is the best policy and that it can serve you in more ways than one. Not wanting to disclose your salary can show a lack of trust and, more often than not, raises suspicions on the interviewers' side though that is not to say that it should do! So if you can be honest, it is usually best to do so.

Usually, if a candidate is hesitant about giving their salary information they will be being underpaid or will be looking for a large pay rise. It is worth considering that this will likely be the conclusion of your interviewer too, they might think you are being paid at a much lower rate than the salary on offer. This might raise question marks that will not get answered which may keep them on the fence about your candidacy, which is not something you want.

The fear is that disclosing a lower salary will encourage the employer to offer a lower salary. However, regardless of what salary you disclose, you should still also be able to discuss your salary expectations and any justifications for these (which your recruiter should help you with).

If the employer does decide to offer you a lower salary based on your current salary, then perhaps that is an important sign that this is not the right employer for you. In our experience, many of the best firms who may ask for previous salary details will still make an offer based on merit, hence we do see large pay rises in this space.

Where we are working with candidates who are underpaid we find their current salary to be important and relevant information for the employer to understand the full range of motivations for the candidate to be looking to move in the first place. We will be very clear with our clients about a candidate's market worth to help them see where they should be facilitating a large pay rise.

Furthermore, there is nothing stopping you from disclosing your sentiments about your current salary. If you feel you are very underpaid you can mention this at interview, and your recruiter will back you up.

When being asked about your salary expectations in a job interview

Stay calm.

If you are asked about salary expectations the most important thing to appreciate is that this is not the time to tell them you want £36,798.07 and a pension paying 5% plus a free gym membership. This is not the question that dictates the value of any offer made and it is certainly not the time and place to negotiate.

Generally speaking, when you are asked about salary expectations in an interview the employer wants to get an understanding of the rough ballpark area in which you are looking, to ensure things are not misaligned, and to understand your needs.

For many candidates, their interest in a role cannot be assessed on the spur of the moment during the interview, and in fact takes some reflection to consider the pros and cons, whether it is a good fit, to undertake further research, etc. For that reason, we suggest it is best to give a range, rather than a figure, and make it less specific.

For example, rather than saying: "I want £47.5k to work as a Conflicts Analyst at ABC LLP", you might suggest: "I am generally looking at roles around the £45k to £50k mark, but the most important thing for me is to find the right role."

You may step out of the interview and feel that it is such a great opportunity you would snap it up at £45k. Or you might decide you wouldn't even consider the additional level of responsibility unless they offered £50k.

Giving a broad range doesn't pin you down; it keeps your options open. The best employers appreciate that salary expectations are fluid and not set in stone, and ultimately the conversation will involve your recruiter to negotiate on your behalf.

When considering the value of an offer

Don't just look at the money.

In the law firm risk and compliance space, the most valuable currency is not Pound Sterling, Euro, or Dollar, it is experience. Experience is the key asset that will help you progress your career in the long term.

Of course, at some point, you will be wanting to cash this in for cold hard money but the biggest mistake we see from candidates is that they try to do this too early in their career and focus on salary over and above the opportunity a role will give them to learn.

People spend thousands of pounds on degrees, MBAs, and courses to better their education, so you should look at the opportunities in front of you in the same way. If a role is paying £5k less but is giving you a substantial amount of additional exposure it is always going to be the best option to progress your skillset and to progress your career, which will allow you to progress further and faster in the long-term.

If you'd like more help and advice about discussing salary with an interviewer, give us a call on 0207 117 2542, email us at info@ajfoxcompliance.com, or message us on LinkedIn.

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Posted by: AJ Fox Compliance