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The Compensation Question

When getting ready for an interview, many people ask themselves “what will I say if they ask me about salary?” Well, this seems to be a tricky question to answer, yet one that we will all experience at some point in our careers. There are countless articles and blogs out there which give tips and advice about how to respond to this question – the only problem is….the opinions vary….a lot.

As recruiters we face this question on a daily basis, except we're the ones doing the asking. This subject is approached with people at all levels in their career from a new grad to a CEO, and we've heard it all. Some people fear that they will price themselves too high above the range and out of the competition; others feel that their current salary is too low and fear the employer may lowball the offer; and some just flat out feel it’s too personal to talk about. Regardless of the reason, people get uncomfortable when asked this question and often try to avoid it. While it may be a tough subject to broach, it’s essential to the recruitment process, especially for external recruiters. Below we provide an explanation as to why it’s important for recruiters to have this information as well as some guidelines to help you in dealing with this topic during an interview.

There are several reasons why this question is included in the initial interview but bottom line is, recruiters want to see if the employer can meet your salary expectations. Providing a current salary range or expectation does not eliminate you from the recruitment process, even when there is a large gap between the number you've given and what the employer can provide. The reason this question is asked at the beginning of the interview process is so that we can properly manage the process when positioning your résumé in front of the employer. For example, if a star candidate is priced considerably over the salary range for the position, we as recruiters can use this information to save time and disappointment when it comes to the offer negotiations. Perhaps a client needs to learn that they are below industry norms, or maybe there are other extenuating factors such as geography, market shifts or technical expertise that they are not considering. Either way, having the information up front helps us determine how to manage the candidate in front of our client.

So, the question remains, how do you answer? Well, the first thing to remember is that an external recruiter is different from the employer in that we act as an intermediary, a neutral, between the client and the you. We want to hear the truth. Be honest about your current salary and be honest about your expectations. If salary isn’t a deal breaker for you, tell us. If there’s a certain amount you will not go below, tell us. But be honest. It doesn’t always mean you’ll get what you ask for, but avoiding these surprises at the offer stage will make for a much more mutually respectful decision.

Just remember, we want to see you get as much as you’re worth and by working with us, not against us, we can help make that happen.