3 Steps to Discussing Salary During the Interview Process

You will be either underpaid or overpaid for the majority of your career. Although you can hold a certain standard for the level of pay you deserve, the market ultimately determines your worth as an employee. So how can you maximize your earning potential without risking the possibility of missing out on great opportunities?

First off, keep in mind that the interview process does not start when you sit down for a face-to-face with the hiring manager or interviewer. Your interview began the moment you fired off your application or the moment you received a call from a recruiter. From here on out, what takes place is simply a process of elimination.

1) Sell the company on why you’re a right fit for the opportunity. Chances are that at some point during an initial phone screening or interview, you will be asked of your salary expectations. A new legislation in Massachusetts has made it illegal for an interviewer to ask what you’re making at your current job. In the future, other States as well as Canada will inevitably follow. The good news is that your current salary will no longer hold you back from being paid what you’re really worth at the next company you join. The bad news is you’ll have to sell yourself even more because your current salary will no longer be a topic of conversation to determine your worth.

2) Don’t sell yourself short. You may think that demanding a lower salary upfront will increase your chances of getting the job. Although this is true in some instances, it may also hinder the recruiter’s decision on whether or not you are really qualified for the role. Another problem you may face is landing the job and later realizing that you may have been offered a higher salary if you had simply asked or if you had continued searching for another opportunity. It does not sound professional when you have no answer to the question, “What are you salary expectations?” Use an online service like PayScale to find out what professionals in your industry are earning on average so that you can be confident in answering when the question arises.

3) Be realistic. It’s acceptable to ask for a higher salary than you’re currently making as incentive to move to another opportunity—you’re looking to move forward, not backward—there’s nothing wrong with that. But demanding too high of a salary may scare off employers. A recent candidate I had worked with was demanding a salary of about $30,000 higher than the market average (about 50% higher than others were earning). After realizing that his expectations were too high, he decided to drop his salary expectation by about $15,000 to $20,000. Unfortunately, interest in his profile as a candidate had already been lost at this point.

To sum up, you will likely be asked about your pay range expectations when interviewing for your next role. Do some quick research so that you can determine your value to employers and present yourself confidently when being considered. But be sure to keep the bigger picture in mind—always keep in mind important aspects like the team atmosphere, commute, and growth opportunities, because after all, money isn’t everything!