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Asking The Right Salary

02 Sep 2022

Talking about salary with your employer can be an anxiety inducing ride. This blog post will help you prepare for that conversation.

Whether it’s during a job interview, annual evaluation, negotiating side-gig rates, or in whatever other job-related discussion – the subject of pay always comes up. However, despite the inevitability of this important topic, it seems to be the most dreaded part of any given conversation between a manager and an employee.

This shouldn’t be the case. As long as we intend to work and learn to the best of our ability, the salary question should be just as neutral and pragmatic as any other topic during a job interview. 

The problem is that, whether we like it or not, money is one of the central axes around which our lives revolve. There may be more important things in any person’s life (relationships, sustainability, fulfillment, justice etc.), but the world is constructed in a way that money has an essential enabling quality in all other aspects of our lives. It, of course, doesn’t help that money is regarded by many as the benchmark for measuring success and prestige.

Given this, it’s inevitable that you’ll feel some anxiety when the question comes up. Solving this requires normalizing the topic of salary for yourself and preparing for the moments when this question will inescapably come up.

In this blog post we’ll cover two key moments when the salary question comes up (job interview, asking for a raise) and give you tips as to how you can mentally prepare yourself for those moments.

Talking About Salary During A Job Interview

We’ve all been there. The job interview is going well, we feel confident that we have this in the bag, and then you are hit with the “what would be your desired salary for this position?” Thoughts start swirling around your head. “What should I say?”, “I really want this job so I don’t want to scare them away by asking too much.”, “I’m really not qualified enough to ask for much.” or “Oh, boy! I didn’t do nearly enough research on this”

These thoughts will likely appear even if you’ve prepared for the interview, maybe even if you’ve prepared for this particular question. The key in this situation is to keep cool and stick with the pre-prepared winning reply. How to come up with one? Follow these steps!

Understand your worth

Each job has a market value. So do your skills, education, and previous experience. Figure out what is your worth before going in.

Doing this is actually not that hard. First, think about your compensation package with the current employer. This includes not just the pay, but also all the benefits and bonuses. Once you have a clear picture of this, you can have a base against which to plan a potential increase. 

When I was switching jobs, I was in a position of strength. I knew my employer wouldn’t fire me anytime soon, so I could give a salary number that exceeded my existing salary (plus bonuses) by about 30% without much anxiety. In the end, I got the new job with the salary I wanted.

Second, do your research. This is important for everyone, but particularly so for entry level applicants as they tend to cut themselves short salary-wise. Finding out what similar positions pay should take no more than a few moments, but it will give you more confidence, not to mention some basis for your claims.

You can easily do your research on sites like LinkedIn, Glassdoor, or any job offer site as ads for similar positions may show the potential salary range.

Understand what you need

Always keep in mind that you have desires, aspirations, or any other circumstances that have to be considered when making a salary pitch. Don’t undercut yourself just to be more appealing to an employer, if it means that you can’t earn enough to be happy and prosper instead of just surviving. That is a recipe for failure.

Likewise, I would never recommend going for the lowest figure indicated by your research. Let’s say a project management position pays anywhere between $60,000 to $75,000. In this case, aim for the $65,000-$75,000 range. 

Finally, as we discussed in a previous blog post, think about what other job related things are important for you and how they tie into the salary equation. For instance, the new position may not offer good remote working options or there are no extra days off. In that case you should ask for more to cover extra commuting or childcare expenses.

Go on the offensive

Recruiters will almost certainly ask about your desired salary, but it doesn’t mean that you can’t follow with the same. Sure – asking “how much you will pay me?” is a bit crude, but inquiring about the expected budget for this position is not. Of course, they may not always give you the number, but make no mistake – the company has it all figured out.

Based on their response you can potentially adjust your pitch if the recruiters call back or understand whether the job is worth it in the first place.

You can be vague or delay an answer

The salary question, while important, can wait. The job interview is first and foremost intended to ascertain whether you fit the role. If the chemistry is good and the employer will see a potential in you, the salary nuances can be hashed out later.

The best possible answer in this situation would be “I’m looking for a competitive offer that would include a motivating pay packet as well as benefits like health insurance, share options, bonuses etc.” If you can manage to squeeze in an ambiguous phrase about looking at other positions or already having received other offers, more power to you and greater pressure on the recruiters.

If you do opt to give the employer a number, naming a range is far better than giving a precise number. That way you will have some room for maneuver if you are offered a job.

Asking For A Salary Raise

You made it! Things are going smoothly in your new position. Months pass, first achievements start to roll in, and your annual evaluation is just around the corner. You know what that means! It’s time to take the reins in your hands and bring up the dreaded salary question. This time to get a raise.

Luckily for you, I have some pointers to help you through that conversation so that you end up in a better financial condition than before!

Choose the right time

Talking about salary increases is a good idea when you have something to boast about. There is no point bringing the topic up mid-project, outside annual performance reviews, when everyone is preoccupied with other things, or when the company is struggling.

Even such subjective things as the mood of your boss matters. After all, salary questions aren’t usually brought up every other day. If you are turned down due to bad external conditions, some time might pass before the next opportunity arises.

If you had to pick a moment, talk about a raise after finishing a major project, on a nice sunny day when your manager doesn’t have (too many) meetings. Of course, annual performance reviews are also usually a good bet.

Bring the right attitude to the talk

In a conversation like this, leaving the right impression matters. To do that remember to:

  • Be confident. You have to make a strong case for your raise. After all, if you don't believe that you deserve a raise, why should your manager?
  • Be clear and direct. Make your case in a cool, direct, and rational way. Don't babble or delve into unnecessary details. Presenting your case well will increase the odds of success.
  • Be grateful about the time spent at the company. Show your appreciation and gratitude for the road so far. After all, your team, manager, and the company itself probably has invested in you too, so acknowledging that will score some points.
  • Be enthusiastic about the future. Express your confidence in the company and its future success, including with you on board.

Come prepared

First, just as before a job interview, check the salary trends in your profession and how they have gone up over the last year. In addition, see how the economy is doing as a whole (average pay increases, inflation) and set an increase you think is appropriate.

Second, list your accomplishments over the last review period. If possible, provide examples of how your work has improved the company performance, sales, individual or team productivity etc. If you make a concrete, data based case that is backed up with your achievements, it is quite hard for any manager to argue against that.

Finally, don’t just live off your past achievements. Make it clear that you have other ideas to make the company or the team better off as well as outline how and by when you intend to achieve them. Make a case that giving you a raise is actually in the company’s interest.

Provide your request in writing

Even though you’ll probably first approach your direct manager, questions relating to pay increase lie out of his purview. In other words, they will have to bring this to their bosses. To make sure that your arguments reach the big fish, write everything down. 

Just like with your communication, keep it short, clear, and direct. Remember – the more you can do to avoid miscommunication and misinterpretation, the better!

Author: Lote Steina

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