This Question Totally Changed My Interview Procedure

Photo by Christina Morillo from Pexels

Imagine this: You had an excellent job interview at your ideal firm. After engaging discussion and thoughtful questions, you're completely crushing the interview and have the recruiter in your pocket until you hear that one, dreaded question: "What are your compensation expectations?"

Many of us still avoid having open conversations about money, including matters such as rent, child care, spending patterns, etc., despite the rise in knowledge tools and public dialogue around pay fairness. The process of applying for jobs is similar, and candidates—especially women—often experience anxiety when discussing pay. We want to seem interested in the job for more than just the money when interviewing, but in fact, we still have expenses to pay.

It used to make me anxious when they asked, "How much can we pay you?" I had no idea how to respond, how much was proper to request, or if doing so would exclude me from consideration for the post. Then, a few years ago, one of my mentors offered me one of the finest pieces of interview advice: It's more important for me to ask the right questions than it is for them to ask the right ones. I no longer feel nervous when the pay discussion comes up during a job application. As an alternative, I state something like, "What is the allocated wage range for this position?"

The Risk

It no longer falls on me to provide a precise number, especially when it comes to my current salary (Keep in mind that in some cities and states, it's actually against the law to even inquire about someone's current salary during the interview process). Instead, asking the company what salary range they have budgeted flips the script while giving me useful insight into the company and interviewer. The cost of living is continually growing, thus your wage should too, even if your present compensation is an excellent starting point for a desired pay range.

I didn't inquire about the firms' allocated compensation range when I initially started working there. Before accepting the offer for my first job out of college, I didn't engage in any negotiations at all, but looking back, I wish I had. I placed myself in a situation where I may leave money on the table by failing to inquire what the budget each firm was given. I just costed myself at least $15,000 if I went into an interview and told the hiring manager I'm looking for a post that pays $50,000 to $60,000 but the organization's budget is $75,000 instead. On the other hand, if I request a six-figure salary but the company is only willing to pay up to $75,000, I need to have an open and sincere discussion with myself about my value, my personal budget, a potential pay cut, and any additional benefits that might help to close the gap between my expectations and the budgeted reality.

When you ask a recruiting manager what they are working with, there are two possible responses: they may either inform you or give it back to you. The first scenario is clearly desirable and might serve as a positive sign that the business is up forward, truthful, and acting in good faith. You have a choice if an interviewer dodges the question or offers a nebulous response such, "It depends on the applicant." You have two options for your response: you can postpone it with a statement like "I'd love to learn more about the job before choosing a suitable wage," or you may provide a range that actually fits your needs, which involves a little more effort on your part.

You should go into every level of an interview knowing your value and what you're willing to give up. It can be worth taking a wage reduction and rearranging your present budget for a dream job with excellent perks and a clear route to your professional ambitions. But whether you're trying to save money for a certain purpose or are just trying to pay your rent, you may have to pass up an opportunity if it doesn't fit your criteria. You must decide where your ultimate wage range falls, even if I personally strongly support pushing for a higher compensation. The worst they can say is no; the only risk is the money you stand to lose.

The Benefit

While it could take some getting used to, it is definitely worthwhile to ask about the wage range during an interview. If a hiring manager is honest with you and tells you the wage range they're working with, you'll have all the information you need to decide whether to accept the offered range, negotiate your offer, or stop the interview process if the firm can't provide you what you're looking for.

In one specific interview, I inquired about the pay budget early on, and the interviewer offered me a range of figures that, although generally a little lower than I had expected, I could still work with the higher end. I made the decision to go through with the recruiting process, and I ultimately received an offer that was at the absolute bottom of the range I was aware the company had to work with. With this knowledge and a better understanding of my value, I grabbed the chance to push for more and successfully negotiated a higher wage.

You won't run the danger of leaving money on the table if you have the whole picture. As the saying goes, "ask and you shall get," but how can you ask the correct questions about your career or yourself if you don't know what you're dealing with? I don't really want to consider the many thousands of dollars I could have overlooked in prior positions, but it has been beneficial to learn from past errors.

Never be hesitant to ask questions other than compensation while preparing for an interview. Yes, they are evaluating you to see whether you would be a good match for the team and culture of the organization. However, the job search is a two-way street, and you deserve a position that meets your demands, both material and non-material.
May We Suggest…