QUESTION: The first thing the recruiter asked me was, “What salary are you looking for?” — even before he had explained the job. What’s the best way to respond to not take myself out of the running nor selling myself short?
Try and postpone giving a hard number until you know more about the position. Say something like, “I’m just starting to learn about the job responsibilities. Once I have a better understanding of what this position will entail, I will be able to provide a more concrete number.” In the meantime, do your research on Glassdoor and other websites to find out what is reasonable to expect.
Because you didn’t have the job description, it seems the recruiter was making a “cold” contact. If so, you will want to ask questions before answering. If not, many people falsely assume recruiters ask about salary as a trick for agreeing to a lower salary. Know recruiters work with candidates and employers for the best match, so they do need to know your requirements.
“I’m happy to discuss my salary expectations after we talk some more about the details of the position. Could you please tell me more or email me the job description?”
Like in any other profession, there are excellent, good, and not-so-great recruiters. You have every right to ask them for all the information (and time) you need to make a good decision.
Before the job interview, your salary expectation should already be determined based on your research on the company as well as market and salary trends for the desired position and industry. In addition, consider your experience and qualifications for the desired position. Rather than giving a specific number, provide a salary range. Providing a salary range can help with negotiations.
This question always makes candidates nervous. Instead, take ownership of it. If the recruiter has not explained the job yet, tell him you would like to hear a little more about the specifics of the position’s needs so that you can answer the question accordingly. Remember, the salary should be tied to the position in which you are applying and its needs—not based on your previous salary.
Know your value. Research salaries at sites such as O*NET Online, salary.com, and glassdoor.com. Determine a salary range for yourself. When they ask about salary, tell them you have been investigating roles in the $X through $Y range. Then ask, “What’s the range for this position?” As long as their range and your range are fairly close, you will be in the running.
This Recruiter has a “screen out” approach and is trying to save you both time, if there won’t be a salary fit. To explore the role first, I recommend answering something along the lines of “I don’t yet know all of the dynamics of the position, so it’s difficult to give an exact number, however, I’m seeking a fair market salary. What are you seeking to pay for this role?”
Don’t share this info too early. Make it clear that you will discuss salary when you have more specifics about the role and why you are a good fit. Research and have a realistic number in mind before applying. Recruiters often play “numbers games,” You are not a number; you bring VALUE to a company. That value drives the offer.
Flip the question: “What salary range has been budgeted for this position?”
Defer: “I’d like to have more information about the job and benefits before I can determine what my salary expectations will be. Can we defer this conversation?”
Give a range: “I would place my salary expectations in the range of $x to $y but I would need a more in-depth understanding of all the job requirements.”
Know the wage range for your role in the labor market and what knowledge, skills, and expertise are needed. Audit yourself against the opportunity so you know your value. Build this habit into every application as it will also help you target your resume. Offer a 10% range above and below your market value. The recruiter may move on but it will save you energy. Negotiate at the time of the offer.
Postpone answering the question as long as possible and keep the conversation going. Respond by saying you want to learn more about the job before providing an answer and ask questions to uncover the scope of the work. Once you do begin speaking about money, always give a desired salary range versus specific number to allow both sides room for negotiation and a win-win outcome.
Respond enthusiastically that you are excited about competing for the position, eager to learn more, and confident that a mutual salary can be achieved once a good fit is determined. If he further presses you for a number, you are within your rights to ask what the salary range is before divulging your figure. Recruiters, although often helpful, are paid by and work for employers, not candidates.
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