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How to handle salary questions in a job interview

The main reason that people change jobs is money. There are always other influencing factors involved, but the most common motivator is pay.

Unfortunately, salary and remuneration packages are not always advertised alongside a job opportunity. Sometimes employers will publish a salary band but all too often, money isn’t mentioned at all.

If you’re working with an independent recruitment consultant, chances are they’ll be able to give you a good indication of what’s on offer and you’ll be able to have an up front discussion about expectations and possibilities.

In any event, when it comes to the job interview (particularly second or third stage interviews), chances are that the subject of salary will be raised by the interviewer and you may be asked questions about your expectations and whether you’re willing to negotiate or compromise.

A lot of candidates find this daunting so we’ve put together a few pointers to help you.

Answering salary questions at interview

When talking money, it is important to be confident and well-researched without being arrogant. Tact and diplomacy together with an open, friendly communication style, are key to a successful conversation.

While it is difficult to predict the exact questions you will be asked at interview, the vast majority of interviewers will want to know what salary you are looking for (even if this has been discussed with your recruitment consultant beforehand) and whether there is any wriggle-room.

5 tips to support your salary discussions

1. Do your homework!

The more preparation you do in advance of your interview, the better equipped you’ll be to answer questions on salary and the greater your chances of achieving the pay you want.

Find out what the typical salary bracket is for the role you’re applying for. Remember to carry out a like-for-like comparison, taking into account industry sector and location. A marketing manager working in the hospitality sector in Yorkshire is likely to attract a different salary to a marketing manager working for a pharmaceutical company in London, for example.

Websites and social platforms such as Indeed, LinkedIn, Glassdoor and PayScale may be good places to start.

2. Demonstrate the value you bring

Reflect on your qualifications, skills, experience and achievements as well as your softer skills and personal attributes. Think deeply about the value they bring to the role you are applying for and any future colleagues/teams and employers.

Be prepared to articulate this clearly during your interview and any salary discussions that arise, so the interviewer has an excellent insight into you – their potential next hire – and what you will be bringing to the table.

3. Be realistic

Having considered everything that you are able to offer, try to put this in context. The jobs market in Oxfordshire is competitive so how do you think you compare with others who may be applying for the same role? You’ve clearly got what the employer is looking for otherwise you wouldn’t have been invited to interview, but you still need to have a realistic grasp of your worth.

For example, if you’ve got three years’ relevant experience, you may not be able to attract the same salary as someone with eight years under their belt – but if you have additional skills and a proven track record in the same industry sector – your worth will increase and your salary expectations may not actually be that far apart.

Worth is subjective and dependent on a range of factors, so it’s a good idea to explore this further with your recruitment consultant, trusted colleague or knowledgeable friend working in a similar field.

4. Articulate well

If you’ve practiced your negotiation skills in front of the mirror or role-played different scenarios with someone in advance, you’ll find it easier to articulate your salary expectations at interview. The more you practice these conversations, the more confident you will become and the more likely you will be to impress your interviewer.

It’s crucial that any salary discussions are handled calmly, respectfully and professionally, so the more comfortable you are with the conversation, the better. Whatever you do, avoid confrontation and ultimatums!

5. Remember to consider the whole package

While it's important to have a clear idea of the salary you want, it’s just as important to approach the conversation with an be open mind, and give careful consideration to all the other elements which may make up the remuneration package.

The value of pensions, health insurance, childcare, travel allowances, gym memberships, bonuses and other benefits can be significant.

Opportunities for professional development, such as training schemes and courses linked to desirable qualifications, also have a monetary value and are worth taking into account, particularly when you consider how they will enhance your future career prospects and earning potential.

The ability to work from home or flexible hours is also valuable, particularly if work-life balance or building a career around caring responsibilities, are important to you.

Let us help you with your salary questions

The team at Allen Associates is here to help you get the most out of your recruitment journey, from identifying the right opportunities to getting the interviews and ultimately securing your ideal role.

Salary is key to all this but don’t overlook the importance – and value – of everything else that comes with it.

For more advice, check out our other blogs or get in touch with one of our consultants who will be only too happy to help.