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By far the hardest question to answer during the job hunt is surrounding money. Just thinking about answering that question can make even a seasoned executive’s heart race. The biggest fear that you, as the candidate have, is to not undersell yourself. The greatest concern that the hiring manager has is to not overpay. There’s actually a fairly easy way to align these 2 concerns pretty quickly.
Let me give you a real life example based on a Project Manager I know. Let’s call her Bailey.
Bailey’s first “real” job out of college was working as a Project Manager. Her salary was $55k a year at Company A. After working for a couple of years with Company A, Bailey starts to consider her options to advance her career. She researches salary ranges in her city for someone with her level of experience by using salary.com, glassdoor.com, and indeed.com.
Soon Bailey is approached by a recruiter about a job that seems like a great next step in her career. Early on in the conversation the recruiter asks what Bailey’s current salary is. The correct answer is always the truth! Don’t over inflate the number. Here’s what the truth sounds like, “I’m currently making $55k a year, but I have great benefits and a flexible work schedule. I’d be interested in learning more about a new position, but in order to consider making a move, my requirements will be between $60k and $70k as a total package.”
I know what you’re thinking, “What if I leave money on the table?” Most likely this isn’t going to happen. Recruiters and hiring managers know basic salary ranges for someone with your skill set and level of experience.
A more likely option is that your range may be high for the position they are recruiting for. There is an alternate way to answer as well. For example, if you hate your job and even though you are making $55k a year, you’d gladly leave for less money for the right role. You can say, “I’m currently making $55k, but I’m considering new opportunities and am interested in hearing more.” In this case, you’ve left yourself open to learning about the role.
I always advise my clients to know their “rock bottom” number: what is the bare minimum you can take if the job of your dreams came along? After you’ve worked in a job that makes you miserable for a while you gain perspective on how much money you really need to be happy.
Also, realize that there are loads of places to negotiate when accepting a new position. You can ask for more vacation time, a flexible schedule, remote days, a company car, gas mileage or a sign on bonus. “Currency” is not always dollars and cents. Don’t be afraid to ask for perks if the salary is not what you are hoping for.
Lastly, don’t hesitate to bring up salary early in the conversation. There is simply no point in wasting your time or theirs. You can offer “I want to be respectful of your time. My salary requirements are between $60k – $70k as a total package. Is that within your budget?”
Remember – it is a job – you should (and need to) get paid! Don’t be shy about being direct in that fact.
Nancy Rabern is a sought-after Career Coach based in Atlanta. As a seasoned recruiter, she has worked with both job seekers and hiring managers, which gives her a unique perspective on the recruitment process. She currently works with individuals to help them identify, apply for and interview for the job of their dreams.
Follow Nancy Rabern on Twitter @nancyrabern