How to negotiate pay in an interview

When is it appropriate to bring up what you want to make? How should the topic be brought up?

There are two important, and equally difficult aspects to negotiating pay in an interview: how to broach the subject, and how to actually negotiate.

When to ask about pay
Though it can be tempting to ask about pay in your first interview, waiting until you are speaking directly with human resources is a good move, as they are a more or less neutral third party, and if you are having subsequent interviews with HR, that it likely an appropriate time to bring it up if it hasn’t been discussed yet. If HR will not be involved in your recruitment, bring up payment after your first interview. If on the second interview no one has brought up the matter, say something along the lines of “we haven’t had a chance to talk about compensation – who should I discuss this with?”.

Know your worth
Many will turn the question around on you, by asking your salary expectations. Don’t come right back with a specific number. If this conversation is happening early in the interview process, say you will need more details on the scope of the role. Figure out if this is a lateral move, or if you are moving up in the world by taking this position. If you are making a lateral move, in general, don’t ask for more than 10K more than your prior role. Lateral moves can get increases ranging from 5-7K.

Always have your expectations presented in a range format, and keep the conversation going. If you are asking for a large increase in pay, let them know by saying something such as “I know this is high, but I feel I have the experience to justify it.” Reassuring the other party that you know it is likely higher than they were thinking for the role and explaining why you deserve it is more likely to go over well than quoting a high number and waiting for them to counter.

If you do not know your worth, if you position a low ask as high, you could be revealing yourself to be more junior than they had anticipated, which will hurt your salary negotiations. However, if they already perceive you as somewhat junior and your salary expectations are sky high, you will likely price yourself out of the opportunity all together.

How do I know what is reasonable to ask for?
The key to asking for the right range is doing your research and coming in prepared for the interview. Check local Kijiji job ads to see if comparable positions have posted a salary range, and check some salary research sites to see general ranges for your job description in a variety of locations. Based on your seniority and past pay, figure out where someone like you should fall on the salary range that you determine is appropriate for the job based on past experience, then figure out what is reasonable to shoot for, taking specifics of the company and any special skills into account.

Consider the company
If your past positions have been at a bank, or a highly successful big company, and you are looking to “get out of the rat race”, follow your passion in a non-profit, or are interviewing at a new company, it is possible that you could be looking at a pay cut. If you are used to making a lot of money and are looking at less lucrative positions, be prepared for the possibility that the offer may be lower than your market value where you are used to working. If the offer is low, have some potential perks ready that would save you money or enhance the quality of your life. Maybe the money you save on a dog walker by bringing your dog into work with you, having a day a week where you can work from home, or reimbursed parking or travel expenses might make a big difference to you. Display your interest in the role, but make sure that the salary offered can support the lifestyle you are used to.

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