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It shouldn’t come as a surprise. You knew they were bound to ask, but talk of salary expectations is never easy, especially when the request is found in your inbox. Desired salary is part of the screening process for every applicant. It’s one of the easiest ways for companies to pare down the number of candidates. If the number’s too high, you’re out. Too low, and you could also find yourself cut. Though preparation and research is key, you still need to cough up a number.
Most career coaches will tell you to put off the topic of salary as long as possible. You want to give yourself more than enough time to sell your skills and capabilities to a potential employer. You also want to gather enough information on the position to make an informed decision. During talks, you may find there are more responsibilities to the role than advertised. So, deflect the question, and tell the hiring manager, “At this point, I’d like to hear more about the job before discussing an exact figure.”
Request a Meeting
If you’re further along in the interview process, deflection may no longer be an option. Instead, you’ll need to share a figure. But rather than responding in a return email, request a meeting to talk numbers. In a 2013 interview with “Forbes,” Roy Cohen, a veteran career coach, explained that salary discussions are best done in person whenever possible. It’s one more opportunity to get in front of the potential employer to make an impression, and a hiring manager feels more of an obligation to negotiate when face to face.
No doubt you’ve done research on earnings before starting your job search, so you have an idea of what’s a fair and realistic salary. But don’t provide a single number. Give a range, and then follow up by telling the potential employer that you don’t want to “lock in” on these figures. Reiterate your hope to find a position that’s a good fit, shared Mary Ann Gontin, an executive career coach, in an interview with Fox Business. Doing so demonstrates your commitment to your work rather than a paycheck.
Telling a potential employer that you’re open to discussing total compensation is another way to handle this sort of request. This allows for some flexibility on your part, especially if you’re willing to take less money in exchange for added benefits, such as additional vacation days, paid parking, stock options or even the option to telecommute one or two days a week. Certain perks can make the lower pay more desirable.
Using your previous salary as a jumping off point can work as well. Though it’s best to meet in person, you can choose to provide your current wage in a return email -- a potential employer can legally ask past employers what you were making, so it’s not like you have anything to hide. Then, tell the hiring manager the percentage of an increase you’re hoping to receive.
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Based in Minneapolis, Minn., Dana Severson has been writing marketing materials for small-to-mid-sized businesses since 2005. Prior to this, Severson worked as a manager of business development for a marketing company, developing targeted marketing campaigns for Big G, Betty Crocker and Pillsbury, among others.