What Are Your Compensation Expectations?

hand holding money

In case you didn’t hear, there’s a turnover tsunami. 

Employees are rushing to leave their jobs because the major economic uncertainty of the pandemic is residing.  And those who wanted to switch jobs during stay-at-home orders are now ready to go. 

People are on the move.  

As our recruiters prepare candidates for interviews, the professionals they talk to ask for advice on the same topic. Candidates wonder, how do I respond to the dreaded question: what are your compensation expectations? 

If you freeze when you’re asked this, you are not alone. This question can cause even the most experienced executives to stumble. 

Why? Because the answer requires a delicate balance. 

You know your compensation for your current position. If you’re switching jobs, you’d naturally like a bump in salary. But, if you ask for too much, you may price yourself out of getting the job. 

First, the Rules 

We know this is tricky. Candidates are in between a bit of a rock and a hard place; ask for too little and you’ll be underpaid or seen as if you don’t value yourself, or ask for too much, and you’ll seem out of touch. 

And sometimes employers ask what you earn in your current job.  

There are many states that do not allow employers to ask about salary history. For example, in California, employers can’t ask for an applicant’s pay history and if they do obtain it, that information can’t be used to determine pay. Know your state’s regulations before your next interview. 

However, there are no rules around asking a candidate their compensation expectations. This is how we recommend responding to the stressful question. 

Know the Market 

Before any questions of salary are raised, the single best thing you can do is to research. Spend some time researching the job market and salary range for your position (this is a good place to start your research). Ask trusted peers, or a colleague in human resources in a comparable company. 

Flip the Script 

Once you’ve done your homework, there are a few ways you can go about navigating this question. First, turn the question around. 

Ask the hiring manager what they feel would be a fair salary for this position. This gives you an idea of their expectations and allows you to decide mentally whether they are in an acceptable range for you. 

If you are flexible about your compensation, let the hiring manager know this, and ask for a range that they believe would be acceptable for both parties. You can then decide whether the role is for you. 

By the Numbers 

Let’s say you make more than $100,000 and are comfortable with your current salary but would welcome an increase. Add 10% to your current salary and give a range around that number. 

For example, if you make $100,000 per year, say you are “exploring opportunities within the $110,000-115,000 range.” If your salary is less than $100,000 per year, a general rule of thumb is to perform the same exercise but at 15% instead of 10%. 

Dodge and Weave 

Another option is respectfully averting the question. Often, hiring managers ask you your preferred salary before you truly understand the details of the position, and whether it’s an opportunity you are really interested in. 

If this happens, you can deflect the question to until you have a better understanding of the role and have done your research on salaries of similar positions. You won’t be able to get out of answering the question altogether, but you can wait until you are better informed to give an answer which suits your needs. 

Salary Check 

This is a tricky topic to navigate because it is emotional. But, if you have a response ready before your interview, it will reduce anxiety around the topic. Need some insight into the market? Contact us for a confidential compensation assessment.