How to tackle pay discussions in a job interview


What’s the hardest subject for people to discuss in a job interview? No matter how well the interview is going, questions about salary expectations always seem to force people to second guess themselves and their potential worth.

However, this doesn’t have to the case. By understanding that this question will come up and learning how best to approach it, candidates can be confident talking about salary expectations with their potential employers.

Here’s what you need to know about pay negotiations.

Know your value in the market – and the value of the role

Two key factors determine your earning potential in a role more than any others: the value of your skills and experience in relation to the business’ needs and the value of the functions that the role performs in your potential employer’s business.

How do you determine the value of your skills and experience? Research your market.

Here’s an example: you could be an incredible composer, with skills worth many hundreds of dollars an hour, but if the role you are applying for does not involve music, or if music makes up a very small part of the work you will do, this is not a strong bargaining chip.

So, how do you determine the value of your skills and experience? Research your market. This will include talking to contacts in your network performing the same type of work and getting an understanding of their experience and seniority in relation to yours. Looking online and doing salary research is also very helpful as it will give you a broad indicator of what is a fair salary for the role.

All of this doesn’t mean much, however, if the business does not have the budget to pay what you are worth. If this ends up being the case, what do you do?

Know what you’re prepared to accept – and what you’re not

In an ideal world, the magic number you’ve come up with will match what the employer has allocated to the position. Unfortunately, this sometimes isn’t the case, and for this reason it’s worth understanding of what you’re prepared to accept – and when you have to walk away.

An expected salary could be different to what an employer can budget.An expected salary could be different to what an employer can budget.

A minimum isn’t always a financial amount, however. There are many factors that play into how lucrative a job offer is, including:

  • Benefits – things like leave loading, paid parental leave, volunteering leave or flexible working hours
  • Parking – a parking space as part of a salary package can equate to a tax-free saving of $5,000 or more if you currently pay for parking
  • Training and development
  • Career progression opportunities
  • Work/life balance – this is a big one. High expectations and high pressure are worth big bucks, but taking these away could also mean something to you
  • Actual hours worked – if your employer is expecting 60-hour weeks every week, that higher salary might not work out to a higher hourly rate. On the flip side, if you are taking a lower dollar value to work less hours, you could end up earning more per hour in real terms

Once you’ve worked out what your dealmakers and dealbreakers are in terms of salary, benefits and working conditions, don’t be afraid to communicate these respectfully and clearly. Ideally, this is a discussion you should have with your recruiter early in the application process, so you can both assess whether the role will be a match for you.

Understanding the factors at play

Salary budgets are rarely personalised to each candidate, and this can mean that someone who is very experienced or commands a larger salary than what is available may simply not be a match for a position. Understanding an employer’s perspective and the limitations they are working with can help you to understand why a salary may or may not be feasible.

Good negotiating requires the ability to listen.Good negotiating requires the ability to listen.

From a pay perspective, the nature of the role, the size of the company, the industry and many other factors will influence salary. Remember that this is often a reflection of budgets and the nature of the work, rather than on your value as a candidate.

The important part of negotiating is that it’s a two-way discussion. Remain calm, confident, professional and clear in order to get to the best solution for you and your potential employer.

If you would like more information about performing well in job interviews, get in touch with the team at Bayside Group today.