When you’re interviewing for a job, a company may want to meet with you from two times to ten times before they make their final decision. The entire process is time consuming. But, through all of these interviews, it could be argued that one of the most important conversations happens in the very first interview.
At the time, the first interview may not seem too significant. It’s typically conducted by a recruiter who works for the company. The conversation may feel like a checklist. The recruiter will ask straight forward questions, such as why you’re interested in the job and when you’re available to start working.
Then, the recruiter may ask you how much money you currently make, or how much money you’d like to make. The question can sound reasonable. Unfortunately, answering this question may hurt you.
For salaried roles, companies typically have broad salary ranges. This allows the company to pay more or less based on factors such as experience. It also allows the company to pay less if they know the candidate currently makes less. In other words, if your current salary is low and you share it, the company is not incentivized to pay competitively. This can happen even if your market rate is higher.
At the other extreme, if you are highly paid today, you may eliminate yourself from the consideration set before the company gets to know you. In some cases, a company cannot increase the pay beyond their existing budget. But, in others they can. The only way to find out is to make it all the way through the process.
Rather than disclose your current pay, ask the recruiter if they are willing to share the pay range for the role. In most cases, this request is no problem. When it happens, you can simply share that you are (or are not) in the same general ballpark.
In the meantime, research what the company pays on your own. Look on websites such as Glassdoor.com, where you can look up pay by title and company. Glassdoor shares base pay and bonus pay information for the positions it reports on.
If you approach salary negotiation this way, you reduce the chances that you’ll be underpaid in the future.
Most companies are also beginning to realize that this technique of asking for salary is not entirely fair. Over the past ten years, the laws around salary disclosure have evolved. These changes, such as requiring the company to disclose the salary in certain states, are in place to help make the workplace fair.
There is one exception to this advice. If you find yourself working with an external placement firm, this approach likely won’t work. Unfortunately, they very often have a rule that you must disclose your salary before you meet the company.
Do your homework. Find out your worth. Practice your answers to salary questions, so you’ll be ready for your first interview.