You ever come across a job ad and feel like it’s missing something? There’s the job description, the responsibilities of the role, the skills and experience and qualifications you need to be a competitive candidate. But what’s the salary?
It’s a terrible feeling to go through all the work of applying for a job — submitting a perfectly crafted resume, writing a cover letter so great it could run in print, nailing an interview (or two or three) — only to have the elation of receiving a job offer deflated by the realization that the position just doesn’t pay enough. It’s an emotional blow to the job seeker, a letdown for the hiring manager and a waste of time for everyone. Why don’t businesses simply include their starting salary range in the job ad and save everyone all this trouble?
The New York City Council recently passed a law that would require businesses to do exactly that. Unless it is vetoed by January 14, the law will go into effect in April, and every company posting a job listing will have to include the minimum and maximum starting salary. The legislation is aimed at increasing transparency and reducing discrimination in the hiring process.
What New York’s new law means for job seekers
New York isn’t the only place where salary transparency has become a legislative matter. Washington, Maryland, Nevada, Connecticut, and the cities of Cincinnati and Toledo in Ohio have all passed laws that give job seekers a greater understanding of compensation. Rhode Island’s equal pay law, which goes into effect next year, will also affect pay transparency.
As more and more cities and states pass this kind of law, salary transparency could become an expected norm. In the future, businesses that withhold this information might even seem out of touch. But even if you don’t live somewhere these laws apply, there are ways to get the information you deserve without hurting yourself as a candidate.
How to bring up salary in a job interview
In life and in job interviews, salary is a delicate topic. We’ve all heard that it’s impolite to talk about money, and it’s hard to balance social convention with practicality.
If a job post doesn’t include a salary range, how do you bring it up? What’s the right time? What’s the right approach?
Go in prepared
Before you go into a job interview — before the word “salary” crosses your lips — do some research. If you know how much a position typically pays in your area, you know what you can reasonably expect in terms of compensation. There are two important tools that can equip you with the information you need to have a productive conversation about your salary:
- The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook is an incredible resource for any job seeker. It has all the information you could possibly need to evaluate a job: the required education and qualifications, the typical responsibilities, the economic outlook of the job over the next decade and more. Look up the job you are applying for and see what the handbook lists as the median salary. This will give you a clear sense of how much you should expect to get paid.
- You can also use CareerBuilder’s Salary Search to find information on jobs in your area. Simply type in a job title and a location to find the average salary for the job you want. Keep in mind that, if you have a lot of work experience or extra qualifications, such as a college degree, you might be entitled to higher compensation.
Doing your research ahead of time will prepare you for any questions the hiring manager might have about your pay expectations. If an employer isn’t offering anywhere close to the range you’ve found, it might be time to look for other opportunities.
Don’t start or end with salary questions
The common advice for asking about salary used to be: don’t. But that’s terrible guidance. In today’s super-heated job market, with millions of Americans quitting their jobs, neither job seekers nor hiring managers have the time and energy to waste on a hiring process that will ultimately fail because of conflicting salary expectations.
To put it simply: you need to know if the job you’re applying to will pay you enough, and you need to know it sooner rather than later.
Asking about salary doesn’t have to feel awkward. It's all in the timing. If you bring up salary at the beginning of your job interview, the hiring manager could get the idea that you’re only interested in the money, not the work. Instead, focus your interview on what interests you about the position, how your prior experience makes you a good fit, and what skills you could contribute to the company. Resume skills have become the most important factor in hiring, so steer the conversation toward your professional strengths as often as you can. Make your pitch before you bring up pay.
Once you’ve established a case for why a company should hire you, it’s time to ask about salary. Just don’t make it the last question you ask. People tend to remember the tail ends of their conversations, and you don’t want your hiring manager to leave the interview with salary on their mind. Instead, you want them thinking about your qualifications. Make a list of questions to ask your interviewer, and place salary questions in the middle. That way, you can get the information you need without emphasizing it at the beginning or end of your meeting.
Be simple, clear, direct and polite
Talking about money makes people nervous, which causes them to stumble in job interviews. Practice your interview with a friend or family member ahead of time. Get comfortable with this topic so that it will feel natural to bring it up when the time comes.
Don’t dance around your question or do the verbal equivalent of fiddling with your thumbs. Simple, clear, direct queries will appear more professional and confident. And of course, be polite. After you’ve asked some questions about the business or the role, try something like:
- “Are you able to share any information regarding the starting salary range for this position?”
- “I am very excited about this role and feel my skills and past experience could be a great asset to your team. I’d like to focus on that, but may we also discuss the compensation package for this position?”
- “What is the starting salary range for this role?"
Remember to prepare other questions related to the job that you can ask after you talk about salary.
More tips for finding a salary that works for you
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