The elephant in the room: when to talk money in an interview

Talking about money makes many of us feel uncomfortable. It’s never easy to raise the topic of salary when you’re interviewing for a new role, but it’s important that you do. Employers expect you to, here we explore when and how to broach the topic. 

Money is a key contributor to the career decisions we make, yet recent research by SEEK found that 49% of New Zealanders did not negotiate their salary at any point during the recruitment period for their current or most recent role. And what’s more, 33% didn’t even discuss their salary expectations.

Why you should talk about salary

While it’s not always the primary factor in deciding whether you want to accept a position, Kevin Jarvis, Director of Robert Half Queensland says being compensated fairly for your skills and experience impacts your overall job satisfaction. “Properly addressing or negotiating salary during the recruitment stage is critical,” he says. “If you’re not completely happy with your starting salary you could face a lengthy catch-up process, or worse, find yourself looking for a new role not long after joining the company.”

Peter Bowen, a managing partner at national HR consulting firm deliberatepractice, says by proactively and accurately discussing your salary expectations with hiring managers and recruiters, you will position yourself as someone who is aware of their value. “By showcasing your knowledge and aligning expectations to this, you are more likely to maximise the salary you are offered,” he says.

The right time to raise salary

“Timing is critical,” says Jarvis. “You need to display suitability for the role and be sure the job is right for you before mentioning money.” Once you’ve done research about relevant salary trends, identified your attributes, strengths and fit for the role and you are confident the organisation is interested, then it’s time to discuss remuneration. “Either wait for the hiring manager to raise the salary discussion or use an opportunity for questions to inquire about what the employer thinks is an appropriate range for the role,” says Jarvis.

Jarvis cautions against trying to negotiate a salary after the contract is signed and a starting date is agreed upon. “It’s too late then, so if the company doesn’t bring up pay when they make the offer, say something,” he advises.

How to approach the topic

It’s important to be confident, knowledgeable and prepared to negotiate. “Information is your biggest ally,” says Jarvis.

  • Know current salary trends for your industry
    “Enter a negotiation fully informed,” says Jarvis. “Do your research on what the trends are for your industry, role and experience level.”
  • Know your baseline salary
    “This is the number under which you’d walk away from a company,” says Jarvis. “When a company isn't willing or able to compensate you adequately, it’s probably not one where you’ll be happy in the long run.”
  • Be honest
    Jarvis recommends stating a specific number or range to help figure out if you and your potential employer are on the same page. “Don’t be deceptive about current salary, competing offers or the skills you bring to the role in order to secure more money,” says Jarvis. “Salary reflects the value you bring to the role and is a benchmark of performance. It will become quickly apparent if you do not match the value you projected.”
  • Be prepared to negotiate
    “If you’re eager to take a role but can’t reach an agreement on salary, consider how you can augment your remuneration with employee benefits like extra vacation, flexible hours or a work-from-home schedule,” says Jarvis.

Why employers want you to discuss salary

Most employers expect to talk about salary expectations during the recruitment process. “Once an organisation indicates that they want to make you an offer, it’s understood that remuneration is a central pillar of establishing a mutually agreeable working arrangement,” says Jarvis. “They are open to having a frank discussion.”

Discussing salary in the right way and at the right time is crucial to you securing a role where you feel adequately compensated and recognised for your skills and experience. By following the simple steps outlined above, you’re on your way to discussing your remuneration expectations with confidence and receiving the salary you deserve.

Source: Independent research conducted by Nature on behalf of SEEK. Interviewing 4000 Kiwis annually