Welcome to “Dear Dana”, our weekly column to give you career and workplace advice/coaching. Please write in and tell me about a career challenge or frustration you’re facing at the office! – Dana Theus
Dear Dana, I have found that all three websites I’ve used to apply for jobs have a requirement for applicants to provide their salary requirement/expectation. I found that surprising. I’m interested in knowing how common that is, and whether employers expect that there will still be negotiations or not. Also, if my salary is lower than the job, does that help me in the application process? Thanks, Curious in Columbus
I’m afraid it’s very common on web sites to ask for information on your previous/current salary. It’s less common in face-to-face interactions until they’re ready to offer you the job. Unless they ask, you’re under no obligation to give them salary information in the application or screening interviews, and I recommend that you don’t (with one exception, see below). The fact is that once they know your current salary, you’re at a disadvantage in potential salary negotiations, but this doesn’t mean you’ll lose. The goal is to put off the issue of salary as late into the interview process as possible so that by the time it comes up both of you know if you’re a good candidate for the job and they know why they want you so they are incentivized to give you a higher salary than what you’re currently making.
Most recruiters do expect you to negotiate salary, and whenever you can you should speak in terms of salary ranges to preserve your negotiating leverage. Create a range that would allow you to be happy with the job offer at either end, and let them be the first to put a specific number in front of you.
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Offering a lower number won’t necessarily help you because it can easily devalue you. While it’s possible for recruiters to screen out applicants whose current salary is too high, most won’t do that if they’re really interested in you, because they want to see what they’re missing or gaining by interviewing people in the higher salary ranges. While they might decide in the end to go with someone equally good or better with a lower salary, the salary itself is not usually the deciding factor – at least to get into the interview – unless it’s off by orders of magnitude.
There are a couple of exceptions to this rule. For example, for some positions and in some situations, it may not be clear to you or the recruiter whether you’re a good fit for the job, and seeing if you’re in their salary range is one way you can both determine if it’s worth pursuing discussions. Also, if you’re in a geographic area where the cost of living is dramatically different from where you’d be living if you moved, that can make your range look too high/low. Recruiters should notice this, but to be safe, you should do your homework on cost of living comparisons and bring this to their attention.
The key to remember is that you’re not a commodity who has a “price.” So you always want to lead with your skills, experience, talents, interests and drives at all times. Salary will come up at some point and regardless of when that is, you want to position yourself as believing in your own value and desiring to be compensated for it.
P.S. – Have a question you’d like anonymous support on? Write me!