The Dreaded Salary/Compensation Topic

– Posted in: career coaching

So many clients ask me about what to write down on an application in regards to salary.  They also ask what to say when asked about what salary they are seeking … because they feel they’ll take anything.  They just want to get that job.  They just want to get their feet wet.  Well, it doesn’t have to be so uncomfortable and it should be something you think quite a lot about and feel confident about before you even walk into the door for an interview. 

Here is how you can manage in and around the salary question.

Step 1:  do your research to find out the going rate for a position.  You can use the following resources:,  You could even take a look at the Parade Magazine from 2 or 3 weeks ago as it’s still on line.  That’s the fun issue that lists what everyone makes, famous & non-famous alike:

  • Jennifer Aniston, Actress: $27 Million
  • Kelly Ripa, TV Personality:  $8 Million
  • Veronica, Special Education Teacher:  $52,800
  • Mayor Bloomberg:  $1.00

I read that issue every year because it is fascinating to see what people make and what they do.  It’s also fun to fantasize about making $27 Million or $5 Million.  Always fun to imagine how much money you must have to only want to make $1.00 as Mayor of NYC.  OK … back to how to handle the salary question.

Step 2:  Find out whatever intelligence you can about the position you are interviewing for.  Once, when I interviewed for a position at a company, I knew that a good friend had interviewed before me and I called to ask her about the salary they offered.  She told me the starting salary, the sign-on and the bonus.  So when they offered the job to me, and they offered it to me at a slightly lower amount, I had the facts to back up why I should be given the higher salary and that is exactly what I did get.  Not bad for just making a phone call.  But you need not know the person who interviewed for the job.  Perhaps you know someone at the company and you can ask them.  perhaps you know someone who used to work at that company.  Check your LinkedIn contacts.  You’ll be surprised at who you find!

Step 3:  Speak to someone in Human Resources, especially a compensation expert.  They know all the salaries in all of the disciplines.  They are a font of information so use them whenever possible. 

Once you have as much information as you can muster, then come up with a figure that you would be happy with.  I never took a job based on salary alone:

  • #1 reason:  my boss &  my co-workers
  • #2 reason:  company brand
  • #3 reason:  compensation

But with that said, salary was always in my top 3 reasons for accepting a job.  So once you have your information, have a figure in your head.  On the application, I advise candidates to write a range:  $50 – 60,000 for example.  Or they can write “flexible”. 

Interview and get that job offer in your pocket and then the negotiation will be much easier.  And as a last tip, never bring up compensation until the potential employer does.  You know they are interested if they are going to bother to ask, so that should bolster your confidence.

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