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When to Talk Salary
Don’t let poor timing spoil a promising opportunity.
By Sara Hodon 

You’ve successfully made it through the first round of the interview process. You’ve impressed the recruiter, filled out the necessary paperwork and aced the skills assessment. Then the recruiter calls with the good news that the company is interested in bringing you onto their team. Now it’s time to get down to the details – namely, the proposed salary and benefits package.when-to-talk-salary292x219

It may seem like an obvious discussion for a first interview, but across the board, most employers hold off on talking numbers until later in the hiring process. “The conversation should take place once an offer is made to a candidate. Even if there is no written offer yet, if there is a verbal offer, at that point the discussion can begin about salary,” said Kevin Spain, human resources representative at Fugro Companies and a 20-year Navy veteran. “Many companies will not give an on-the-money figure, but will give the candidate a salary range.”

And as most civilian human resource professionals agree, let the recruiter start that conversation. “I would caution against the candidate walking in and asking ‘What does this job pay?’ before we get into a discussion about what the job is about,” Spain said. “I normally don’t want to start an interview off that way.”

Brig. Gen. (Ret.) Gary M. Profit, senior director of Military Programs for Walmart, said rather than ask for an exact salary, a more appropriate approach is to get more general information on the company’s pay scale. “A candidate should understand the position holistically, including the salary range. A few questions a candidate can ask at the beginning of the process are, ‘Is this a salaried position?’, ‘Does this position have a benefits package?’, ‘If this position requires relocation, is there a relocation package?’” he suggested.

Salary is typically one of the last items discussed because the position needs to be a fit for both parties first. A candidate may decide that something about the position – whether it’s the job duties, the working environment or another aspect of the company – is not what they’re looking for. On the other hand, the recruiter may determine that the candidate may not be the right person for the job. This discovery comes about during their initial conversations at the first interview. “You want to make sure the position is mutually beneficial,” Spain said. “By doing this, the candidate understands what the position and company is all about and the company has a better understanding of the candidate, their experience and potential. We have to get to know each other.”

Profit agrees, and said that both salary and benefits should be fully discussed with the recruiter once an offer is on the table. “Both parties need to know each other’s interests, so they can negotiate in good faith,” he said. 

3 Tips for Negotiating Salary

Research. Have an idea of the average starting salary for the type of position you’re interviewing for. Finding this information is only a click away – there is information available online for positions in virtually every industry. Also research the company you’re interviewing with prior to meeting with them so you can answer those tough company-specific questions. 

Become familiar with benefit packages. Besides salary, a company’s benefit package can also be incentive enough to accept a position. If the company wants to bring you on board, the recruiter will discuss the company’s retirement, insurance offerings, tuition reimbursement plan or other incentives with you. 

Understand that the company can only negotiate so much. A company may be able to negotiate your salary to a certain point, according to Spain. Most companies make an offer based on the job duties but can also take a candidate’s skills and experience into consideration. If you are fresh out of the military and this is your first civilian position, for example, it’s unlikely that you’ll be starting at a six-figure salary. The company will likely offer you a base starting salary and you may move up the pay scale the longer you work there and take on more responsibility.

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