You might get asked questions from the hiring manager or recruiter about compensation early on in the hiring process. Fret not – this is a actually good place to gently start your salary negotiation.
To start, figure out the salary range for the kind of role you’re going after in the current job market so you have objective data to work with.
When you get this interview question, it will most often be phrased something like,
“What are your salary expectations?”
“The salary for this role is $X. I just wanted to confirm that is acceptable to you before we proceed?”
“Help me understand your compensation requirements.”
Find time to prepare for this question before any live calls or job interviews! You’ll want to respond in a way that reinforces you and the recruiter are in the same ballpark without providing a specific number. The worst thing you can do is panic and blurt out a number that undersells you and lands you at the low end of their salary range.
When you are starting a new job, it's important to start with a fair salary that pays you your market value from the start. Expertly answering questions about your salary requirements will help the potential employer give you a job offer that you are excited about!
When asked by phone about your salary expectations, your goal is to answer their question with as little detail as they'll let you get away with.
If possible, don't be the first person to say a number if you're able to avoid it politely. Once you've expressed an initial number, it becomes an anchor for the conversation - it sets the stage for all future discussions. If your anchor is entirely out of range for the other party, it can occasionally close the door on an opportunity. If your anchor is too low, you'll end up with less than you could have.
Your initial response to the question should be a polite, firm attempt not to give a number at all. 👼
"Thanks for bringing that up. I'd love to learn a bit more about the role and what it entails before we talk about compensation. Would that be workable for you?"
"Ah yes! So actually, I've meant to ask... I'd love to first hear about how you typically structure your compensation packages across salary, equity, bonuses, and perks. Would you be able to share that with me first?"
This talk track will often work on an entry-to-mid-level manager or recruiter who's not super experienced. It doesn't work on agency recruiters or people with a lot of negotiating experience, though. Proceed accordingly.
If and when you do need to give a number, start with a comprehensive range. This range should be based on your research of what is typical for the role, company, and industry.
"I'm expecting something in the low six-figures."
"My initial thought is mid-to-high five figures."
"I'm expecting a market rate for this role, which I've seen is in the mid-to-high six figures, depending on the mix of salary and equity."
In the ideal scenario for you, the other person is satisfied with this answer (checking to make sure you're not crazy), and the compensation discussion ends there. You can move onto other questions and keep selling them on a bigger vision of your value before you have to talk numbers again.
Sometimes, you'll be talking with an experienced negotiator who will ask again until they get a specific number. You should usually give them an answer. In that case, you'll want to provide a range, which will make it easier to land in the same ballpark. The best sort of range to give is +/- 10% around the number you're asking for.
"I'd love to land in the range of $85 to $100K".
"The range I'm expecting is in the low $200s."
"Most of the opportunities I've been considering are around $60-75K+."
PS - There's also a chance they won't ask in the interview process at all. Sometimes, you get toward the offer stage but haven't talked numbers yet!