How To Talk About Salary (Without It Being Awkward)

Woman talks about salary during a job interview

As the job search advances, one of the top questions becomes "what salary do I ask for?" So, let's talk about salary!

When a candidate meets a company and falls in love with their dream job, they need to have some awkward conversations before they can commit to each other. Salary is one of those conversations.

But talking about salary doesn't have to be awkward!

The important thing is to be prepared. You need to do your homework and understand what's fair. The last thing you want to do is to price yourself out of a job because you didn't know you asked for too much. Or worse, sell yourself short because you didn't ask for enough. It's business time…so, let's get down to business.

Here are some things you should know before you talk about salary:

The Essentials Of Salary Discussions

1. Always Be Prepared

You never know when an employer will bring up the salary question—it could be in the job application or it could be during your final job interview. That's why you want to be prepared for it. Know your numbers before you apply for the position so you're not caught off guard.

2. Don't Be The One To Bring It Up First

A common mistake people make during the hiring process is bringing up salary too soon. This can hurt your chances of getting the job offer because the employer might think you're only in it for the money. Wait until the employer brings it up, then go from there.

3. Know What's Competitive

Do your homework. Know what's competitive for that role in that industry. You can use websites like Glassdoor, Payscale, and Salary.com to research competitive salary rates for similar positions.

4. Know Your "Walk-Away" Rate

After you do your research, you'll have an idea of both the highest and lowest salaries for similar roles in your field. This is an important thing to know because it will allow you to have a range to work with during negotiations (i.e., it will give you some wiggle room). When you're thinking about your range, it's important to know your "walk-away" rate. This is the absolute lowest offer you will accept without eating Ramen noodles for the rest of your life. You don't want to take an offer that's not going to pay you enough to live comfortably. Otherwise, you'll likely be on the job search again looking for a role that pays you more money. However, you do want to understand the going salary rates for that position so you don't a) price yourself out of the job, or b) sell yourself short.

Other Important Factors To Consider During Salary Negotiations

Job seeker negotiates salary with human resources professional during a job interview


5. Don't Limit Yourself To Money

While you should aim to get a competitive salary, don't focus only on the money. You can negotiate for other things too, like work-from-home opportunities, flextime, vacation days, and other perks. It depends on what's most important to you. Again, this will give you some wiggle room during negotiations.

6. Give Them A Reason To Give You More

In order to get the salary you want, you need to prove that you'll be a valuable asset to the company and that your unique skills/experiences make you the best fit for the role. You need to show them that you're worth the investment.

What To Do When Salary Negotiations Get Tough

Woman negotiates a better salary during a job interviewBigstock

7. Don't Be Afraid Of 'No'

During salary negotiations, it's okay to say "no" to a job offer if it's not in line with what you feel is appropriate based on your research and needs. Remember, saying "no" opens up negotiations. Also, if the employer says "no" to your counteroffer, it doesn't mean he or she isn't willing to work with you to find something that works for both parties (that's why they call it negotiating!). This is why you do so much prep work in the beginning. If you know your numbers, have a "walk-away" rate, and demonstrate your value to the employer, you're more likely to negotiate an offer that works for you. If not, it might not be the right opportunity for you at this point. Your dream job is still out there, you just haven't found it yet,

8. Chill!

Yes, salary negotiations can be stressful. However, it's a big part of the hiring process. If you choose to forgo the negotiation process because you're afraid, you risk selling yourself short. Don't do that to yourself! If you get nervous, try practicing your negotiating skills with a friend or a career coach. The more you practice, the more comfortable you'll get doing it.

See? You can do this whole salary dance! And it doesn't have to be awkward. As long as you apply these tips, you don't have to worry about salary negotiations, and you'll able to answer the "what salary do I ask for" question with ease.

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This article was originally published at an earlier date.