We have are often asked ‘when is the best time to mention salary’ by candidates who are going through an interview process. When we discussed this, each consultant seemed to have a different answer, and each of their reasons seemed justified. In order to try to ascertain the commonly-accepted protocol on this subject, we carried out a poll on LinkedIn.
As you will see, there is no commonly accepted ‘right time’ for bringing up the topic of remuneration. Yes, it is important to clarify the salary range before beginning the process, yet is it a little forward or presumptuous to start speaking about exact packages etc. at this stage? Should in-depth discussion be left until the final part of the process, when the company makes an offer, or is this risking things falling out at the last moment. ‘Sales’ theory may have it that a candidate being invited for a second interview is an example of the client showing strong ‘buying signals’, so surely between first and second interviews would be the best time to broach the topic: the client is keen to progress things, as is the candidate, so it makes sense to deal with the practicalities of salary et cetera at this stage.
Bearing in mind there is no ‘ideal time’ to start discussing salary, it makes sense to focus on the best way in which to do so.
Do your research. Find out what the company’s competitors pay for similar roles, and also how quickly any similar roles are filled. If roles are being filled quickly, then this is an indication that to a certain degree it is a ‘buyer’s market’, if across the industry roles are taking a time to fill it would indicate that your skills and experience are in demand. Please view Brand Recruitment’s Marketing Salary Survey to gain an insight into average marketing salaries.
To broach the topic, try to avoid referring to your individual situation and speak about the company or the role – essentially try to find out what cards the client has in their hand before showing yours:
“What skills and/or experience would you be looking for from a candidate at the higher end of the pay scale?”
“Is salary scale fixed, or would there be scope for flexibility for the ideal candidate”
“In the light of the salary scale, whereabouts would the company consider someone with my skills and experience?”
- Avoid ‘digging your heels in’ too early. Send out assertive signals, yet steer clear of being too demanding. Probe for a sense of where the company stands, and then move things forward from that point. There are many aspects to remuneration packages (especially with more senior roles) so it is advantageous to assess packages as a whole rather than focusing on x or y.
- If you choose to liaise with the company in between stages, then try to combine any conversation about salary with other topics, for example, when the company calls to invite you back for a second interview, ask for feedback from the first interview, perhaps enquire how many other candidates are returning for second interview, oh, and ‘just to firm up’ remuneration…
- Using a recruitment agency is a great way to outsource any ‘tricky’ negotiations about salary, yet make sure you are transparent and consistent when dealing with your consultant- you must both be singing from the same sheet with regards to salary/package. Changing the goalposts at the eleventh hour always slows down and often jeopardises the process.