I presented a (true) case study in a publication I edit, involving a candidate who did a poor job of handling the salary discussion. (You can read the situation here.) One of the readers included this in their response:
"I've been a part of the same company my whole career, so maybe I'm speaking out of turn here, but it seems odd to me that Alan (the hiring manager) wouldn't have his desired offered compensation ready as the opening salvo. I was coached years ago to leave that line as "negotiable" when filling out an application so you don't knock yourself out of contention – it's foreign to me that he would expect Jennifer (the candidate) to make the first move."
Here's what I wrote back to him:
I think (as a candidate), you need to have thought through various scenarios, and how you will handle them.
As a hiring manager, I'm always curious how a candidate is going to handle salary questions, and might very well ask the question Alan did. It can reveal how comfortable a candidate is with delicate situations, as it did in this case. I'd be prepared with a range I have in mind if she asks, but probably wouldn't open by revealing it.
My experience is that it's very common in initial interviews for the salary question to be asked, often by HR. The legal landscape is changing, such that in most places one can no longer ask about past salary, but asking about expectations is still OK. And it can be revealing to see how the candidate handles the question.
- Did they prepare ahead of time, and have an idea what jobs like this pay?
- Do they have a good sense of their own self-worth?
- Are they comfortable talking about money?
I invite readers to weigh in with their own thoughts on the case study and the discussion above. In a future issue, I'll share some of the other responses I received, as well as what actually happened in the case in question.
In the meanwhile, you can read this for more on handling salary negotiations.