Knowing how to ask about salary in a job interview can be tricky. Nobody likes to talk money and negotiating a salary during the interview process is never easy. However, it is an unavoidable conversation; one that is part and parcel of your job application.

When we work with candidates we always clarify salaries upfront so that no time is wasted, however, if you are job hunting solo we can help you out there as well.

This post is dedicated to addressing the issues you may face when negotiating and asking about salary with your future employer.  We tackle the nitty gritty…from when you ought to address the question of salary expectation and how best to approach your conversations in order to get the salary you deserve from your next job role.

Salary Negotiation Tips at Interview.

When and How to Ask About Pay in an Interview…

Over recent years, the recruitment journey has changed.  These days, candidates can expect to go through multiple stages. It is not uncommon that it will begin with a telephone interview, followed by a tiered face to face interview process.

Very often, salary is not discussed with a candidate until the closing stages of the final interview and more often than not, it will be the hiring manager who will open up these conversations. It is crucial you are prepped and ready to enter into a discussion at this stage.  

There are exceptions, however.  If you are aware that the company has a shorter process, then the goal posts shift a little.  In this situation, we would recommend that you do not bring up salary until just before you are invited back to a second stage interview.  

By getting to this point, the hiring manager has indicated that your future employment is a definite possibility. A candid attempt to negotiate salary at this stage could save time and disappointment for both parties in the long run.  

If you are wondering how you would broach the subject at this point, you may like to consider something along the lines of:

“What salary did you have in mind for this position?”

By opening with a question, you are not issuing a demand, but inviting a negotiation.  Choosing your words carefully is important too. The offer of a “conversation” suggests that you are anticipating a true give and take scenario.

When shouldn’t you approach salary negotiations?

It is important to remember that there are some jobs where salary negotiation is just not appropriate.  Entry level or graduate positions are two examples of this. These often come with a firm starting salary.  In these situations, your aim is to get the job, not to squeeze for more money!

How should you approach salary negotiations?

When you begin a salary negotiation is often dictated by the hiring manager.  How you approach and react to this discussion though is heavily down to you!

Our salary negotiation tips after job offer.

Be Confident.

There is a fine line between confidence and arrogance, and we suggest that you need to be mindful of this.  However, by adopting an executive mindset you will distinguish yourself from your competitors.

This is the difference between thinking like a job seeker; ready to accept the first offering and the professional, who is more aware of their worth.  

If you were the Hiring Manager, who would you rather employ?

You can demonstrate a healthy level of confidence by knowing your value and what you deserve for your skill set and the work you will be undertaking.  

The confidence you need to exhibit throughout your negotiations will depend on a number of factors.  

Do your research.

Fail to prepare…prepare to fail.  Make sure you are able to back up your request by arming yourself with all the evidence you need to support your expectations.  Use job boards, Google For Jobs and sites such as Glassdoor to aggregate what your peers are earning in similar job roles. You may also like to reach out to trusted members of your network and gather their thoughts.  

If you are using a specialist recruiter, they will be able to give you invaluable industry insights as to what your skills, experience and employment history may get you.

When you are compiling your information make sure you take the following points into consideration.  Think about:

  • Your educational level
  • Your skills
  • Your expertise
  • Your years in the job
  • Your accomplishments.
  • Additionally, you will need to think about the company where you are interviewing.

Their location, size and the consequential payroll budget will all have an impact on the salary range they are able to offer.  In other words, your best strategy is to know your worth whilst remaining realistic within the salary guidelines that may be laid out in the job spec.

Have answers to the difficult questions.

If you begin negotiations, it is quite likely that the hiring manager will follow up by asking you to disclose what you earned in your last role.  This is awkward. Whilst you are under no obligation to answer (this question is actually illegal in New York), a blunt refusal to do so could be deemed as unhelpful, combative and obstructive.

Answer it in the right way, however, and you’ll do none of these things.  At this point we would advise that if you were to give this information, you are likely to lose your negotiating leverage.

Instead, politely state that the salary of your last role is not relevant to this one. The two companies are different.  They will have different payroll budgets and therefore different salary guidelines.

The two roles require different skills and you will hold different responsibilities. Instead, point out that you are seeking a job which compensates you fairly for your skills.  You can’t be more reasonable than that!!

If they continue to press you for a firm answer it could be suggested that the company are not looking to pay you your worth based on your experience.

Instead, they are looking to protect their bottom line. If that’s the case, then maybe it’s time to ask yourself if this is a company you really wish to work for??

Look at the whole package.

Before you launch in, take time to consider ALL the employer is offering within the package.  The whole is always greater than the sum of its parts!

Things to factor in:

  • Any commission earning potential
  • Equity or share options
  • Holiday allowances
  • Any contributory pension scheme
  • A company car
  • Private healthcare
  • Share options
  • Gym memberships or similar schemes
  • Is there an opportunity to review the initial salary over a time frame.  In other words, are they offering a short-term incentive based upon mutually agreed KPIs?
  • Any learning or development opportunities.

The latter is particularly valid as inclusions such as this will only serve to increase your long-term earning potential and value.

Remain calm and amicable.

A negotiation is about having a conversation.  Remember that every conversation you have with the hiring manager will make a lasting impression, so be mindful that you are neither abrupt or defensive.  

Most hiring managers will have a salary budget they are able to work with, so within the salary, negotiation make sure you show a level of flexibility. By doing so, you will demonstrate your desire to be a team player.

Salary Negotiation at Interview. What to avoid.

So we’ve covered the “what to do…” and coached you through how to do it.  So what about giving you some tips about what to avoid!

Not being prepared.

We’ve said it before, but we’ll say it again.  Fail to prepare your pitch or be able to support your salary request with an explanation and you’ll come across as unprepared and unprofessional.  


Don’t bluff regarding other job offers or pretend you are interviewing elsewhere if you aren’t.  That being said, if you do have genuine offers on the table or irons in the fire, then you can be candid about this.

Don’t be too interested in the package.

A successful negotiation relies upon your ability to demonstrate your financial concerns are balanced by a genuine desire for the job.

Salary negotiations are never going to be easy, and you may think that you run the risk of appearing presumptuous or arrogant. Although this could be said to be true, we think it is how you handle it that will set you apart from your fellow applicants.

We hope you have found our guide to be of use, and that by following our hints and tips you are able to go on and negotiate your next salary with confidence and poise.

Good Luck!

If you are looking for more useful content regarding your job search then have a look at our Job Hunting Master Plan where we will be able to guide you every step on the way from the initial search to eventual offer.

About the author: As a founder of Ignite Digital Talent, I lead our brilliant team to ensure we deliver time and time again for our clients. I also stay closely networked with industry influencers to ensure we are well placed to understand the issues and challenges our clients face.

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