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How and when to cover salary with your candidate

When interviewing a candidate, whether this person is a great match for my current position or someone I want to keep in the pipeline, expected salary is one of the last subjects I cover. I have never and would never ask “What would it take” etc. That really puts them in a position of thinking the client wants to “buy” them – so “name your price”. That is a far cry from the real topic.

When I discuss salary (beyond my initial/pre-interview screening “what is your current salary”) it is only after I have walked through their entire career – learning about their salary history from one job to the next. I have already seen their track record of salary increases, etc. By that time I have seen them go from one job to the next and learned what their salary changes were each time. I then know what they have done in real life.

After I know them, their career, their goals – and had them describe the kind of opportunity that fits their career path – I then approach the specific salary discussion. “OK. Great. I’ve got a pretty good understanding of the type of role we’re looking for. If I can find an opportunity that provides what you are looking for – what would be your thoughts on a lateral salary move?” and then I just shut up……..don’t say a word……….

If they say “I need at least XX amount (far above their current) my reply is always: “So then, salary is the main reason for your interest in a change?” At this point the conversation is going to go one of two directions. If their answer is:

Yes – then I suggest the best way to achieve that goal is simply let it be known they’ve been hearing about jobs, or interviewing, etc. and hopefully they can get a counter offer. You see – if $$ is the main reason for a change – that person has a VERY HIGH probability of a counter offer acceptance.
I will also mention that if a company is expected to invest in your career development most likely they would not offer a giant $$ increase to join their team.

In my opinion – training is money. I let them know I find it interesting that people spend 50K + on their degree HOPING they will find a job in their field. When the prospect of a better position comes along with real hands-on/current technology to be gained – they expect a huge raise? I suggest it may be time to invest just a bit more for actual PROFESSIONAL AND CAREER GROWTH – by way of a lateral salary move – or even a slightly lower salary.

But more often their answer will be along these lines – “No. Salary is not my only reason for wanting to move. I just want the best offer I can get”. This is more realistic. I’ll let them know I have the very same goal. Once we’re back on the same page – I find often times they’re simply in need of some guidance. I let them know most cases involve a “reasonable” increase – say, 3-5% – but that our real goal should be to find the best career move. In most cases we then discuss a more realistic salary expectation and keep moving ahead.

This is how I work.

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