Job Search: New Rules for Salary Discussion

Monday Author: Susanne Skinner

If you do not know your worth and value,
do not expect someone else to calculate it for you.

Recruiter:       “What is your current salary?”
You:                “My target is between X and X, is that in range for this position?”

salary negotiation, job search, salary rangeIt really is that simple, yet you and I know it isn’t. A job search always involves a salary discussion and the important thing is to be in control of it. Your current salary is none of their business. No matter how they phrase it, never answer this question with your actual salary.

If you do, there are only two directions it will take you. The first is the receiving end of a bottom range offer; the second is undervaluing you as a candidate by stripping your negotiating power.

A handful of states have made this question illegal. Employers may not ask your current salary or salary history as part of a bigger initiative to bridge the gender pay gap and end wage discrimination. They shouldn’t need a law but hey—let’s be real—it’s going to happen and it’s important to be prepared with the right answers.

Salary is a critical component of everyone’s job search and interview process. Go into it with tools to obtain the salary you deserve. Never let someone else negotiate your worth. 

Know Your Worth

Pick a hill and be prepared to die on it. Compensation should not be cloaked in darkness; it is old school but still the norm. I believe every job posting should include the salary range—it saves everyone the trouble of playing the guessing game. It attracts high-caliber applicants and puts qualified candidates in front of the hiring manager.

Make the process transparent. My last two companies were up front with this information.  It was a relief knowing the salary and I was prepared with my numbers. We both knew we wanted to continue the discussion. One offer was slightly higher than my number, one slightly lower.

Weighing the lower option against benefits, executive leadership, my own awesome manager (who also joined me at my next job) and the career opportunity made the answer an easy one. Your salary is always more than just money.

When you are confident of your worth it is easier to negotiate and to walk away. 

Stand Your Ground

Enter the discussion with an acceptable range and do not back down. If they quote a lower number pull out your best negotiating skills and stand your ground. The selling game works both ways. You need to sell your skills but they have to sell you their company. And by that, I mean culture.

salary plus benefits, salary range, job searchA company that is deliberately vague or low-balls a salary probably has less than stellar business practices and employee benefits. Pay attention to the vibes around you because those factor into the culture. All the money in the world won’t compensate you for a toxic work environment. Look at the big picture; it tells the best story.

Define your professional worth around the statement “This is what I can do for you.” Most resumes are written in a passive voice and chronicle your job history, but a stand-out resume tells potential employers what you can do for them—and that is all they care about.

Examples of your success, including Linked In recommendations from senior leaders in your most recent company, lend credibility to salary requirements. They support your experience when measured against the caliber of work you deliver.

Understand the average compensation in your field by doing some research. Glassdoor offers good industry insights. Never go into an interview without this information. All jobs have a salary range and so should every candidate.

Compensation Best Practices 

Where an employer stands on compensation depends on the overall health of the organization. If the company underwrites employee’s well-being with a healthy workplace that includes financial security and career growth, their compensation package will reflect it and attract good candidates. 

Job Seekers

  • Don’t waste time with an interview if you aren’t interested in the company.
  • If you pass a phone screen and are invited for a second round, begin by asking if you can discuss the salary range. Why waste time if it’s not realistic for either of you?
  • Approach each opportunity with empowerment and confidence, advocating your worth, value and skills.
  • Never tell them you have a higher offer from another company.
  • Know how low you are willing to go.
  • Leave on-line salary history boxes blank. If they ask for your target range, give them one.


Interviews are multi-step processes that begin with a phone screen followed by in-person interviews. Present your company honestly and be straightforward about the work culture. When you find the right candidate, pay them what they are worth.

  • Don’t waste a candidate’s time if they lack the experience you are looking for.
  • If a candidate passes a phone screen, be up front about the salary to determine if the process should move forward.
  • Never low-ball a highly qualified candidate if you want to hire them.
  • Don’t ghost – it does not reflect well on the company or the interview team.
  • If the candidate is not a good fit tell them within 48 hours.
  • If the hiring manager wants to expand the field of candidates, follow up with those you have spoken with as you continue to interview. 

Expert Salary Advice for a Job Search

Time has come for a human workplaceMy go-to expert is Human Workplace author Liz Ryan. Liz thinks outside the HR box, with advice that never misses its mark. It takes courage and a shift in thinking to follow her recommendations but she tells it true. Only the best companies are human. The rest still define themselves with draconian processes in candidate recruiting, screening and hiring.

As a job seeker, invest in reading (and practicing) Liz’s suggestions on salary negotiation.  You’ll be smarter than the average candidate when you’re through.

This entry was posted in Business, Susanne Skinner and tagged , , , , , , , , by Aline Kaplan. Bookmark the permalink.

About Aline Kaplan

Aline Kaplan is a published author, a blogger, and a tour guide in Boston. She formerly had a career as a high-tech marketing and communications director. Aline writes and edits The Next Phase Blog, a social commentary blog that appears multiple times a week at She has published over 1,000 posts on a variety of subjects, from Boston history to science fiction movies, astronomical events to art museums. Under the name Aline Boucher Kaplan, she has had two science fiction novels (Khyren and World Spirits) published by Baen Books. Her short stories have appeared in anthologies published in the United States, Ireland, and Australia. She is a graduate of Northeastern University in Boston and lives in Hudson, MA.

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