When to Pop the Salary Question

One of the most potentially awkward aspects of interviewing job candidates is tackling the issue of salary. Candidates dread the negotiation process, but you can make it easier for both of you by following a few simple guidelines.

When to talk about a salary

The best time to negotiate a salary is at the end of the interview when you have a good idea of what the candidate can bring to the organization. You cannot responsibly manage a negotiation until you have formed an impression of what the candidate is worth. Your first priority before talking about money should therefore be to assess the candidate's suitability for the role.

Candidates are also more likely to feel comfortable discussing salary at the end of the interview, once they have had the chance to find out more about the job's responsibilities. Before trying to pin down a figure, make sure you let the candidate know about the benefits they can enjoy while working for your company. These perks might include opportunities for training and career progression, as well as other employee benefits, such as childcare, healthcare, bonuses, stock options or employer-supported pension plans. Candidates are often willing to accept a slightly lower salary if they know that the company will treat them well.

When to bring up salary early

The exception to the rule of waiting to discuss salary is when you have a strict hiring budget and need to check that a candidate's minimum salary requirement falls within the affordable range. In this case, it makes sense to ask the candidate to declare the minimum salary that they will accept before you spend time assessing their suitability for the job. Bringing up salary early in the interview allows both parties to find out early if their salary expectations are incompatible.

How to negotiate a salary

Talking about compensation with a prospective employee is a necessary part of the hiring process. Here are some tips for broaching the subject:

  • You can begin to bring up the subject of employee compensation by discussing the candidate's salary history. You can do this while going over the work history presented on the resume with the candidate. This creates a reference figure that you can use to anchor the salary negotiation.
  • Try not to suggest an exact figure right away. Instead, ask the candidate about their salary expectations. Going through the process of negotiation is an opportunity for interviewers to assess the negotiation skills of candidates and find out how they value their own skills.
  • Ask the candidate to justify their expected salary, especially if they are looking for a raise compared to their previous position. Are they going to be taking on a position of greater responsibility in your organization?
  • Ask the candidate to consider how other priorities, such as employee benefits and opportunities for career progression, stack up for them compared to salary.

Leading successful salary negotiations

Many people find discussing money to be rather awkward, but a discussion about salary is unavoidable when hiring a new employee. Approach the subject professionally and with confidence by following the advice provided above.