At some point in the job interview process you will need to talk about money. But how and when should you raise the subject, and how can you ensure you get an offer that meets your expectations? Kat Jefferies shares her advice here.
Generally speaking we don’t advise you to bring up salaries and compensation during a first round job interview. Why? Well, in most cases a first interview for both candidate and employer is about seeing whether the role and the candidate are a good fit, and the company is a good fit for the candidate.
Therefore bringing up the subject of money can make you appear to be only interested in the compensation, not the actual role. Instead salary negotiations are generally reserved for those candidates who are strong contenders for the role, once the initial ‘can we work together’ questions are answered.
Also, after a first interview both candidate and employer have an opportunity to reassess what they want in compensation, or want to pay, according to how the interview went. As a candidate you may feel that this particular structural engineering role (for example) is worth taking without any significant increase in salary because of other benefits you will get from the job. Alternatively, an employer may decide that you are worth significantly more to them than previously anticipated and are prepared to reflect this in their offer.
My advice for our construction engineering candidates is to always speak to your recruitment consultant first about money. Even when a job is advertised without an indication of salary, they will be able to advise you on whether you will achieve the compensation level you require with that employer. Their experience of recruiting both in the construction engineering sector and most likely on other occasions for that company, will help ensure you’re not wasting time on job interviews where there is a negative gap between your salary expectations and the money available.
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Further down the line of course, discussing money becomes more important. But it’s something many of us find difficult on both sides of the table.
For candidates there is always the concern that they might ask for less than the company is prepared to pay. Or that they’ll go in too high and be discounted for a role that they would done for a lower salary.
Employers have similar concerns. They’re worried that they’ll miss out on great candidates because they’re not offering the right rate, but also they’re under pressure to save money and therefore don’t want to offer more than they have to.
First off, if after a first interview you have no idea what the likely offer will be, it’s time to find out. The recruitment process can involve multiple interviews and you don’t want to invest valuable time if the potential employer is not going to offer the minimum amount you’re prepared to accept. So when you’re called about a second interview, now’s your chance to open salary negotiations.
As mentioned above, you can speak to your recruiter about this and get a ballpark figure or contact the company’s HR team to get an indication from them.
At the same time you need to be clear – to yourself – what you’re prepared to accept. This minimum figure will probably come with the proviso, ‘for the right role’. This is the salary you would be happy to work for, with no ill feelings, if the benefits of the job are sufficient. This should also be an amount that you’re still happy with if you find out further down the line that you could have got more…
Next you need to arm yourself with some facts and figures to support negotiations. You will need to know what the market rate is for the role, factoring in the level of experience required, and additional factors such as location, size of firm etc. Hopefully this will align with your expectations.
With all this information you will be able to approach any conversation with confidence and a degree of transparency that I think is often missing from salary negotiations.
However, I’m not suggesting you give everything away! When asked the questions of ‘how much do you want?’ you don’t have to answer with an exact figure (and definitely not with your lowest rate) but a salary range that opens up negotiations.
So instead of saying “I want £55,000“ you can say, “I’m looking for a salary in the £60K range” with confidence that this is achievable but also allows for negotiations up and down.
If you need a starting point for salary negotiations, have a look at our 2017 UK Structural Engineering Salary Guide to see what the market rate for structural engineering roles currently is.