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HR How-to: Discuss Salary During An Interview

The interview is going swimmingly and you sit, quite convinced, that you’ve finally landed on that super star candidate, the new employee who’s going to hit the ground running and propel your business to the next level. And then they ask about salary and it’s as if all the air has been sucked out of the room.

While it can certainly cause an awkward moment, it is foolish not to talk shop when you’re interviewing a candidate. After all, why take the hiring process further if you have vastly disparate ideas for how the position should be rewarded? But do these conversations about salary always have to be so awkward or is there a way to address the issue tactfully and tastefully without creating a moment from which you and your candidate can never recover? Read on to learn our top tips for talking bank without feeling robbed.

Do your homework:
While it may not come up in every interview due to the potential awkwardness around the topic, it is best to be prepared if it does or, on the other hand, to be proactive and broach the topic on your own. With this in mind, plan to come armed with information about your own company’s pay scale, as well as the average salaries for folks in similar positions, industries, and geographical location. If you really do not have any idea, you can look at online job sites such as Glassdoor and Indeed as a guide. At this time, you do not need to pin it down to an exact number, rather you should be able to verbalize a range to determine if you and the candidate are in the same ballpark. Now, if you find that your numbers look radically off from what others are paying, It might be time to reevaluate your company’s entire salary structure before you go ahead and try to hire your next star employee (especially if your company is really underpaying compared to your peers).

Tout your structure:
Sure, you might bring folks in at a certain salary level and it might not be what they want, but do they ascend up the career ladder to a higher pay bracket faster than they would at a rival company? Will they be making their preferred salary in six months to a year? Understanding what criteria folks need to move to the next level and what the salary looks like at the next level can help you better frame conversations about salary, as well as career projections, with a new hire and can even set you apart from others in your field who fail to have these conversations.

Show off the total package:
While it might not pop up in that initial salary conversation, in subsequent conversations regarding salary, you’ll actually want to steer the focus to your total compensation package, especially if you’re coming in lower than expected for your base pay. Now is the time to let folks know that you offer flex scheduling, work from home opportunities, a robust health insurance offering, higher than average paid time off, and a slew of other perks that make working for your company seriously compelling. Sure, the dollar figure is important, but some folks really value the extras and can assign dollar values to these perks, especially their health insurance contributions and other deductibles to get a clearer picture of what their take home pay will be and how it might stack up against their current compensation or other offers they may be weighing.

Don’t discount yourself:
There will be times when you are interviewing a really, super qualified candidate who can certainly go above and beyond what the position requires, or could even make a rapid progression up the corporate ladder and turn into a true leader in your company. Now, if this person gives you a salary range that is outside of your expectations, do not just assume that you don’t stand a chance of snagging this new hire. Rather, you should go back to the drawing board and determine whether there could be any wiggle room. Can you offer a signing bonus or performance bonus to boost the bottom line? Could they be interested in company stock or some other way to offer a stake in the company to otherwise offset any financial losses. Sometimes these benefits or other perks outlined in your comprehensive benefits package may supersede a bigger paycheck for your candidate. In addition, you have to remember that only the candidate can determine whether they can make the salary work, so don’t take yourself out of the process until they tell you they simply can’t make it work.

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