One of the most important steps in a job interview comes at the end when it’s time to negotiate your salary or hourly wage. The last thing you want to do is to accept a job and then discover later you should have been getting paid more.
To be confident you’ll be paid a fair rate for the particular job you’re accepting, the first step is to do a bit of homework before the interview.
Research pay ranges
First check out two or three websites that will give you an idea of what sort of salaries are paid for particular jobs in various locations:
- Glassdoor.com allows you to just enter the type of work and the location, and it brings up a graph with the average salary for that job, adjustable by size of company and other criteria.
- Payscale.com asks for additional information, including your years of experience, what type of businesses you have worked in, your level of education and the name of the college you attended, if any. It then gives you a chart of the salary range for that position.
- Salaryexpert is another site you may want to try.
- The American Job Center offers an hourly wage calculator by occupation and local area.
You can also check out similar job titles on online job boards like indeed.com or careerbuilder.com. Another tactic, although it may be a bit more difficult, is to find someone who works inside the company and ask them about wages paid there. Or just speak with other people in similar businesses to find out the industry standard for the type of work you’re looking for.
With this information in mind, you’ll have an idea of what you’ll be able to aim for in terms of pay.
Negotiating salary is essential
Although not everyone negotiates salaries – according to salary.com, 18 percent of the people it surveyed never negotiate their salary – it’s important to do so. Otherwise you might miss out on money you wouldn’t get if you didn’t have the confidence to ask.
If the hiring manager asks what salary you’re looking for early in the interview, tell them that you’d like to get to know more about the job and its requirements before discussing salary. It will work to your advantage if you take this approach.
And if they ask your salary history, you should be honest and tell them. But then you should also make your case that with your skills and experience, you think you’re worth more. Answering their salary question directly can also show that you’re candid and have integrity.
In some states it’s no longer legal to ask your past salary. In fact, a new Massachusetts law that went into effect on July 1, 2018 makes it illegal for any employer in that state to ask about current or past salaries. They must also publish pay ranges for all job openings. A similar bill has been passed by the California legislature and approved by Governor Jerry Brown.
Pay negotiations come last
The salary negotiation should come at the end of the interview – or during the last of a series of interviews – when the hiring manager is ready to make a job offer.
But be careful if they ask for your salary requirements. You may name a number that is too low, thus shortchanging yourself, or an amount above the company’s budget. Instead, say something like, “What is the salary range you have in mind for this position?”
If they tell you, you can say (if you agree), “Well that’s the range I had in mind. Are you willing to offer (name the amount at the top of the range, if you feel comfortable doing so).
And if the range for this particular job is lower than the average salary or pay that you’ve found through your research, you can reply with, “Based on the research I’ve done on jobs similar to this one in the area, I was hoping to receive a bit more. Are you willing to be flexible?”
If they only mention a single number, that “$60,000 is what we’re offering for this position,” for example, it could just be an opener for a negotiation. You can answer with, “Would you be willing to consider a slightly higher starting salary of, say, $65,000? Based on my research, this is the average for this type of work around here, and I’m confident that you will be happy with the skills and experience I will bring to the job.”
Keep in mind that it’s usually easier to get a higher salary before you accept a position than to wait for a raise that may or may not materialize. If the hiring manager insists that you start at a certain pay level but will get a raise in “x” amount of time, try to get it in writing. Sometimes verbal promises made during the hiring process are later forgotten.
Also keep in mind that with taxes figured in, the differences in various salaries may not be as great as you think. Benefits, including health insurance, vacation and sick pay can outweigh extra pay. You need to be realistic about income, especially if it’s your first job after being incarcerated. As long as it’s a living wage, you should be satisfied.
Take time to decide
The hiring manager may say that they’ll look into it – or they may say that’s the final offer. If it is the final offer, you need to decide whether to accept the job offer or not. And it’s best to take some time to think about it, so make sure to ask how long you have to make a decision. Not only do you appear more professional with this approach, but it will give you time to think about and weigh the options. Giving an applicant a few days to make a decision is common practice among employers these days.
Keep in mind that a negotiation is a discussion of pay and shouldn’t be adversarial. You and your potential employer are attempting to come to an agreement that, hopefully, will make you happy and will fall within the department’s budget for the position.
And ask for the salary offer in writing, especially if it’s a small company. If the hiring manager doesn’t typically do this, you may want to write an email confirming the fact that you are happy to accept the position, mentioning the salary that was offered.
Determining the cost of living
Especially for those who are just getting out of prison or jail, it could be useful to determine the cost of living in the place where you’d like to settle. That way you can determine if you can afford to live there or whether you might need to consider taking on more than one job. And you can find out the cost of living by using the MIT Living Wage Calculator
Just select a state and a county from the list on the website, and you can find out the living wage for 13 situations ranging from 1 working adult to 2 adults (1 working) and 2 adults with 3 children. The calculator also includes a list of typical expenses: food, childcare, medical, housing and transportation, as well as the required annual income before taxes, so people will know how much they will need to earn.
For some in reentry and just returning to the workforce this very useful tool can be shared with the hiring manager, if needed, to influence a pay rate that is at least in line with a living wage.
From the editor: Bringing notes to your interview is considered acceptable by most hiring managers. Not only do your notes help to calm your nerves during an interview and offer a reminder of the key points to cover, they can also serve to express your preparedness and professionalism to the hiring manager. Bullet points and short phrases as reminders, and questions to ask can all be useful. Asking good questions can also help to make a favorable impress with the hiring manager, and having them written down makes for less that needs to be remembered.