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When can I ask about the size of my pay?

Patricia Grant-Kitson

Hello Ms. Kitson,

My question to you today is, how and when does one
seek to enquire about his or her compensation package without raising a red flag to one's prospective employer?


Hello MW,

It is usually considered inappropriate to bring up the matter of compensation during the first interview, as the prospective employer may perceive that you are more concerned with money than with making a positive contribution to the success of the company. However, all employers know that this is something all candidates want to know about and that your refraining from asking is all about making a positive first impression.

Most experts will tell you that it's best to allow the prospective employer to bring up the matter of compensation first. They must discuss this with you, for your agreeing to the proposed salary of the position is an aspect of your suitability for the position. In fact, most employers will not consider you the definite candidate for a position until they are certain that the compensation package being offered is one that you are likely to accept.

When talking about the salary, be careful not to undersell yourself. This is the one chance you'll get to negotiate your income. If this is not your first job, most prospective employers will not offer you less than you were earning before - and they will know this figure as you were probably asked this information on the application form you completed. If you are making a parallel move (similar position), you may negotiate an income increase by pointing out differences in the organisations (perhaps you are going to a larger organisation), differences in the job description for the position (from the information you received form them concerning your expected duties), your expanded capabilities given your experience in the position at the other company, your supervisory or management experience and capabilities (you may have acted in such a position), etc. Whatever you do, do not use the state of the economy as the means to justify that increase - this is too focused on you. Point out how the company will benefit from employing you; let them see your that you are worth the money.

If you are changing your career path (seeking work in an area you have never worked in before) be prepared to take a salary cut if this is your only option. As the saying goes...sometimes one has to step back before going forward. You will need the experience and knowledge of this first position in the new field to position yourself for greater things.

If this is your first job, go to the interview with a solid knowledge of your living and survival expenses. Know how much money you'll need to earn to pay for rent, utilities, transportation, food (including lunch while at work), etc., Include an amount for savings in this figure. Also, it will be good if you do some research to have an idea of the average amount that the position will pays ahead of time, that way you will know how to negotiate. Be graceful during the have a job opportunity that you don't want to lose. But balance this with your needs. It is demotivating to go to a job where you have to struggle to find money for transportation and food. Know what you can live with to be content.

My summarised answer to your question then is for you to allow the prospective employer to bring up the matter of salary first, and this they should do either during the second or third interview with you, and certainly before making you an offer. Know your value, and what you need to survive and be motivated to go to work everyday. Be able to justify why you are worth a greater salary than the employer proposes - gracefully negotiate for the best starting salary possible.

Hope my response will be of help to you.

Patricia Grant-Kitson

*Patricia Grant-Kitson is a human resource consultant. Email
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