I’ve made every mistake in the job search process… I once misspelled my name on hundreds of resumes sent to potential employers (true story!).  Knowing when to ask and what to say in terms of salary should never be a mistake you make. Working as a recruiter, we use a series of screening questions to eliminate candidates before presenting them to a hiring manager. Salary is typically an easy question that is asked pretty early on to eliminate anyone who may be out of the salary range. Especially if you’re applying for a startup you’ll find that most startups have a shoestring budget and will want a lot of bang for only a few bucks. Here are a few tips you need to know when discussing salary.

When to Ask

If there isn’t a salary range posted in the job description and the recruiter didn’t ask you during the initial phone screen, it’s a great time to bring up pay discussions before you get too far along in the process. Perfect time to bring it up is when the interviewer asks at the end of the initial call, “Do you have any questions for me?” But, instead of simply asking for the salary range, you’ll sound like a more educated candidate if you ask what the compensation package entails.

What to Ask

You may have to dig, but you’ll want to walk away with information like:

  • Base Salary
  • Bonus or Commission Structure
  • Equity
  • How frequently pay is evaluated

By getting this information, you’ll have better apples to apples comparison when looking at other perspective employers. Asking how frequently pay is evaluated is one of the most underrated questions, but as a job seeker, it can provide you with invaluable insight. This insight tells you how the company values their people while clueing you into their company culture. If you discover they evaluate pay every 3 years it’s probably a very bureaucratic company. If they don’t have a pay strategy in place, they may be equally unorganized in other areas. Another option, if they are aggressive in their pay strategy, it can show you the company values employee performance akin to a sports team. No matter what, it’s a great measure for your ability to fit into the company culture.

When the Pay is Low

Ok, you’re interviewing at startup that is poised to be the next Instagram, but until then, they’re paying in Instagram double taps as opposed to Instagram stock options. What to do? Consider asking about other benefits to sweeten the deal.

  • Wellness Programs
  • Commuter Perks
  • Personal Development
  • 401k Matching
  • Extra Vacation Time
  • Choose Your Rig (computer)
  • Sabbatical
  • Free tickets to local events or parks

Negotiation Tips

One of the best tips I’ve ever read in terms of salary negotiations is to counter with a number that ends in 50. For example, if the company offers you $80,000 it’s a nice well-rounded figure. If you counter for $85,000 it looks like your standard counter. Let’s say instead you counter with $86,250 knowing your goal is to get the company to at least $85,000. The hiring manager may think that you know more about the pay range than he or she does by your non-round figure counter and/or think you have another offer on the table with that figure. Either way, it has a physiological effect of more likely getting you the paycheck you deserve.

Often a recruiter will ask what you currently make in a phone interview. Again, this is used as a screening question to eliminate candidates or to form your new salary based on your previous salary. While most people give this information freely, as a former recruiter, I would caution you against it giving it up at all. Stick to a range that you want your new salary to be if the question comes up. If the recruiter is insistent on getting your previous pay it’s best to stick with, “If we’re in the same ballpark we can continue to talk.” Just like you wouldn’t ask them how much money they make, what they pay other people in the position, or what they’re talking to other candidates about paying them, it’s information that will do more harm than good to divulge. Set a boundary of not disclosing that information and stick to it.

Hopefully, these salary offer tips help you land your next fat paycheck. If you used any of them, would love to hear about how they worked for you! Oh, and don’t forget to triple check the spelling of your name

Posted by Will Rubio

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