[See our list of The 50 Best Careers.]
When Working with a Third-Party Recruiter
Discussing your salary expectations with a recruiter early in the your relations will help her present you with the most appropriate opportunities. Remember that a recruiter wants to make the opportunity work for her client and for you, so bluffing or withholding information about the salary makes the situation more complicated than it needs to be.
She will have a better idea of what a company is able to pay; if it doesn't meet your requirements, then either she'll approach you with opportunities that are better suited or if it's not that far off, she can assess the situation upfront and open the possibilities. And remember: if she specializes in your industry niche, she can give you insider information about what you can expect in your local market.
• Be honest about your salary requirements.
• Be upfront—nobody wants to waste time if it's not going to fit.
• Be willing to listen if your recruiter thinks you're shooting too high.
• Be open to looking at the entire compensation package—including bonus, insurance, 401(k) and matches, perks, etc.
When Working with a Hiring Manager
When it comes to discussing salary with a potential employer, it's like a poker game. Neither side wants to reveal its cards, and both will do their best to get the other to open up first.
Don't bring up salary in your resume or job application. If a job application asks for your salary requirements, give a range (especially if the job description already provided one). Salary is best left for negotiation at the end of the process and when the company is ready to make you an offer.
If the hiring manager questions you about your salary expectations during the job interview, ask about the salary range for the job. Gently put it on her until she gives you an idea, so you can see if it would fit. She knows what she can budget for this role (and that shouldn't change based on your salary preference), so it's up to you whether you can accept something in this range.
Do your research on salary range before the interview so you have an idea of where to start. While salaries will vary depending on your location and experience, looking at a site like Salary.com can give you some context of what you can expect for this role. If the actual salary is much lower, you can ask why and show your research for similar roles. Not all manager titles pay equally and many other factors should be considered. Perhaps this position has fewer responsibilities or requires less experience. Salary ranges also tend to fluctuate for the same position in different industry sectors and geographical locations.
Don't try to negotiate salary until you get to the job offer phase. It can be frustrating to go through the interview process without knowing if it's worth your time, but save the haggling until the company is sold on hiring you. Salary ranges or other negotiating factors have a magical way of loosening up a bit when you are the desired candidate for the role. And have ready reasons why you're worth more (not just because you want to get paid more).
Salary can be tricky. You don't want the conversation to ruin your chances of getting hired, but you also don't want to be too stubborn when it's brought up.
Lindsay Olson is a founding partner and public relations recruiter with Paradigm Staffing and Hoojobs, a niche job board for public relations, communications, and social media jobs. She blogs at LindsayOlson.com, where she discusses recruiting and job search issues.