Do you recall the last time you applied for a new role? You get a call from the recruiter and you are pumped that you have gotten through the first hoop. They are talking to you about the role and it all sounds flippin’ fantastic! Then, it feels like out of nowhere they ask you for your salary expectations. You panic. You sweat. You stutter. If you are lucky you say your expectations with a molecule of confidence, but mostly just fumble through the sentence. You may even then put something on the end of the sentence like “Oh, but it’s really just about finding the right role. The money isn’t important to me!”. Eeeeeeeek. Sister, you are not alone.
I have coached several women who have been in this situation either regarding roles they’ve applied for, or roles they are currently in. I have also been in this situation and have then beaten myself up afterwards for not being prepared for the question. I ask this question regularly when I recruit for roles and it still surprises me, even in the more senior space of recruitment, how often women get flustered when asked about what their salary expectations are. Why do we do this? Why do we not say with complete confidence what we are worth?
Have you ever experienced this? How did you feel when you hung up the phone and you knew it was too late to go back now and say a different figure because you panicked and said the wrong thing? Have you ever even accepted a role considerably lower than your expectations because you felt you couldn’t say what you really felt you were worth? Maybe you didn’t want to rock the boat, or loose the job opportunity because of the money.
My question is this – Why, for the most part do men seem so often more confident in saying exactly what they expect? (yes, I know this is a sweeping generalisation!) So much so that you almost just assume, “Oh, ok they must be worth that”. Infact, sometimes, in my recruitment experience, I have even had my question about what the applicant’s salary expectations are, returned with a question. Yes – they answered my question with their own damn confidently executed question about what I was prepared to offer for the role! At the other end of the spectrum though, often sits us. Highly capable, competent and professional women, yet for some reason when asked what we are worth, we fumble and panic on the other end of the phone trying to work out our answer to the question.
Let me give you two recent examples from phone calls that I have had regarding separate roles I have been recruiting for as part of my other full-time role (General Manager of People and Culture for a large retail business):
Example A) I was speaking to a gentleman the other day regarding a role and after talking about the role for about 20 minutes or so, I went to ask for his salary expectations – his response straight away was, “What is your banding for the role?” “What are you prepared to pay for the role?”. He literally answered my question with a question without even batting an eyelid (atleast that is how I imagined it given I couldn’t see him!).
Example B) I am on the phone to a woman about a different role and I go through the same 20 or so minute discussion about the role before asking her what her salary expectations are. She pauses for about 5 seconds, panics and then says, “I’m so sorry, I just don’t know what to say”. She then apologises again. Then continues to say she is really unsure what to say. We then sit in silence for another 5 seconds or so whilst I wait for an answer. I then ask if she would like to talk me through what she is on now as a package instead. The candidate then responded with that she would prefer not to disclose what she was on currently. Awkward.
Here are my tips for preparing yourself mentally for when you get asked this question and how to then nail it when you answer the question:
1) Know both your current package breakdown and your expected salary package figure in advance. This sounds obvious, but a number of people I speak to are unclear on this and it can sometimes come across as untruthful when they fumble through stating it. Also make sure you know your package as a base salary, and as a package including super or anything else you may receive.
2) Do your research on what the market is offering to be sure that if you are going in asking for more than your current package that you are in line with market. Doing this research is not just a matter of going onto seek and downloading a couple of ads that look marginally similar to the roles you might be looking at. It is about considering things like size of business, scope of role, team size if you are managing people, your experience, level of risk in the role, industry, state etc. Do your homework honestly. Don’t just look for data that aligns with what you want to get – what is the market really offering.
3) It is all good to have a difference between what you are on now and what you want to ask for in your next role. After all, if you are going to move on or upwards in your role, it is understandable that you would want it to be for more, but be sure that you are confident about that as you could get asked both questions.
4) Practise saying your salary expectations over and over again and with confidence. Hear them out loud so that the first time you say it out loud to a recruiter you don’t panic and then add a sentence on the end like “oh, but the money is not that important though!”.
5) Be prepared to walk away if there is a considerable difference between what you believe you are worth and what the company will offer. This is a really important one and it is so critical here that you have thought about what is important to you. If a new role cannot offer you the package that you are after, but it can offer other things that are important to you (eg, flexibility in working hours, opportunity to work from home, learning and development opportunities, less commute, travel opportunities etc) then it is ok to still consider it. Just ensure you are being true to you and what is important to you and not accepting something you are not comfortable with, just because you think you must.
Talking salary can be scary and is often one of the things people hate talking about (it is up there with bather shopping for sure!). But, it doesn’t have to be an uncomfortable conversation if you are sure in yourself what you are worth and you ask for it with confidence.
I help women get out of their own ways. I help you deal with the overthinking. The Imposter Syndrome. The self-doubt. All the things currently getting in your way of being a confident, kick a** woman. Need help? Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org and let’s see how I can help you. Our first phone consultation is completely obligation free.
Keen advocate for helping you get the f*ck out of your own way!