I know – this question makes us uncomfortable. But when job seeking, you will get asked this question. So be prepared with your answer; it’s not hard to do. In fact, it’s a very logical win/win conversation, and one that I will role-play below. Using this discussion model, both the job seeker and hiring manager will get great interviewing results. Here’s how it should go:
Interviewer: How much money are you looking for?
Interviewee: Great question. Today my compensation looks like this: my base salary is X, my bonus is X amount, paid X times a year, and my next raise is going to be X amount on X date. My stock is X and my vacation days are X. I receive X in health benefits for X amount of people to be insured in my family, I have X for 401k, (name any/all retirement plans worth if you stay), and state X for everything and anything else that your current employer spends on you…
The details behind your “total compensation” are critical in a salary conversation for both the job seeker and the hiring organization in order to not waste time. You, the job seeker, need to know your own compensation situation, not just your base salary number, and you must be able to speak to the details. The hiring organization must understand the details of your “total compensation” in order to have productive compensation conversations and not waste your time. Making sure to speak about “total compensation” is important, as opposed to just talking about base salary. We all know that a technologist today will almost never have to take less money when moving jobs, so “total compensation” is the place to start when talking money. I have witnessed many people waste many hours of their time making sure the job and culture is a fit, only to fail at sealing the deal because of the “total compensation” package! Okay, back to the modeled conversation.
Interviewee (continued): …Until I understand your total compensation, I won’t be able to quote a salary number that I am looking for.
And that’s it. Stop talking. Either the person you are talking to will understand and engage around what they have to offer by way of total compensation, or they will not be listening, and ask you the same question again…
Interviewer: Okay, thanks for that information. So what are you looking for?
Stay cool when they ask again. Repeat the model. Meaning, repeat what you just said. If you have this exchange more than three times, let them know that they aren’t listening and consider not talking to this person anymore. Get them to listen if you can. Don’t cheat yourself or them by giving a number that you don’t know you will accept for sure. By the way, this advice applies for all money conversations, from the pre-interview all the way to the offer.
Let’s communicate powerfully and think in terms of win/win while in a conversation. Full transparency on a topic makes for good business; job searching and hiring can be easier with win/win communication. I hope this helps you all—I have witnessed the positive power of this model hundreds of times 🙂