We get questions about salary all the time.
Last week a client asked how to respond if someone asks his salary requirements. He has been with his employer for over 25 years in key sales roles. He is paid very well, perhaps more than some companies are willing to pay for comparable positions. So this is a tricky question for him.
I just ran into a great article at Quora that addressed this question in a great way. We do a lot of reading here at The Interview Doctor and so should you! You never know where you will find great advice so keep your ears open. Quora is a question and answer website where the community of users creates, answers and edits questions. I highly recommend Quora for the wide variety of interesting questions and answers you can find.
The question was “If your last salary was very high, is it better to tell a potential employer it was actually lower?”. Several people supplied answers but my favorite was the answer provided by Antone Johnson an attorney who has worked for some pretty famous huge tech companies. He references “Rites of Passage at $100,000 to $1,000,000+” a book on executive job-changing by John Lucht (see how much reading we need to do to stay up to date these days?).
Responding to the salary question is tricky for anyone but for people at the higher income level it can be really tough because total compensation is based on more than salary. Every company has a different way to motivate executives with compensation so it is hard to know what to say. Respond with a number too high and you are out of the running. Respond with a number too low and you might lose out because the company thinks you are not at the right level to handle that particular job.
Antone Johnson (through John Lucht) suggests a multi-level approach that leaves you room to negotiate.
- Start with a statement about how interested you are in the position. “Of course compensation isn’t my main focus; I’m more concerned with the professional opportunity, growth potential, or … “ something like that. If vagueness won’t work, go to the next level.
- Give a wide range that leaves you with maximum flexibility. “In recent years, my total (cash) compensation has been in the $X to $Y range”. X is the lowest salary you’ve earned in the last three to five years and Y is the highest including all forms of compensation in your best year (salary, bonus, equity vesting). Antone advises us to be creative.
- If they probe further, you can probe to see if their number is higher or lower. If the company budgeted a number at the higher end for the position, the you provided in your stated range should be in their range. If they budgeted a lower number you can clarify by explaining that your higher number was the result of a fabulous year with a huge bonus but your base salary was within their range.
I love this approach. Remember, postpone salary discussions as long as you can. You want to make them fall in love with you because then they might be more creative and flexible with salary. But if you have to discuss salary I love Antone’s approach based on Lucht’s book.