Lots of people ask me for advice on what they should state their salary expectations to be when they’re looking for a job. It’s a fine balance between ensuring that you feel the salary is appropriate for the skills required of you and ensuring that the client will agree that what you are looking for is reasonable for the skills you bring to the table.
There is often a tendency to ask for the maximum salary that’s on offer, assuming that ‘if that’s what they’ll pay, then that’s what I want’ but if your current salary is considerably short of this, you are taking a big risk and may find that the client declines to interview you.
The purpose of the tips below is to help you to position yourself at the right level in terms of salary to ensure you get your foot in the door for an interview, and then you can use the interview to impress the potential employer.
On a quick side note – if you work in the IT sector and would like to learn more about how you can get more from your career, click here to download our free guide ‘How To Turbocharge Your IT Career’!
1. Consider (Honestly) Your Reasons For Moving On
Before you submit your first job application – STOP! Ask yourself the following questions:
Why are you looking for a new job? Is it purely a pay rise that you are looking for? Are you sure?
If your reason for wanting to leave is that you’re not being paid enough, and nothing else, then there is something else you could try. Ask for a pay rise. If you are thinking of leaving because of money and you’ve not had a discussion with your current employer, you should go and do that first.
Only do it, of course, if you have a solid reason for asking for more money. Perhaps your skills are being undervalued, or you’ve taken on extra responsibility and not been rewarded for it, or you’ve not had a salary review you were anticipating.
If you’re doing a good job, your employer won’t want to lose you, and you can save yourself a lot of time and stress attending interviews by having an open conversation with your employer first.
2. Consider What Salary Range The Role Is Offering
So let’s say your motivations for wanting to leave aren’t just about money – there’s a combination of reasons. But, when you do apply for your next role, you’d still like to secure a pay rise (because who wouldn’t want more money, right?).
Imagine the job you are looking for is advertised at ‘£25,000 – £30,000’ depending on skills and experience. Remember that for the £30,000 the client may expect you to have all the skills they are looking for. You may fall short of this. So unless you have most of the skills and are already on a salary close to £30,000, think carefully before insisting on the top end and refusing to budge. Other candidates may be just as skilled, but much more flexible.
Asking too much from the hiring company may result in them being put off. Think strategically about whether your skills and experience justify the salary you’re asking for.
3. Consider The Big Picture
Candidates occasionally tell us they are looking for a new job for solely financial reasons. However, when we scratch the surface, there are usually a handful of other reasons – a poor work life balance, feeling undervalued, a lack of progression or a horrible commute, for example.
Honestly? A pay rise is nice. But quite often it’s these other things that have the most impact on quality of life. The bigger picture might also include things like the chance to work from home, flexible hours, a decent benefits package, an easier commute.
Or it might be a structured career path that offers you the chance to earn a lot more in future, and pick up new skills. So ask yourself what would really make a difference to you, and you might find that you’ll be flexible if the job ticks a lot of other boxes besides salary and also gives you the chance to earn more further down the line.
Ultimately, if you decide to move to a new role, what we want is for you to get your foot in the door, so our recommendations are based on helping you to achieve that. If your gut feeling is that it’s the right role for you, be prepared to be flexible on salary – but hopefully you won’t have to be.
There might be some room for negotiation if the offer doesn’t quite meet with your expectations – but there might not. Your recruiter (if you use one) will help you with this.
A good recruitment consultant will be able to provide some guidance also, based on their knowledge of the market. Contrary to popular opinion, we have nothing to gain from encouraging you to either reduce or inflate your salary expectations, but if we feel they are unreasonable and could turn the client off, we’ll advise you of this.