How to Answer the Salary Question

When moving internationally, one challenge to negotiating salary and benefits is understanding the process and customs in the new country. In the US, the compensation and salary question is often brought up at two points in the job search:

  1. Early in an initial phone screen when the recruiter or interviewer is trying to assess if the job is a good fit salary-wise.
  2. Toward the end of the interview phase when an offer is being made.

Professional Advice on the Salary Question

My advice to job seekers is to research salaries on sites like Glassdoor. This will help you understand the salary range for your target position and company. It also gives you a realistic expectation for what a company might offer. 

It’s best to not be the first person to bring up the subject! Your chances of negotiating are higher if the salary question doesn’t get asked until the end of the interview phase.

Every situation is different. In general, if an international job seeker is asked early in the process about their past salary or salary expectations, I will often suggest answering questions like this:

“I was happy at (fill in the blank with the name of your last company) both with my work and compensation. It’s difficult to compare salary and benefit packages across regions and countries due to differences in cost of living, country specific social programs and health care costs. I am more focused on determining fit and understanding your needs and how I can potentially support you in growing your business. Once we determine the possibilities there, if it looks like I would be a good fit for your organization, I would be happy to consider a fair offer and we can discuss those details more in the future.”

The interviewer might decide to share the salary range for the position. You can then confirm if that is in their acceptable range.

After They Make an Offer

Once an offer is made, you can assess where you want to negotiate. Review the criteria that is most important to you in making the offer an ideal fit. For some, that is a salary or bonus. For others, it’s vacation time or flex arrangements. More companies are offering options to purchase extra vacation days or weeks. That might be an option if the company does not have flexibility around negotiating vacation time.

Careful research and thoughtful response to the salary question will put you in a better position to negotiate salary and benefits that are right for you. Continue learning to set yourself up for success during each phase of the job search:

Interviewing when you don’t know the language? Prepare with these 5 tips.

5 things you should do after every job interview