When you’re looking for job interview advice, you will find dozens of articles out there, each promising to reveal the hottest 5, 7, 10 or even 13 resume mistakes.
But sometimes you may need to break the rules. For instance, the one cardinal rule you always hear is, “Never ask about salary or benefits.”
But there IS one time when you need to clarify your requirements, even before you go to the interview. Suppose you are currently employed and you don’t anticipate any problem keeping your job. In fact, you may be in the desirable position that one of my clients continues to enjoy: he’s constantly fielding invitations to interview for more jobs.
In that case, you don’t want to waste your time or the interviewer’s time. I realize that employers get upset when you raise this question, which is why recruiters earn their hefty fees. If you’re already earning $150,000, you don’t want to find yourself interviewing for a job that pays $95,000. Or if you are self-employed, you may be interested in a part-time gig, but only if the compensation exceeds your hourly rate.
There’s no easy way to do this. Ideally you can use your network to find out whether the company pays market, above market or below market. But you need to know your sources. When I was a full-time college professor, I once met a colleague who assured me that University of X paid below market. Way below. She was a department head at a reputable university…but she was clueless. X actually paid way above market.
Start when you are on the phone scheduling the interview. You might say, “Look, I realize it’s way too early to discuss compensation. But I don’t want to waste your time and mine. Can you give me a sense of the range?”
If they come back and say, “What are you looking for?” they’re not playing fair. But they are playing. My advice is always to give a really wide range…say, $95,000 – $150,000. That way if they’re at $75,000 they’re out of the running…but if you’re currently making just $92,000 you haven’t cut yourself off at the knees.
And if they won’t play at all…they’re horrified that you even raised the question? Well, remember I said to use this strategy only when you really, truly don’t need another job. If your prospective employer can’t handle this possibility, do you really want to proceed further? If they don’t respect your circumstances now, how will they feel in future?
Of course, no advice will be right all the time for everyone. Make your own decision and do your own due diligence.