Let’s be honest. As much as you might try to give job interviewers the impression that you’re so passionate about the job you’d do it for free, the truth is that for most of us, work is work. And we’re not doing it for a pittance.
Here’s some news you might be able to relate to. 80% of Singaporeans are not happy with their salaries. While there’s nothing much we can do about the current state of wages in Singapore, it also looks like a lot of people aren’t being very good negotiators.
The next time you go for an interview, don’t whip out your shovel and start digging a hole in the ground the moment the interview mentions money. Here’s how to handle the dreaded money talk at an interview without sabotaging your chances at a decent wage.
1. Put off discussing money until the end
When you start talking about salary can be as important as what you say.
Every salesman knows he’s making a mistake if he tells you how much something costs before you’re already sold on the idea of buying it.
And the only time you tell someone about the price before they’ve seen the product is if the price is so low they can’t refuse. We can only hope you don’t see yourself as that kind of product.
You want to make you’ve shown the interviewer all the benefits of hiring you before anyone starts talking about money. That means you should never ever bring up salary before the interview has come to an end.
What happens if the interviewer brings up money at the start? Alarm bells should be going off in your head, as an interviewer who talks about money even before knowing if he likes you is probably going to be extremely price sensitive—the kind of guy who just wants the cheapest possible labour.
If your interviewer mentions salary when the interview’s barely started, politely mention that you’d be happy to discuss salary later on in the interview but would prefer that the company first get a chance to find out more about you and whether you’d be a good fit.
2. The best time to negotiate is after the first interview
It’s completely fine to allow an interview to conclude without discussing salary. If you forgot to brush your teeth that day or accidentally spilled your glass of water over the interviewer’s Tods shoes, you’ve probably saved yourself an awkward discussion about money.
On the other hand, if you didn’t completely bomb the interview and the company likes you, you can be sure you’ll be receiving a call-back at some point or other, whether with an offer or a request to attend a second interview.
Now you can start thinking about negotiating your salary. The company has shown interest in you and invested a certain amount of time evaluating your application, so they’ll be less likely to slam the door in your face if you suggest a salary that’s a little higher than what they’re prepared to pay.
Some experts suggest talking about salary before showing up for a second interview, as you don’t want to waste your time attending multiple interviews when the company is unable to afford your bottom line, but this tends to apply only when you’re interviewing with SMEs.
With MNCs and bigger companies, and especially if yours is a senior role, multiple interviews are the norm, and you might find yourself going back several times. In that case it might be better to hold off on the salary conversation until they bring it up.
3. Don’t accept the first salary offer you get
If you step into an interview room with no idea of what the market rate is like for your job or what the lowest offer you’re willing to accept is, seriously, how do you expect to negotiate? Do your homework for goodness’ sake.
Once you know exactly what the lowest salary you’re willing to accept is, and how much you deserve to be paid given your qualifications and experience, you’ll be able to negotiate without sounding like a punter.
Unfortunately, Singaporeans are a timid bunch when it comes to the workplace. Lots of people end up accepting offers they’re secretly unhappy with out of fear that they won’t be able to find another job. And then they stay in their jobs out of fear of leaving their comfort zones, unleashing all their bitterness online, etc.
If you’re low-balled, don’t get all defensive or start foaming at the mouth. Your speech should begin by telling the interviewer how excited you are to work with the company, but that you believe based on your experience and qualifications, you would be willing to accept a salary of $x.
If the interviewer insists they’re only able to pay $y, just reiterate your point and invite the interviewer to discuss the issue with management. If they liked you, they might come back (not necessarily on the same day) with a lower offer in an attempt to meet in the middle.
There’s really no point accepting a salary you’re certain will make you miserable or result in your pawning your belongings. Unless you’re really desperate, that is.
4. Don’t divulge your current salary if it sucks
If your current salary is lower than the market rate, revealing just how low it is might result in prospective employers trying to low-ball you. Since you managed to survive on such a low salary, their assumption will be that you’re willing to accept something similar.
If the interviewer asks about your current salary, you have a few options. One is that you can give a range.
For instance, if your current salary is $3,100, you can say that your salary is “in the $3,000 to $4,000 range”. If you earn $2,800, say it is “about $3,000”. This is the tactic used by our old friend Larry, featured in a previous post, and helped him to raise his salary significantly from job to job.
Another tactic you can use is to be honest and divulge your exact salary, but qualify your statement by acknowledging that, while you enjoy your job immensely, you are aware the pay is significantly below market rate and are no longer able to work at such a rate.
Have you ever successfully negotiated a higher salary at an interview? Share your experiences in the comments!
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