3.2.1 Compensation expectations

Candidates dread the question: “What are your compensation expectations?” One way to answer is to get the recruiter to give you a number first. Here’s an example of how you can answer that question.

“I’m excited about this opportunity and I believe that if it’s a good match, we’ll work out an agreement on compensation details. I’d like to learn more about what this position entails first to have a realistic expectation. It’d also be helpful to me to know the range of compensation one can expect at this position if you can share it with me.”

This answer works because it shows that you’re ready to negotiate but you also want to make it work.

One problem with asking the recruiter to give a number is that the negotiation will anchor around it. If they give you a number that’s too low, you might feel awkward raising it significantly.

Another way to answer is to give them a range without committing to it. Come up with a number you want, add ~20% to it, and give it as the lower range. For example, if you’re aiming for $200k/year, you can say something like this.

“My range is flexible. However, I’d like to be compensated fairly for my experience, my unique set of skills, and what the job entails. My understanding is that for this position in this area, you can expect between $220k and $240k annually.”

Once you’ve given a number, it can only go down, not up, so make sure to give a number you won’t regret later.

For more negotiation tips, check out 15 Rules for Negotiating a Job Offer (Harvard Business Review, 2014) and Ten Rules for Negotiating a Job Offer (Haseeb Qureshi, 2016).

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