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“What Are Your Compensation Expectations?”: How To Answer This Question The Right Way.
The topic of compensation in a job interview process has always been a bit of a fearmonger for legal professionals. From negotiating an offer to timing the comp Ask, candidates in today’s market still feel anxious when it comes to the money. One frequent predicament that arises is how to handle the “What are your compensation expectations?” question. Whether raised by employers at the beginning, middle or end of the process, this inquiry often asks candidates to move their first pawn in a vacuum – without much, if any information. And candidate reactions are similar:
So how should you manage such a situation? Before I provide your narrative options, a few points to convey:
First, an increasing number of employers/HR professionals ask candidates their compensation expectations before disclosing their own numbers for the open reqs. For some, it’s an approach in response to the new equal pay laws prohibiting employers from asking candidates about their current/past compensation numbers. While asking for a candidate’s compensation is illegal in these locations, asking for one’s compensation expectations is fair game. For others, it’s simply a way to determine compensation alignment without showing their cards first.
Second, if you have not been provided any information about the compensation range for the role for which you are applying, it is perfectly reasonable not to provide your salary expectations until you receive more information. With this said, I recommend addressing the topic of compensation sooner rather than later in an interview process (too many candidacies fall apart over money at the finish line)…but only when both parties feel they have sufficient information to start the dialogue.
Third, if you do not want to answer this question at this juncture, there are ways to successfully manage this situation so you don’t jeopardize your candidacy. Your words and your tone will be crucial to communicating your message effectively. So think through your narrative, write it down and practice. If you are corresponding via email, create a first draft and review/edit at least three times before sending.
Now that you have a bit more context, below are a few sample narratives you can use:
The topic of money in a job interview typically invokes feelings of dread and anxiety for lawyers as opposed to the warm and fuzzies. And when asked to declare salary expectations, it can be challenging to manage the conversation to an optimal outcome. Understanding the context of the situation as well as your feelings will provide a solid starting point to address your questions in this dynamic when it arises. From there, use the sample narratives above to serve as a guide to communicate a high quality response that is most comfortable for you…and one that will meet everyone’s expectations.
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