4

Is it ok to ask the interviewer to leave discussions of pay to the end? I had an interview where one of the first things we discussed was pay. It was much lower than I anticipated and for the rest of the interview I had trouble focusing and was thinking if there was a point in continuing the interview.

I have a friend at the company I applied with. I used him as a reference. On the application form it asked what my expectations for compensation are. My friend advised me to say $x per hour. I did this but the interviewer said “I see you specified $x per hour. The starting wage for this position is $ (x/2) per hour, plus or minus a few dollars. Also it may be a part time or full time position. Are you ok with this?” I said yes but wasn’t sure I gave the right answer.

First off, if I had said no is it likely they wouldn’t consider me or would I have been able to negotiate a higher pay? Right now I’m desperate for money and this would have been work related to my degree. But at $x/2 per hour, I don’t think I can live. I have a rough idea of my expenses (they are rent, food, phone bill and monthly bus pass but soon I need to start paying student loans) but she said it could have been part time or full time and that makes a difference. So how can I answer the question if it's enough money if I don't even know the hours? This is why I’d rather defer these conversations to the end of the interview so I’m not thinking about it while answering technical questions. Could I have asked if it was ok to think about it and reply latter with an answer?

Out of curiosity why would the company ask what you expect get paid if they have decided anyways?

  • 7
    Why leave it to the end? I'd prefer to know up-front what the company had to offer (sooner the better, I'd rather not waste time going through many interviews). You should leave negotiations towards the end, but assuming they mention "$x/hour plus or minus", if that "plus" is nowhere near what you want, then you can simply tell them so and be done with it. – Tas Apr 11 '17 at 2:03
  • Why exactly do you want to do that? – Masked Man Apr 11 '17 at 7:26
  • 1
    "It was much lower than I anticipated and for the rest of the interview I had trouble focusing and was thinking if there was a point in continuing the interview." You're right, there wasn't a point in continuing the interview, but we do it out of courtesy to the interviewer for having given us their time and we do it to keep from burning bridges in case we do decide to take this job. – Teacher KSHuang Apr 11 '17 at 9:48
  • Personally, I would say that it's not that pay should be discussed at the end, but that we should not be so invested in a job we haven't even gotten yet. Then we wouldn't be so worried about the details during the interview that we would be distracted from doing the interview. – Teacher KSHuang Apr 11 '17 at 9:50
  • Since I've been having trouble finding work and need money, some people advise "some work is better than none". Is this good advice? I would be taking the bus so wouldn't be spending money on transportation any how (I have a bus pass) and can't think of how I would actually be loosing money taking a poorly paying job. On the other hand, I did several work placements while in school through the co-op program, and they all paid higher, and now that I'm graduated I thought it would be easier to find a job, let alone one that pays better. – user63507 Apr 11 '17 at 21:19
10

As a hiring manager, I keep money conversations to the end, when I know I'm interested. As a candidate, I prefer to keep money conversations to the end for the same reason.

However, the interviewer did the right thing here. You asked for double the budget. If I'm interviewing a senior-level person for an entry-level position (career change or something), I ask money up front, because if he's looking for $100,000, and I'm not going above $50,000, we need to address that ASAP.

If you were not comfortable with $X/2 or potential part-time work, you should have said so up-front and not wasted everyone's time.

I recognize that it is uncomfortable and discouraging to end an interview 5 minutes in, but it's better than interviewing for a position you're never going to accept (unless you really need interview practice/experience).

  • 2
    Agree, except for the last line. If you need interview practice, get it on your own dime -- don't ask the interviewer to leave the money conversation to the end knowing that you're not interested in the job. – Caleb Apr 13 '17 at 4:42
  • @Caleb how can you pay someone to practice interviewing you? – user63507 May 1 '17 at 9:55
  • @CoolBeans Typo -- I meant time. – Caleb May 1 '17 at 11:48
3

So how can I answer the question if it's enough money if I don't even know the hours? This is why I’d rather defer these conversations to the end of the interview so I’m not thinking about it while answering technical questions. Could I have asked if it was ok to think about it and reply latter with an answer?

It would have been perfectly reasonable to say something like "Well, until I learn the details of the job and in particular if it will be part-time or full-time I can't tell if that's going to work for me or not."

Then you would probably have to discuss what you would do if it were part-time. I assume you would find yourself a second part-time job so that you could support yourself. That's a reasonable follow-up answer.

  • 2
    Exactly. The interview is a great opportunity that the employment will work for both parties. If they are asking you questions about how well it will accommodate you, there's no reason to lie. You either waste everyone's time and don't take the job anyways, or undervalue yourself and the company gets away with paying you less. Being upfront about it can avoid a lot of this. – JMac Apr 11 '17 at 13:02
3

It's easy to ask to leave this until the end. Say something like "I admit that I was hoping for a number closer to the one I gave, but I'm willing to negotiate if the job is right." You could (and should) mention that you're unwilling to take it if the pay is $x/2 and it's part time, if that's the case. But that's not the question you should be asking.

Your real problem is that you don't know what you're worth. It doesn't matter if your expenses require you to make $x to cover them. If employers are only willing to pay $x/2 for your skills and experience, then that's all you're ever going to get offered. They don't care about your expenses; they care about the value you provide to the company.

So, instead of picking a wage based on your bills, do some research and find out what a competitive wage is for the job you're seeking. That way you'll know if the wage they're offering is fair or if you're likely to be able to do better elsewhere. If the going rate is 2x, then you can confidently respond "No, I'm not okay with that. Your competitors are willing to pay four times what you're offering." If they balk, then you can walk away without any doubt that you did the right thing. However, if it turns out that $x/2 is competitive, then you know that turning down that wage will leave you perpetually unemployed. Either way, you'll know what your response should be, so you won't feel the doubt that you did in your last interview. That will solve your real problem.

As for how to find out how much you're worth, there are lots of sites that list salary information. Glassdoor is one example, but a Google search will supply others. They let you filter by title, experience, location, etc. You might even be able to find reports from the company you're applying to. You can also network with people in your industry and ask them. You might be surprised at how many people are willing to tell their salary to help you find out what is fair.

  • How exactly would you find the going rate for a particular position? From what I've seen job postings don't often include the pay and unless I already have an interview with a company how would I have the opportunity to speak to them about pay? BTW my friend who works there advised me to request $x given my work history. – user63507 Apr 13 '17 at 17:57
  • @CoolBeans There are lots of sites that list salary information, which is generally supplied anonymously. Glassdoor is one example, but a Google search will supply others. They let you filter by title, experience, location, etc. You might even be able to find reports from that specific company. You can also network with people in your industry and ask them. You might be surprised at how many people are willing to give their salary to help you find out what is fair. – Kat Apr 13 '17 at 21:15
  • @CoolBeans asking your friend is a great start, but you can get a better idea with more data points. – Kat Apr 13 '17 at 21:23
0

The real issue here isn't that the interviewer brought up wages too early. The issue is that you agreed to a wage that was too low for you to live on, and you had that hanging over you instead of ending the interview or resolving the wage problem.

First off, if I had said no is it likely they wouldn’t consider me or would I have been able to negotiate a higher pay?

You mentioned that the interviewer told you the starting wage "plus or minus a few dollars". It sounds to me like you were being given the acceptable range of wages specifically because you would not be able to negotiate something closer to what you wanted. That was the interviewer basically asking you if she was about to waste her time on a non-viable candidate. Had your wage expectations been more in line with theirs, I doubt it would have come up so early.

Basically I see three possibilities here:

  1. You say no, and you are mercifully cut off from a job that you can't live with.
  2. You say no, and the company offers to work with you on hours or wages to try and make the job more acceptable to you. (Or you specifically bring up the part-time/full-time issue as your response.)
  3. You say yes, thus committing yourself to a wage that you admit is unlivable.

So yes, it is possible that you would have been cut off from the job, but since you say you couldn't live with that job, this would actually be a better outcome, it sounds like.

So how can I answer the question if it's enough money if I don't even know the hours?

This should have been part of your response. "I can work with $X/2 if I can work Y hours per week" is still a good starting point for a discussion, probably even better than a simple "no". You should never feel like you're in the wrong for trying to ensure that you make a living wage. They clearly want to ensure that you're happy with the pay before they move forward, so I can't imagine the interviewer wouldn't want to discuss hours right then.

Out of curiosity why would the company ask what you expect get paid if they have decided anyways?

Because, as Chris G said, you asked for double their budget. They need to know that you'll be worth their time before they start the interview. If you don't want a poor wage hanging over your head for the entire interview, then it's on you to say something about it at the start of the interview, either to end it early or to resolve your concern.

The moral of the story is that you should always have a plan for what to do if the company isn't willing to pay what you need to make. It sounds like you said "yes" because you were blindsided by the low wage. Hopefully that won't happen again.

-1

So you need to know how much is worth you working, and how much isn't. You have a rough idea of expenses, but you need to make a budget including everything you need (including some non-essentials) so know what the minimum you can earn is (and account for things like taxes to ensure your take home is enough) . You can then go into any situation like this and be able to be certain. You can easily calculate if the rate is x you need at least y hours.

Don't push it to the end, speak confidently about what you need and you'll more likely get it.

Also ensure when the time comes you mention the number first, a technique called "Framing". It will then be up to the employer to demonstrate why you can't have the money, rather than you having to justify why you should get it. This is opposite to the out-of-date advice many give.

  • While I like the idea of framing, given this was a first round interview I don't think the person I was speaking with had influence on what I would get paid. – user63507 Apr 11 '17 at 21:22
  • Well I did say "when the time comes". Just forget about being the last to say a number, the first is always the landmark, and know what's the going rate. – The Wandering Dev Manager Apr 12 '17 at 2:28
  • I've always been told that giving the first number is always a bad way to negotiate. If you ask for lower than they'd give, you'll never know. – Kat Apr 12 '17 at 19:42
  • That used to happen in the days before the internet and Glassdoor etc. People on both sides have a fairly good idea of the ball park these days. It's a mistake to think the employer is going to suggest some magic figure much higher than market rate if you refuse to state your expectations. Likely they will suggest below market and you will have a job to convince why you are worth more. – The Wandering Dev Manager Apr 12 '17 at 19:46
  • Framing is the thing. say you want 100 and he wants to pay 50. If you go first and say over 110 he has to make the case why you're not worth that and bring you down (but you'll more likely end up near 100). If he starts he starts at 40 and you have an even bigger job getting up to 100. stats show the first number mentioned is always close to the final figure as that has set the frame on the negotiation. – The Wandering Dev Manager Apr 12 '17 at 19:52

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy