How to Handle The Money Question

“Is there a specific range you need to consider this opportunity?”

This (or a variation of this) is a question we ask a lot when approaching someone about a potential role. But shouldn’t you just tell people the range designated for the role?

The short answer is that it’s complicated. There are a few reasons why we might not give a range for an opportunity we share with you. First, we might not be allowed to. Some clients tell us not to share the range with anyone until they can talk to the candidates themselves.

Sometimes, our client has not decided on a range for the role yet, especially if it is a brand-new position. We have also worked with companies who have gone through fast periods of growth where they know they need a specific type of person on their team, but they have not had time to formally create or outline a position yet. Because we work so closely with our client’s hiring managers, this happens more than you might think! As we get to know our client’s needs it becomes easier for us to identify candidates who would be a perfect fit for the company, even if there isn’t an official job opening yet. We don’t want to miss out on these perfect candidates, so sometimes we reach out before having specific details we can share.

Sometimes, we have a range, but we don’t think it’s accurate for the market or the role. We usually try to push our clients to update this before finalizing a search, but that’s not always possible. If we get enough qualified candidates asking for a similar range, this can be enough to convince our client they need to increase their budget for the position. We also know which of our clients are more flexible with their ranges, so while they might list one number for an opportunity, we know they will offer more for the right candidate.

So now that you know why we ask the money question—how do you answer?

First and foremost, you should answer honestly. We work in a lot of niche industries, so we have a good idea what the going rates are for most common roles. If you try to tell us that you need $20k more than your coworker we hired last month in the same role, you need to have a pretty good reason.

And there are a lot of things that impact your salary range! Specific skills, degrees, certifications, and years of experience all contribute to your number. However, there are other factors people often forget about.

One of these factors is cost of living. If you currently live in an area that has a high cost of living, you may not be able to get the same exact base salary in a different location, but that does not mean it won’t be comparable. Calculating cost of living is crucial for calculating your salary range for different locations. There are many cost of living calculators available on the internet, but keep in mind other potential changes to your expenses. Perhaps you won’t need a car in your new location, or your taxes will be lower.

You should also be cognizant of the size of the company you are coming from and the size of the company you are going to. There are many companies who pay much higher base salaries than their competitors because they do not want people to leave. However, the people we talk to at these companies are often unhappy because of lack of growth opportunities, stagnant processes, or negative environments. When thinking about a job change you need to figure out your list of priorities. What is more important—a higher base salary, or opportunities for growth? There is no wrong answer, but if salary is not your number one priority it may be worth being flexible to get the other things you want.

There are multiple reasons why we ask for your salary range up front, just as there are multiple factors that impact your salary requirements. Remember that as a recruiter the information we can share is dictated by the company we are working with, but our end goal is to find the best arrangement for all parties.