compensation talks

How To Talk About Compensation During the Interview Process

Patrick Ward Compensation/Cash Money, Patrick Ward

“Mo Money, Mo Problems.”

“Take the Money and Run.”

“Money for Nothing.”

We sing a lot about money in our lives. But what happens when we get down to business and attempt to discuss it in a job search or interview process? Recently, this topic was in the news as a candidate was disqualified from the interview process for asking about compensation and benefits too early in the process for the HR employee’s liking. Applicant Taylor Byrnes had a second interview scheduled for a menu development job with Canadian food delivery startup, SkipTheDishes. When corresponding with the interviewer, Taylor dropped her a simple email asking about the salary and benefits the company would provide. The interviewer responded by saying her interview would be canceled because, “Your questions reveal that your priorities are not in sync with those of SkipTheDishes.”

Now, unless one of their priorities is to not pay their employees, any reasonable person can see that this comment is out-of-line with normal hiring and interview processes.

Naturally, as a millennial, Taylor shared her interactions on social media and her post quickly went viral, with many calling for a boycott of SkipTheDishes. And as companies normally do in these situations, the co-founder of SkipTheDishes reached out and offered Taylor another shot at an interview, stating the HR employee didn’t handle the situation correctly and would be counseled on how to work through this in the future. An awkward situation all around for those involved that could’ve been avoided with a little more training on how to discuss compensation during the interviewing process.

Whether you’re a savvy HR leader/recruiter or new to the hiring and interviewing process, we have a couple of tips to give you to ensure you don’t end up in a situation like the one described above.

  1. Be Upfront. Unless it’s a confidential search or the information can’t be shared, take charge in the process and let the candidate know early on in the process what they can expect the salary range to be. Most decent recruiters inherently do this when they proactively reach out to potential candidates, but don’t forget this crucial step if you’re new to this process. Even today, candidates are taught not to bring up compensation until the hiring leader does, so take the burden off of them and set their expectations early to ensure a smooth process.
  2. Box Them In. When you give a salary range, make sure you ask this one important question: “When we get to the end of this process and decide to make you an offer, will this be a salary you can accept?” This forces the candidate into a range you know your company is comfortable working with and can help prevent a protracted back and forth negotiation. It can also help weed out those candidates who may be overpriced and helps keep you focused on moving forward with candidates who fit your goal.
  3. Negotiation Is OK. Don’t forget that it’s okay to negotiate salary with a well-qualified candidate, especially in a difficult or critical search. Just because a candidate doesn’t take the first offer doesn’t mean they should be disqualified from the process. Take your emotions out of it and look at it logically. If it’s a critical need for your department and there’s room in the budget, don’t be afraid to go $5,000 over your original range. Remember, the goal is to find and retain the best talent possible for your company.

Bonus Tip For Candidates!

Do Your Research. If you’re going into an interview, do a little prep work beforehand and check out a company’s salaries. There are great tools available like Glassdoor and Indeed that have millions of self-reported salaries from all over the world. If Taylor had taken 2 minutes to do her research on Glassdoor like I did, she would have found that operations roles like the one she applied for had an hourly range of $11-13. Had she done so, she may have been able to avoid the awkward situation and subsequent Buzzfeed fame her experience brought her.