When you’re a woman who is job hunting, you’re right to be concerned about compensation. The gender gap (the difference between what men and women earn) can be significant. It’s not just a question of women earning 21% less than men.
Overall, that’s the case, but there are significant differences based on the type of job you’re working at, your marital status, the level of the position, and the industry you work in. Payscale’s Inside the Gender Pay Gap Report details the difference, and it’s not only an interesting read. It can help you determine the best way to approach compensation when you’re talking with employers.
When Is Salary an Issue for Women?
Salary may—or may not—be an issue when you’re job searching. It varies depending on what you do and where you want to work. What’s tricky is knowing what applies to the employer you’re interviewing with. In general, there is more likely to be a fixed pay rate for lower-level, service, entry-level, and union jobs, as well as for positions that pay at union scale, which are sometimes called prevailing rate jobs.
Large organizations may have a structured compensation plan that pays the same wages, regardless of gender.
Don’t presume that you will be paid less solely because you’re a woman. You’re more likely to have to discuss your salary and to try to get a higher one when you’re interviewing for mid-career to high-level positions where there are more variations in pay, not only within a company but also across industries. When you are considering jobs at a small company with unique positions, there may also be more parity issues than at a bigger employer.
How to Discuss Salary During Job Interviews
What’s the best way to discuss your current salary and what you expect to earn at your next job? First off, know that if you’re not comfortable doing so, you’re not alone. Most women don’t like talking about—or asking for—money. However, it’s much easier to do if you’re well-informed about what you’re worth. Here are some tips for making the process easier.
- Do Your Homework: Come to the interview prepared with research and data. Use websites like Payscale.com, Glassdoor.com, and the Bureau of Labor Statistics wage estimates, to get salary information for jobs and companies. You’ll be able to gather statistics on what jobs pay for someone with your qualifications, in your location, and even specifically for the company, you’re interviewing with.
- Get Insider Information: Do you know someone working at the company or do you have a connection who does? Ask your contacts if they can share any information on the company’s compensation structure and what jobs with the company pay.
- Know Your Bottom Line: It’s important to know what you need to earn to pay your bills and have something remaining. Consider what the minimum salary is that you need at your next job. Do some more research to make sure your expectations are in line with the average salary for the position. Also, consider what you would be earning in a similar job at your current company if the new position is a step up. That “raise factor” is important because you may not want to change jobs if you’re not going to be earning more.
- Be Patient: You don’t need to be the person who brings up compensation during a job interview but do be prepared to answer questions about your salary history and how much you expect to earn at your next job. That said, if you do have a concern about whether the compensation is going to meet your expectations, it’s appropriate to ask the hiring manager if there is a salary range for the position.
- Turn the Question Into a Discussion: One strategy is to turn the question into a conversation. When you are asked about how much you make, share the information with the interviewer. Then inquire about the compensation for the role for which you’re interviewing. That will give you some information on what the job pays so you can tailor your responses to further questions about earnings.
- Try to Get Beyond Your Current Compensation: If the pay seems like it will be a big step up from your current salary, one strategy is to mention that the responsibilities and expectations for the new role are more demanding than your current (or last) job. You can mention that you have more skills, experience, education, certifications, or anything else that will bolster your candidacy. You could also mention that your current salary is not competitive.
- For Example: “I am currently earning $X, but I’m aware that it is on the lower end of the scale for someone with my qualifications and experience.”
- Be Positive and Confident: One of the worst ways to get more money is to come across as though you need it. Go into the interview with confidence and a positive attitude. Be prepared to expand upon the credentials that got you selected for the interview, to share concrete examples of your accomplishments, and to close the interview on a high note.
- Be Flexible: It’s especially important for women to consider the entire compensation package. A job is more than just a paycheck. Don’t turn down a job purely based on salary. Learn about future earnings potential, benefits, perks, bonuses, and the compensation plan in its entirety. Many employers offer flexible work schedules, work from home options, childcare, paid leave for parents, and other benefits.
- Know It’s Not Just You: You’re not alone if you’re not comfortable talking about salary. It’s the same for most women. Do keep in mind that it is acceptable to discuss it with hiring managers, and to politely end the interview process if it doesn’t appear that the job is a match. That can be a smart strategy because your current earnings impact your future earnings. Unfortunately, the less you make now, the less you may be offered. That’s especially true as you move up the career ladder.
Don’t Sell Yourself Short
Most importantly, don’t short change yourself when you’re in a job interview and talking about pay. Know what you’re worth as an employee, know the differential between what you and your male counterpart may be earning, and get as much information as possible on what you can expect to be paid.
The more informed you are, the easier it will be to avoid having an awkward conversation about compensation—and to get paid what you’re worth.