Changing jobs: How to prepare for the money discussion at job interviews

There's no hard-and-fast rule on when to discuss money at an interview.  Experts suggest applicants do their research first.
There's no hard-and-fast rule on when to discuss money at an interview. Experts suggest applicants do their research first. Photo credit: Getty Images.

Changing jobs provides an opportunity to make more money, but deciding when and how to broach the subject during the interview process can be daunting.

Often considered 'the elephant in the room', discussing money too early can give the wrong impression. 

But leaving it too late can waste both an applicant's and employer's time.

Newshub asked Randstad recruitment agency director Katherine Swan and SEEK NZ country manager Rob Clark whether there's a right time for job applicants to talk about money, and how to prepare.

When to raise the money discussion  

Some job advertisements include a salary, or a banded salary range. Others may mention the benefits they offer, and negotiate money based on skills and experience.

Randstad director Katherine Swan told Newshub most hiring managers understand money is a necessary and valid question. As employers have different processes, there's no hard-and-fast rule on when money should be raised. 

Understanding where money sits in their list of priorities and whether they have a firm figure in mind, will help applicants decide when to bring it up.

For jobs advertised through a recruitment agency, it may be appropriate to discuss money early. Alternatively, applicants could wait for the employer's lead, bringing it into the conversation when they're invited to ask questions.

"If it hasn't come up during the process and salary is important, I would use that as an opportunity to ask not only about the salary, but also about other benefits," Swan says.

SEEK NZ country manager Rob Clark suggests applicants first focus on establishing their credibility and fit for the role. Following that, it's important to get a sense that the employer's package, including money, is in line with expectations.

"Once you feel like you've established you have the credentials required, it's something you'll want to raise," Clark says.

Preparing for questions about money  

Both experts suggest applicants do their own research of market rates for their skill set.

Suggested sources are job websites, online salary snapshots, and contacts within the industry.

"Do your research so you feel confident in being able to ask for the money you are after (with backup reasons should you need it," Swan says.

"The key is being prepared so you're not caught off guard when these questions come, feeling confident in what you're asking for and being able to justify it." 

By understanding what similar roles are paying, applicants will be better equipped to back up their salary expectations. 

"If you're asked what your expectations are, whatever number you state, you'd want to back that up with your skills and experience, and knowledge of market conditions," Clark adds.

A current low level of applications per job, coupled with high demand, makes it a "candidate's market", he says. 

In addition to money, it's important for applicants to weigh up whether moving jobs is worthwhile.

Clark suggests applicants look beyond just the salary, and evaluate other benefits offered by the employer. Similarly, Swan says it's important that applicants treat the interview as a two-way street, asking questions about the company and culture, before committing to a move.