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How to approach the awkward salary question

By Kace O'Neill | |4 minute read

“What kind of salary are you expecting in this position?” This is the question a lot of job candidates dread. Here’s a different outlook on how to approach it.

Conversations about salary have always carried a stigma of being an awkward and uncomfortable discussion for the jobseekers. Sue Parker, a career strategist, communication expert and owner of DARE Group Australia, offered solutions and some background to answer this question.

It starts with the process of hiring and minimising time wasting. “Every candidate needs to know their worth and their value. Again, what we want to do is minimise time wastage in game playing because it just damages everyone’s personal and business brands,” said Ms Parker.


“As a candidate, I recommend saying, look, I understand this role is available, and ask, what is [the] salary range that you are offering candidates.”

Keeping information to yourself is also key, like not stating your previous salary.

“What a candidate earns in a previous position has got no business of anybody except them. I absolutely push back any recruiter or hiring manager who attempts to manipulate a candidate to give them their current salary. It’s not their business. It’s not their business whatsoever, and it’s private,” said Ms Parker.

Ms Parker instead puts the onus back on the business to share the salary package instead of making it uncomfortable for the person applying for the job.

“What is their business is to share that this role is offering this band within the game park that you’re looking for, and that’s a different conversation, and that creates a much more equal playing field. Hiring companies and recruiters that do that and allow that conversation to organically develop have a much better end result because everyone knows where they’re at,” said Ms Parker.

Ultimately, if you are faced with this question, Ms Parker believes that the candidate must stand firm and flip the question back onto the employer.

“If a candidate gets asked, what’s their salary expectations? Flip it. Absolutely, flip it. But again, it comes back to honesty, the way hiring companies and recruiters start that whole aspect by not advertising the salary,” Ms Parker said.

“There are plenty of charts and research available for every industry to get a sense of what that is. But as I said, knowing how hiring companies work, they don’t like giving it. They don’t like giving it out.”

The transcript of this podcast episode was slightly edited for publishing purposes. To listen to the full conversation with Sue Parker, click below:

Kace O'Neill

Kace O'Neill

Kace O'Neill is a Graduate Journalist for HR Leader. Kace studied Media Communications and Maori studies at the University of Otago, he has a passion for sports and storytelling.