Find Your Dream Job, Episode 370:
How to Position Yourself to Get the Best Salary Offer, with Kimberly Brown
Airdate: October 19, 2022
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You not only want to get the job when you apply for a position.
You also want to earn the most competitive pay you can
Kimberly Brown is here to talk about how to position yourself to get the best salary offer.
Kimberly’s mission is to empower women and people of color in the workplace.
She joins from Newark, New Jersey.
Well, let’s jump right into it, Kimberly. Do most job seekers think about how to position themselves for the best salary offer before applying for a job?
I definitely don’t think so. I teach all my clients that the moment you interact with an employer, whether it’s through a phone interview or your resume, whatever it is, that is when you need to start thinking about positioning yourself. But I think, many times, we still think that salary negotiation really happens at the end of the process, so after you’ve killed your interviews, you’ve done all those great things, they give you the offer, and you’re like, that’s not what I want.
That’s when most people really start thinking about, okay, now how can I position myself? How can I make up for and get this salary higher? But really and truly, we need to start way, way, way at the beginning.
And why is it important to start at the beginning, Kimberly? Because as you speak, I can think of candidates who’ve told me they’ve done all the things you just described, and then they find out the salary, which wasn’t published, is much lower than what they expected. But what are other reasons why people need to think about this from the start?
I think we have this notion that salary negotiation is what everyone needs to do at the end of the interview process to get yourself to an equitable salary.
But I teach my clients the goal is to get a good offer. You do not want to be lowballed. And that comes from positioning to make sure that you are reiterating your skills, your experiences, all those great transferable skills, and how, by hiring you, they are saving time, money, energy, whatever the benefit is as to why you over another candidate. That needs to start from the beginning versus taking an almost much more relaxed approach to the interview process, to the application process, where it’s like, I hope they pick me. No, we need to position you as, why wouldn’t they pick you?
And hopefully, I know, slowly but surely, a lot of states are making it where employers have to disclose their salaries. That should also help with it, too. But you still want to make sure that you’re positioning yourself, that you’re getting the higher end of that salary, not the lower end.
What stops people, Kimberly, from thinking about salary right from the start?
I think there’s this almost chicken before the egg game that people like to play, of, okay, well, let me find out how much the company’s offering. Now, let me, how much do I actually want to make? Or if they’ve done their research or not done their research.
I think many times, people are thinking about just getting the job and whatever number that they would like to have, but not adding in all of the other factors that happen in the job application process or for that company. It’s complex, but it’s also not complex.
I know this is your field, too. Right? So we know where to go, all the places, all the things, to make sure that we know what that salary range is. I think a lot of candidates aren’t thinking, necessarily, in a strategic way about how they should be approaching that process to come up with a number or ask for the number that they’re really looking for.
What happens to candidates who don’t position themselves for a salary offer?
They get what they get, unfortunately. I think you could negotiate, of course. I mean, you get what you get in terms of the offer that they give you is what the company, whatever they’ve seen or not seen from you, that’s what your salary offer is going to be. They’re going to give you an offer commensurate with what they feel you quote-unquote deserve based upon your skills, experience, et cetera, all the things that you’ve showcased throughout the interview process. When you don’t position yourself, it’s generally going to be on the lower end.
Most companies have a range for each role. So let’s say the range is between a hundred to hundred and twenty-five thousand dollars a year. Twenty-five thousand dollars is a pretty big difference in a range, and if you position yourself as more entry-level, as someone who’s not going to bring in new great ideas, as someone who’s really able to do the job, but not the most experience, you’re probably going to get much closer to that hundred thousand dollar range versus someone who comes in and showcases that they’ve mastered a lot of the key tasks. They have the experience. They’re going to get as close to the one-twenty-five range.
So you always want to make sure that you’re already getting that high offer because it’s harder to negotiate yourself from one hundred up to one-twenty-five. Even if you get in the middle, you got an offer that was around one-fifteen, you’ve done a little positioning, it’s still easier to go from a one-fifteen to a one-twenty-five versus the hundred.
What happens to your lifetime earnings over the course of your career, Kimberly, if you don’t position yourself for the best salary offer?
So I talk about this so much in many of my salary negotiation workshops. I think, many times, a candidate’s focused on the actual salary they’re getting. But the lifetime value, the biggest miss here, is retirement, I always think, because when you are saving for retirement or your company is putting away for your retirement, it is all based upon what your base salary is. So the more money you’re able to make in that base, the more money you’re able to have in retirement.
And then, also, just your overall quality of life. What would you be able to do with a higher salary? And I don’t want to say higher salary in terms of you just getting whatever number you want. But I would like to say an equitable salary, making sure you are getting paid the top dollar for your field, and what other folks are being paid in that industry with comparable experience, et cetera.
There’s so many things that, when you’re getting paid equitably, that you’re able to do. Whether it’s paying off student loans, going on an annual vacation, of course, your retirement savings. Whatever it is that really brings you joy, you’ll be able to do. The reality is, you know, we need to make money. Right? And the more money you are able to make, many times, the lifestyle that you’re able to live, and the legacy you’re able to create for your family may be much greater.
Well, let’s talk about how to do it, Kimberly, how to position yourself for that best salary offer.
Now, the first step you recommend with your clients is to do pre-interview preparation. What kind of homework do you have in mind, and do you suggest people do?
So I ask all my clients to gather insider information. So, I define insider information as all of those things that aren’t necessarily published about that job. So if you have a contact at the company, a mentor, a teacher, a coach, a sponsor, ideally, someone who can give you the inside track. So, what does that job- what are you actually doing every single day?
Job descriptions, I think, generally, they can be okay. Like, let’s say that they’re doing the best they can with the job description. But there’s always some things the company isn’t sharing, and those things are what you can align yourself to to make sure that you are truly in alignment with that job.
So, you want to understand, what is the day-to-day of that job? Of course, what are the salary expectations? What are they really looking for? What are the key skills? How do your skills relate to what the company is asking for?
And what do you do with this research? How do you act on it?
So, it’s really about being able to curate your responses. When we’re talking about positioning yourself as a leader, and for this interview, in terms of the interview process, so you can get to the salary negotiation, it’s making sure you’re able to curate stories that are in alignment with the role you’re looking to get.
So, how are you showcasing your skill set in the best way possible when you answer each and every question, every interaction with that company throughout the experience of the candidate experience for interviewing? How are you curating it to put yourself in the best possible light? And many times, the key here is storytelling.
I know many times, a lot of career coaches, we talk about the STAR method or the PAR method, Situation, Task, Action, and Result, for how you answer each and every behavioral question.
When you know and have all the information needed about how you and your skills relate to the job, you’re able to start to curate stories to answer some of the most common interview questions to ensure that you are showcasing the best you throughout every single interaction.
I want to take a break, and when we come back, I want to dig into just a little more about what you do before you apply using the salary research you’ve done.
So stay with us. When we return, Kimberly Brown will continue to share her advice on how to position yourself to get the best salary offer.
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Now, let’s get back to the show.
We’re back in the Mac’s List studio. I’m talking with Kimberly Brown.
Kimberly’s mission is to empower women and people of color in the workplace.
She joins us from Newark, New Jersey.
Now, Kimberly, before the break, we were talking about how to position yourself to get the best salary offer. One question I know listeners will have after they do the research that you indicated about not only their own needs but what companies might offer. What do you do, Kimberly, if the salary isn’t published in the job posting?
So, when you can’t find the salary, there are a host of tools you can use, from Payscale to Linkedin to Glass Door, to really determine what are similar professionals being paid in the types of roles you’re applying to? So, I like to at least come up and find at least five to ten roles that are very similar to what I’m applying to and figure out what the range is, and come up with a $10-15K salary range that I will quote when someone asks what I’m looking to be paid.
So, you’ve done this work, you’ve determined what the market is paying for these positions, and it gives you the range, you share that number with a recruiter. What do you do, Kimberly, if someone says, “Well, we’re not prepared to discuss salary,” or if they don’t respond at all to the number that you share as a candidate?
So, I wouldn’t be discouraged at all. I think some companies may opt to wait until later stages in the interview process to talk about salary. So I wouldn’t be discouraged. However, I will say, is that the earlier you mention it, the better that you know you’re in alignment.
Because there is nothing worse than applying for the job, and you know you’re looking to get that hundred thousand dollar salary, but the top that they’re paying is sixty thousand dollars per year. That’s not a good match. Especially if you know, you would not do that job if you’re only being paid sixty thousand dollars a year.
What I will say, though, that I see many recruiters asking this question earlier and earlier. Even in the phone screening, which I think is phenomenal. Just to make sure everybody is in alignment, and even if you say, hey, I’m looking to be paid between one hundred and a hundred and fifteen thousand dollars per year, and you hear the recruiter say, okay, don’t be afraid to follow up and ask, is this in alignment with what this role is being paid at the company? And see what they say. And if they say they’re not prepared to discuss salary at this time, then you’ll wait til a little bit later.
But many times, I will say is that companies don’t want to continue to move you through a process if they know they can’t afford you because that wastes their time and your time.
Well, let’s go back to the interview room. You were talking in the first segment about the importance of having stories that you can share that highlight your skills and experiences in order to well-position yourself for that best salary offer. What are other interview techniques that you recommend to help a candidate get that best salary offer?
So, the stories is really my number one tip, and the secret, I say, is that you can tell the same stories over and over and over. Many times we think that if you’re going to different interviews or talking to different people, you need to come up with new material, and that just makes it so much more stressful.
I teach all of my clients to come up with their three greatest success stories and their three, what I call, do better stories. You don’t have to call them failures because, many times, you learned really great lessons that it changed the way you work or the way you approach a situation. But curating those stories that you can share that really hone in on how you approach various situations, how you think, and your accomplishments is just really, really key.
And this may sound like a very basic tip, but I’ll also say if you know you need practice, practice. Your time to practice is not in the actual interview. Your time to practice needs to be well before that.
So, whether you’re someone who talks to yourself the way I do. I know I will have a full conversation with myself practicing for an interview like this in the car. Or if you’re someone who needs to do it in front of a friend or record yourself and watch, make sure that the first time you’re telling these stories is not in the actual interview.
And when you’re in the interview, and you share these stories, how does doing this help you get the best salary offer when that offer does happen?
So, the interview process, the reason why you’re actually interviewing for a job is because the company needs to understand how would you do whatever task, whatever job, at that company because they don’t know you.
The stories are what showcase your ability to do those things, and a good storyteller, if you’re telling really great stories in your interview, your goal is that whoever is at the other side of that table or screen, you know, virtual interviewing, is that they will be able to go back to their boss or someone else on the team and retell your story, and that builds advocacy for your candidacy throughout the entire process.
The more advocacy you have for your candidacy, the more they’re going to really be talking about that salary number because they’ll be interested in having you do the same things you talked about at that company as soon as possible, and they know when it comes to the end, many times for candidates, it really boils down to what that final number is.
You’ve talked about the importance of stories. I can imagine there are listeners out there that think, well, why do I need to tell stories? Shouldn’t my credentials and qualifications alone get me not only the job offer but the best salary offer?
The reason why stories are so important is because they bring your resume to life. Nowadays, anyone can hire someone to redo their LinkedIn profile or their resume, and they’re able to take some of the things that you’ve done and make them sound incredible, whether they’re true or whether they’re false. The document, someone can put that together, yourself or someone else, to make it sound like it’s in alignment.
However, they’re hiring the human, and the stories are what bring the human to life in that company and being able to speak about the work. It’s one thing to give a document that says this is what you’ve done, but getting into how you do it, how you think, what your experience has been, and also a lot of that interpersonal work.
So, for example, if you’re going into a manager-level position, there’s normally not places on the resume where you’ll be talking about how you manage and speak to others, how other people in the workplace feel about you. That, again, is all storytelling. Which helps set you up for that salary offer.
You talked a moment ago about the importance of practicing your stories and not doing it for the first time in the interview room itself.
What are the elements of successful stories, Kimberly, that are gonna get you the best offer?
Not only the stories that I think you described them as that showcase your strengths, but also that you talked about experiences where you might have done something differently.
What are some key elements that everybody should remember?
So, when you’re telling a story in an interview, I think the biggest piece that most candidates forget is to really and truly focus on yourself. So, generally, I tell all my clients use the STAR method- Situation, Task, Action, Result. So, if I were to use the STAR method now, I would give you an example.
So, STAR- Situation. During my time working as a director at ABC company. Task, I was charged with putting together a three-year career strategy in order to take your career to the next level. Action, to do that, I made sure that we reevaluated your skills and core values. We revamped your documents, and we made sure you connected with four professionals who are able to help you get into your next role. R, as a result of this, which is the part that most people forget; as a result, you were able to secure five interviews, two final rounds, and got a final offer at the company of your choice.
The goal in that story, you can hear, you know exactly what I did to help, and, most importantly, you understand the results. So, what happened as a result? So, in this story, of course, it was a good outcome, you know, the person got the job. But even if it’s a do better story. It’s what did you learn? And how did that change what you’re doing? I think many times in interviews, people tell incomplete stories that don’t really show the end-to-end process of whatever that person is working on.
You’ve talked about the importance of research, paying attention to stories, outlining them and practicing them before going into the interview room, and getting clear about your own salary needs, and sharing that range with interviewers. What other steps do you recommend someone do to position themselves for the best salary offer?
The last piece I have here, I will say, is networking and relationship building. So, I don’t want to say that like the relationship is what’s going to get you the biggest salary offer. However, having great relationships, I talk about this all of the time. I have a whole chapter on it in my book that relationships are still everything. Relationships will allow you to get the insider information prior to interviewing for the job, get more information on potentially the salary, on the new team you’ll be working for, on your new boss to understand their strengths and weaknesses and what they need.
I think relationships can get your foot in doors that are closed. So, I always recommend, in any phase of your career, in anything that you’re doing in your career, relationships are really key to magnify the work that you’re already doing on your own.
Well, it’s been a terrific conversation, Kimberly. Now, tell us, what’s next for you?
Oh gosh, so, next up, I’m working on my next book, actually. Which is crazy to even think that I’m doing it already. But working on my book number two, which is going to be on some leadership styles. To help people learn how to work with each other and manage up, down, and across.
Well, terrific. I know listeners can learn more about you, your book, and your podcast by visiting your website. That’s www.kimberlybonline.com.
We’ll be sure to include that in the podcast newsletter. And you also invite listeners to connect with you on LinkedIn, and as always, I hope they’ll mention that they heard you on Find Your Dream Job when they do reach out to you.
Now, Kimberly, given all the great advice you’ve shared today, what’s the one thing you want a listener to remember about how to position yourself to get the best salary offer?
The last piece I’ll say is, believing that you are worthy and capable of doing the job and of getting the salary you desire. I know it sounds like it may be a little woo-woo for folks, but if you don’t believe that you are worthy of that salary, if you do not believe that you have the skills and you are capable of killing it at that job, the company’s not going to believe it either.
So, making sure that you’re doing the work to understand who you are, what your skills are, and the gifts that you’re bringing to whatever company you decide to work for is really, really key.
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