When do I ask about remuneration?

I’ve read a number of posts that go some way towards addressing the question of when to ask “how much is the role paying?”

Actually, it’s not that simple, and if you address it as such – you’re setting yourself up for a career of below par earnings.

So this post is longer than I would normally write – because there is so much at stake in this area for you, and there’s a process to follow if you want to get it right.

Get through it because it could be worth many, many more $ to you as you progress your career.

I’d just like to say at this point that I recognise it’s not always about the money – so keep that in mind too. But you do need to approach the rem part of the equation well informed and cognisant of what matters most to you.

Here are 5 key gateways you should test and pass before asking the question about remuneration and progressing to negotiation.


1. Know your market
Employees coming out of an organisation with medium to long term tenures of 3+ years, often fall behind in remuneration. They’ve had promotions and increased responsibilities, yet their remuneration has only just kept pace with inflation, and certainly not with their skillset or the value they’re bringing to the table.

Why is this?

Because they’re not ‘in the market’ they don’t necessarily know the market. They’re just not aware of where their remuneration should be sitting. So they take it for granted that their current employer will pay fair market rates. Not always true.

Securing a new role with a new company may be the best opportunity you have to ramp up your remuneration to a level that’s appropriate for your expertise and the value you deliver.

Read these articles about why moving companies may increase your remuneration ahead of those that dont.



2. Understand two things:

  • your value proposition and
  • your market value.

In addition to knowing the market and to gain an understanding of your positioning and the level of expertise you’re providing in your role category, you need to work through your achievements and the value you have delivered . Write down your value proposition.

Research is key!

Find out more; Prepare a brief positioning statement which will succinctly articulate to various recruiters and hiring managers who may be prepared to share with you the likely salary banding for roles at the level and industry sectors you’re targeting.

Remember there’s an opportunity to secure more through the 20% to 30% stretch!

Click here to read more about securing a stretch assignment or role.

Research various websites for advice on remuneration:


3a. The “what’s your current salary” question:
It’s inevitable right? The same old question from the recruiter or hiring manager.

“What’s your current salary?”

This can often be before they’ve asked you about the role you’re currently in and the results you’ve delivered.

It’s a really crazy and lazy question, and a red flag to you that they’re pigeon holing you.

Actually, what you’re on now may only be an indication of what you started on in your current role, the preparedness of the company to pay, and how well you haven’t managed to negotiate with your current employer your value to the business. (Ref point 1 above)

Your current remuneration is not necessarily an indicator of where you deserve to be in terms of your ‘market value’.

Think about this… The question a recruiter or hiring manager should ask is; “In less than one minute, tell me about the role you’re in, your core deliverables and the benefits you’ve delivered to the business?”

And then; “What’s your next role?”

And then; “What sort of organisation, size and sector, do you see yourself working in?”

And then; “What’re your expectations around remuneration?”

They can then make a judgement on whether you’re being realistic in terms of the market and your target. Your ability to articulate your value will determine their view. So know your value proposition, your next role, the type of organisation and your fair market value.

3b. When the recruiter asks you the ‘same old question’ answer it with;
“my current salary is based on the expertise I had when they hired me ‘X’ years ago plus some incremental inflation adjustments. Since then I’ve grown my responsibilities and the value of the deliverables. Whilst I’m currently on $X (plus an at risk of $Y) in my next role as ……. I’m seeking a salary of $Z”.

Get it in!

If you haven’t positioned yourself they may ask you; “tell me why you think you’re worth that salary?”

If you know your value proposition and you’ve done your research (ref point 1) you will be able to articulate why you’re worth what you say you are, back it up with data and speak with confidence – not arrogance or ignorance.

Back yourself!

4. What’s the question to ask?
Actually – this part is the simple part. As long as you’re prepared – and not scared, just have the confidence and awareness of timing.

After you’ve provided your positioning background to the recruiter and/or hiring manager so that they understand your value, and they’ve provided more detail about the role, it’s challenges and opportunities – assuming you want to progress, you can ask the following question.

“From what you’ve told me about the role so far, I’m very interested to progress. I understand that this question may be asked later on in the process, but because I value your time and my own, can you share with me the ‘banding’ for this role.”

Here’s more information about banding:


5. When do I ask?
It’s not about you being greedy or moving too fast.

It’s all about timing and being efficient with the process.

Why is it that some recruiters jump straight to “what is your current remuneration?”

Actually – as transactional and flawed as that question is, they’re trying to save themselves (and maybe you) time. It may not necessarily be the best approach – but it is what it is.

And the result is that unless you explain it as I’ve stated above (ref 3b) and have clearly articulated your value proposition, they may come back at you with “well this role is only paying $X”. Then where do you go? Lower your expectations?

Heck no!

Because you know your value you should be able to get around this. If they’re non-negotiable, then you could choose to walk away. Be confident that you’ve made the right decision.

You can only do this by knowing what you’re worth.

When do you ask?

Ask early!

Be prepared

Not scared

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