Show Me The Money!

Navigating the awkward and uncomfortable task of asking about pay


Tom_ShowMeTheMoneyWouldn’t you love it if you could shout out to your prospective employer “Show me the money!” – basically get down to the hard facts and talk cash. The desire for getting the role, plus understanding the non-financial benefits is just as important, so you might not put yourself out there like that.


But, when is a good time to do this? I was reflecting on the recent investigation into 7-11 stores underpaying their staff and wondered how many workers might have been fearful of having this type of conversation up-front.


Have you ever applied for a job without knowing the salary details? Or even waited until the job offer to find out about pay?


Scroll through the 1000s of job advertisements listed on the online job boards and you will undoubtedly see positions being advertised without a mention of salary or hourly rate. Some advertisements advise “salary by negotiation” or an “attractive remuneration package” seemingly avoiding the dollar amount at all costs. So, it’s likely at some point during the job hunt, whether it be in the interview or over the phone, you will reach the uncomfortable moment when salary must be discussed with your potential employer.


A number of years ago I was working for a company part-time and the owner offered me a full-time position. I agreed, delighted to transition into 5 days a week and a full-time wage. I assumed I would be paid the full-time equivalent of my existing salary. When pay day came around, my boss told me I would be paid $X – almost $10,000 p.a. less than what I had expected based on a full time equivalent of my previous role. Worried about being able to find another position, I settled for the reduced pay.


I wondered – Could I have been more assertive? Could the recruitment process have informed me earlier? The answer is both


To explore it further, I read up on some articles by Liz Ryan, Forbes Magazine’s expert on the icky. An advocate for up-front honesty, Liz thinks it’s important that you and your future employer are in the same ballpark when it comes to pay. Here are some tips I took away from her articles:


1. Do Your Research

If you know someone in your field, ask them about the types of salary ranges they have seen in their experience in the industry. If you are job-hunting through a recruitment service, ask your consultant for a range you can expect. Benchmark your experience, and the experience they want in the role.

2. Second Interview Chance

Use the first interview to get feel for the position, team, culture, and organisation. Afterwards, reflect on what you’ve heard and consider the pay range you’d be looking for. If you are offered a second interview, use this as an opportunity to explore how the role aligns with your career development, personal life, and financial needs. Once you have reached the end of the second interview, this is your chance to open the salary discussion. For example, “Am I close to what you’re looking for in this role?” and if so, “What salary range can I expect?”.

3. Share Your Goal, Not Your Goodies

If a potential employer or recruiter asks what you are currently being paid, you do not have to give them this information. Instead, focus on your target salary. For example, “I’m focussing on jobs in the $60k - $70k range...”


It’s ok to feel a bit uncomfortable when talking numbers with a potential employer, or even your current employer. Chances are this means you care about the way you present yourself to the interviewer or organisation. You can prepare yourself for the discussion by practising with a friend or trusted advisor before the interview. Yes, it can be an icky conversation, but the reality is you need to feel comfortable asking about salary so you can determine whether a job is the right one for you, your career, and your financial situation.


Knowledge is having the right answer.

Intelligence is asking the right question.


Alex Walsh, Associate Consultant Psychologist