What salary are you looking for? How to answer this tricky question in procurement

Put your hand up if you love job interviews? Not many hands up? That’s not surprising. Job interviews – in general and also in procurement – can be challenging. There’s always so much to think about, including adequately discussing your experience, answering the notoriously difficult question ‘why do you want to work here?’, and of course, figuring out whether or not your potential future manager is toxic.

And that’s just the start. Inevitably, you’ll also have to answer the question: What salary are you looking for? 

This question should be easy, especially since procurement may soon be one of the most sought-after professions. However, in reality it’s anything but. Should you tell the recruiter or hiring manager your current salary? Or should you give your current salary plus a 20% margin, just to try it? Perhaps you should extensively research salary benchmarks and then pitch yourself in the middle, so as to avoid the risk you’re too expensive but not undervalue yourself at the same time? 

Knowing what to do can be tricky, but here’s some considerations when answering this tricky question: 

  1. Wait it out 

As human beings, when asked a question, we feel the need to answer it immediately. But when asked the salary question, especially if you are asked it upfront before you’ve found out the full scope of a potential procurement position you’re interested in, it may be in your best interests to wait it out. 

The reason for this is two-fold. Firstly, if you answer before you know much about the role, you may give a salary too low for what has been budgeted (and then you may end up on this salary anyway, especially if you don’t negotiate), or you may give a salary too high, and then rule yourself out from the beginning. Secondly, the best time to discuss salary is when a company has already decided they want to make an offer, as you have more leverage in the negotiation. 

Asking to answer the salary question later may feel uncomfortable, but there are two effective ways you can do it. 

The first method is to instead ask about the budgeted salary range for a role. Here, you might say something like: 

“That’s difficult for me to answer before I know more about the role, and also before I consider other benefits. Would you mind letting me know the budgeted range for this role?”

It’s likely that if you ask this question, whomever is interviewing you will ask if it’s in line with your expectations. If you don’t want to answer that concretely just yet, then say something like ‘that’s helpful to know. Do you know if there will be room for negotiation?’ or something along those lines. 

It’s worth noting here that while an employer or recruiter can ask about what salary you are looking for, in some places (including several states in the US) they aren’t allowed to ask what you are currently earning. 

  1. Offer a range, but leave room for negotiation 

In some situations, you simply won’t be able to wait it out when asked the salary question. In fact, many application forms include this question as part of the application, so you’re going to need to have an answer, and you’re likely going to need to stick to it. 

If you have to or want to go down this path, it’s important to do your research and understand why you’ve arrived at a certain range. To do this, ensure that you: 

  • Research similar roles on Glassdoor, including filtering for industry or location where possible to ensure accuracy 
  • If you feel comfortable, try contacting people within your network and discussing salary. 

This research should give you a comfortable range. However, also consider what benefits beyond salary matter to you, including flexibility and career prospects. 

When you’re discussing the range you’ve arrived at, signal which part of the range you consider yourself to be in, and why (consider sharing some of your research here, as well as why your skills and experience make you a strong fit for the role). Here, ensure that you acknowledge that salary is just one part of your decision, and that you’re interested in other benefits, but also flexible. And don’t forget to express your enthusiasm for the company and the role. 

Discussing salaries has always been – and will continue to be – an uncomfortable topic, especially if you experience imposter syndrome.  Doing your research and taking your time to answer can help you give the most considered responses. 

How do you typically answer salary negotiations? Any additional tips? Let us know in the comments below.