Ask Matt: It’s so awkward – so how should I talk about money?

Star Tribune
Originally published here –

Dear Matt: I appreciated last week’s article on compensation. I dread talking salary; can you provide more thoughts on this topic?

Matt says: You are not alone. Employers often dread this conversation too, says Erica Edgar, Recruiter/Project Manager at CorTalent (, a Minnetonka-based recruiting and human resources company.

“No one likes talking about money,” said Edgar. “It’s an awkward conversation. You need money to live, so you need to be open and honest about it, whether or not you want to be. When job seekers are not willing to discuss compensation, it’s a red flag. Even though it’s uncomfortable, it helps manage expectations for both the candidate and the employer. Sometimes people don’t want to share what they’re making because it is so much less than what they think they should be making, but being honest is still the best option.”

So, how do you best answer the question: What type of salary are you looking for? This was touched on in last week’s Ask Matt (, but here are some additional thoughts:

First, answer the question by talking about your total compensation. Employers want to hear what you’re currently making. If your salary is $50,000 and your benefits are worth another $10,000, reference your total compensation as $60,000 and start from there. Provide a range and explain that you’re open to the entire opportunity and benefit package and want to stay within the competitive range for the opportunity. If the company is unable to provide the total compensation you’re hoping for, maybe they can be flexible in providing additional vacation time.

If you’re willing to take a step back in compensation because there is opportunity for growth with this new company, be sure to explain that during your interview.

Know your answer to the compensation question before you go into the interview. Be sure to have a realistic understanding of what you’re willing to consider but also what you realistically need. Even if the opportunity is attractive, if the compensation does not meet your needs you will be distracted by your personal situation and it will influence your success in the role, said Edgar.

Remember, while compensation is important, culture, fit and opportunity are also a big part of the equation. “The best advice is to be honest about where you’ve been and what you need,” said Edgar. “Be honest about your skill set, your interest in the company, and where you see yourself going.”

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