How to Handle the Compensation Conversation When Interviewing for a Job

How we work has changed dramatically over the last few years in the healthcare field. For example, we’ve learned to hold patient appointments via video calls and share patient files via electronic health record software. In addition, the pandemic has revealed how challenging many front-line healthcare jobs are, and self-care has become an imperative retention strategy for HR departments. As a result, many healthcare workers have changed their priorities around work/life balance versus compensation. For those who have stayed in the industry or those who are just starting, these concerns have manifested in a new awareness that the conversation about a job’s compensation is too important to avoid in any hiring process. 

Interview Negotiation
Photo by Tim Gouw on Unsplash

What is Pay Transparency?

Inc. Magazine is calling 2022 “The Year of Pay Transparency.” While this trend started because equal pay proponents advocated for ending gender and racial wealth gaps, the results will ultimately affect all workers and companies. 

WorldatWork defines pay transparency as “the degree to which employers are open about what, why, how and how much employees are compensated — and to what degree they allow employees to share that information with others.” The information can be anything from the base pay of a position to benefits, rewards, or other perks. The point of transparency is to develop open compensation practices that help employees understand how their salary is determined in the context of market and business realities and therefore build employee confidence in the fairness of that process.

The Legislation

The Federal government has had pay transparency rules for federal contractors for decades. As of 2022, 17 states and a few cities have passed laws requiring all employers to provide external and internal job applicants with the salary range for a position during the hiring process. However, the terms of transparency and how the laws are enforced vary by state. Arizona is not one of these states. As of August 2022, there are no laws governing salary transparency for private employers in Arizona. 

The Pushback

Some employers are opposed to the pay transparency trend. Coming out of the pandemic and experiencing a massive hiring and retention crisis, businesses are worried these laws would result in an even tighter labor market. The first concern is that job postings are visible to everyone, including competitors, making it easier to poach employees. The salary listings also uncover pay disparities among employees, who might demand the same salaries offered to new hires.

The Supporters

There are also leaders in the healthcare industry who feel that pay transparency will help healthcare employers find and keep good talent because they will be more motivated to work for those organizations. Transparency lets job seekers know whether the position meets their expectations before applying. Transparency also assists employees who can reference public salaries to ensure they are paid fairly. After the upheaval of the last couple of years, pay transparency can be the first step to restoring trust with the workforce, which is critical for boosting recruitment and retention efforts.

What to Do if the Salary is Not Published

Since Arizona has not yet established pay transparency laws, it is up to you to advocate for yourself while searching for a job. You are entirely within your rights to ask about the salary during the job interview process. However, don’t walk into that conversation without planning your strategy and doing your homework.

Do Your Research

Whether or not the salary is published in a job you are interested in, you must understand the typical salary range in Arizona. Once you know that, you can then decide on your target salary. Without this information, it will be difficult for you to know what to ask for. 

The best place to research salaries is the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The website offers salary data dated May 2021 for hundreds of healthcare and healthcare support positions by region, state, and metropolitan cities. For example, the site reports that the annual mean salary for a pharmacy tech in the Phoenix, Mesa, and Scottsdale metro areas is $39,350. If you are looking for a job like this, this is your city’s average salary for pharmacy techs. 

Know Your Worth

Now that you know the market average, factor in your experience, education, and other details that might affect your anticipated compensation. You should expect to make more if you have extensive experience or education. However, many employers also look for a “culture fit” with their organization. This could mean showing you are a team player, that you are flexible, or that you are looking for upward mobility. Be aware of those questions as you negotiate salary, but don’t let them derail you from your target salary expectations. 

Choose a Salary Range and Don’t Forget Benefits

As you research and decide on your salary expectations, don’t have one fixed dollar amount in mind. Instead, choose a range you can live with. When you ask for a salary range, you show flexibility, which employers appreciate. It also leaves room to adjust your expectations once you learn more about the job.

Don’t forget to consider bonuses and benefits. Health benefits or vacation time may be more important than salary for some. What is important to you? What base salary do you need to pay your bills? Which benefits do you value the most? What other perks interest you? Where do you have “wiggle room” if you need to negotiate? 

During the Interview

Now that you’ve decided on a pay range that reflects your worth be ready to negotiate when the time is right. That right time will depend on many factors, but it is usually NOT during the screening phone call or the beginning of the first interview. As important as this conversation is, trying to have it before the employer is ready will not send the right message. 

Instead, wait for the employer to show interest in you before asking about your salary. Look for questions like “When can you start?” or “Can you provide references?” This is when you have the leverage to ask for more compensation information. Make sure to give them the same flexibility you would ask them to give you. Here’s a good answer: “May I ask what salary range you’re considering for this position?”

However, the employer may ask you about salary during the screening call, which can feel like a trap for many interviewees. This is where your research will pay off because you can show your understanding of the occupation and the market. A good response could be, “From what I know about the position, I think somewhere in the area of $XX – $XX. I’d like to know more before giving a more concrete answer.” That allows you to change your answer once you know more about the employer without being evasive. 

Tips for the Actual Salary Negotiation

Here are some tips for a successful compensation negotiation when you are offered the job and it’s time to talk money. 

  1. Don’t apologize for asking to negotiate. 
  2. Keep the conversation positive.
  3. Show you are willing to collaborate by using pronouns like “we.” 
  4. Focus the conversation on the benefits you are bringing to your employer. 
  5. Start at the top of your target salary range, so you have room to negotiate.
  6. Ask questions if something is unclear.
  7. Be flexible. If the employer can’t give you more money, are there benefits or other perks you might consider?
  8. Use silence effectively. Don’t try to fill it with unnecessary commentary.
  9. Leave your emotions at the door.
  10. Be confident in your value.

If it helps, practice your negotiation skills with a friend before the negotiation. Run through your key discussion points and the value you bring to the employer. Remember that you are the best person for this job, and they need you.

With the increase in legislation around pay transparency, the issue of discussing salary during job interviews may become more straightforward in the future. But for now, it can feel like a minefield for many job searchers. Hopefully, this blog offers tips to be successful. 

If you are searching for a new healthcare job opportunity, Desert Medical Careers is an expert at matching healthcare workers with their ideal work environment. Call us today at (602) 468-6300 or fill out the form below for more information.

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