What are your salary expectations? Tips for physician job seekers.

Jun 18, 2018

When asked, “What are your salary expectations?” during the application hiring process, many medical professionals feel backed into a corner. You don’t need to be forthcoming with this information. Here’s what to say instead of spitting out a number.

“What are your salary expectations?” you may be asked…

Perhaps you’ve had an experience that went something like this:

Online job application: Current salary?

You, filling out an online job application: Ha. I’ll skip that one.

OJA: No can do. Required field.

You: Okay. “Not applicable.”

OJA: Nice try. Digits only.

You: …

At this point you either cave and actually list a desired salary, or you write ‘0’ in hopes that they don’t take your answer literally or use it as a reason to move your application directly to the circular file.

Career experts everywhere will tell you, as the applicant, to resist sharing salary expectations before the employer shares what compensation they’re planning to offer. For example, this article from Monster, which advises the reader to delay the conversation or turn the question around on the interviewer.

Providing your current salary information will hurt you

The resounding advice is to avoid giving out information about your current salary. Yet, employers ask applicants for this information all the time, whether it’s part of the initial application, during a screening phone call, or later in the interview process. There are two main reasons for this, and both are unfair for the candidate.

The two main reasons employers have for asking about applicants’ current salaries are these:

1. They want to make sure your expectations are not wildly outside of their range.

Physicians and other highly paid, heavily trained professionals have an incredibly wide range of compensations, skill sets, and other factors that they bring to the table. A leadership position may have a job description that attracts applications from across that broad range. The employer may be expecting to pay $225,000, but recruiting an applicant who is (unbeknownst to them) making $275,000 at her current job.

Perhaps you’ve been told by an HR specialist that they “want to make sure we’re not wasting your time.” This may be true to some extent, since nobody wants their time wasted. In reality, though, they don’t want to waste their time.

2. They don’t want to pay you more than they have to.

The employer may be planning to pay their candidate $185,000. But if the candidate says he’s been making $150,000, guess how much he’ll be offered? Not $185,000! If it only takes a $10,000 salary increase to lure him away from his currently position, that is a score for the employer and, ultimately, more money in the business owner’s pocket.

Providing details of your current salary is likely to result in lower salary at your new job than you otherwise would have been offered.

Avoiding, addressing, and circumventing the salary question

If you’re applying for job, chances are moderately high that the salary question will get asked. And you know it won’t work to your advantage as the applicant. So what can you do about it? Online applications make it difficult to sidestep, and it’s awkward to give a flat out “no” to a recruiter.

Here are a few tips for a variety of situations:

In an email or a conversation

A simple “I prefer not to disclose my current salary.” If pressed, try something along the lines of:

“The compensation from my current employer includes a number of benefits and perks that add a lot of value for me. I don’t feel that indicating my salary as a standalone figure gives an adequate indication of my expectations or my value as an employee.”

You can also indicate if there is a major difference between the responsibilities of your current job and the position for which you’re applying, suggesting that your current salary is irrelevant.

Of course, you can always provide them with your salary information if you wish too. Use your judgement.

An online job application

If the system will allow you to submit it without answering the question – skip it

If you can enter free text – “Prefer not to disclose”

If you can only enter a number – Put 0, with the anticipation that the employer will read this as “Prefer not to disclose.”

In the off chance that this is brought up during the hiring process, refer to the suggestions for a conversation above.

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