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How do I answer "What are Your Pay Expectations?"

Nurse Beth   (171 Views 1 Comments)
by Nurse Beth Nurse Beth, MSN (Advice Column) Writer Innovator Expert

Nurse Beth has 30 years experience as a MSN and works as a Nursing Professional Development Specialist.

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 Dear Nurse Beth,

I have an appointment to speak with a recruiter. In an email, she said she wanted to discuss pay expectations. I have a coworker at my current job who was just hired at the same facility in the same department I am applying at for $45/hr as a PRN nurse. The job I am applying for will be part time. At my current job I make $36/hr as a PRN nurse, but PRN pays the same no matter the level of experience. I know full and part time nurses that make more than $36/hr due to experience. I have worked at my current facility as a nurse for 14 years. I do not want to undervalue myself, but I also do not want to reach too high. I do not have any other contacts in this hospital and online research has not been fruitful. I do not know what to reply for pay expectations.

Dear Pay Expectations,

This is a great question, and it's wise to be prepared. In a conversation about pay expectations, you do not want to be the one to introduce a number first. Sharing your salary or salary expectations is not in your best interest, and once you reveal them, you have lost most all of your negotiating power. 

What is Your Current Salary

The question "What is your current salary?" is actually a trap question by the recruiter. Make every effort not to divulge your current salary. 

If you are asked "What is your current salary?",  avoid giving a number as the offer will then be related to this number.  Instead say "I'm not comfortable sharing my current salary. I'd rather focus on the value I bring to this company, with my 14 years of experience and skill sets"

If the recruiter persists by asking the question in another way, for example, "We really need to know where you're at to move forward" just repeat your answer with a smile, " I'm just really not comfortable discussing what my current employer pays me but I would like to know what you consider is an appropriate figure for the position"

What is Your Desired Salary

If you are asked "What is your desired salary?",  again avoid giving a number. This is important because without inside information, you will either under estimate or over estimate the range for the position. Meaning you are forced to guess, and neither underestimating nor overestimating is a win for you. 

If the recruiter persists, ask her for a range "I don't have a specific number in mind, but I am looking for this to be a big step forward in compensation and responsibility. What range do you see for someone with my skills and experience?"

If the recruiter still persists, again ask for a range "What I can do is let you know if the range for this position is in the ballpark for me".

In your case, you have some inside information. You know a colleague who was just hired for the same position at $45.00/hr- but it was for a PRN position. (Be very careful using this as a number unless you know it to be a fact. Some people embellish their pay to others, and others include differentials or certification pay. Make sure you are talking base hourly wages.)

On the other hand, if it is accurate, then you have a very important piece of information, which is that PRN positions pay $45.00/hr, and it would be not be unreasonable for you to expect at least around $40.00, depending on the benefits.

This conversation can be uncomfortable, but remember that you have a lot to offer, with 14 years experience. It is more common for nurses to undervalue themselves than to overvalue themselves. Always focus the conversation back to your experience and skills.

Having been a hiring manager, I know that once they want to hire you, they will figure out a way to make the compensation package desirable to you, even it means breaking the rules. 

Best wishes, 

Nurse Beth

Author, "Your Last Nursing Class: How to Land Your First Nursing Job"...and your next!

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