What should I say when asked by a construction employer "What are your salary expectations?"

Asked by
Tommy T.

One of the hardest questions a construction job seeker has to answer when asked by an employer is "What are your salary expectations?" Construction executives who are doing the hiring are skilled as asking this question to others, but when it is asked of them as a job seeker they often hesitate and are not sure what to say.

Our advice as construction recruiters is to avoid discussing pay (compensation) until the employer first brings up the subject. It is usually better to say, "I am interested in this position and I hope if you are interested in me you offer me the job."

Ideally you should not be the first person to bring up the subject of pay since discussing pay early may imply that your primary concern is pay which is commonly viewed as a potential red flag in the eyes of an employer. Employers like to see candidates who are seeking the right fit, the right firm, the right job opportunity rather than someone seeking the right pay. Also if you are the first to initiate the discussion on pay, you are likely to be pressed by the employer to first share your pay expectations since you brought the subject up. The problem with providing your pay expectation to a construction employer is you may throw out a figure that is either be too much or too little, either scaring an employer away or leaving money on the table.

As construction recruiters we recommend if you are asked for your salary expectations, we advise you respond letting the employer know money is not your most important concern regarding your job decision (it is finding the right opportunity and cultural fit), however you do believe in good pay for good performance.

If pressed for a figure you can always let them know where you are currently (or recently have been) on pay. This leaves the employer with an idea of where you are and the opportunity to create a financial incentive to attract you. However it is important to be honest since some employers will ask for you to show them proof of earnings. The quickest way to burn a bridge with a prospective employer is to lie about pay or anything during the hiring process.

However if you know specifically what pay you want to receive to consider accepting the job opportunity, then mentioning this figure is acceptable and will likely result in an exact figure offer or you will be rejected and removed from consideration. If you do mention a figure you might want to phrase it so the employer recognizes what you are hoping for, but are not demanding it. You should also follow up after giving the figure with the fact you like what you have learned about the firm, people, culture and the opportunity and would like to work things out because you believe it is the right fit for you.