Throughout my career, all the positions I’ve secured came through actively applying and going through the recruitment process. Although I can’t recall the exact dynamics of my salary negotiations in Barcelona, I remember how challenging it was, considering the low salary benchmarks they have. Earlier in my career, I often accepted offered salaries without negotiation. And when I tried to negotiate with them, I was turned away. Maybe I was younger and not yet confident enough to showcase the value I brought.

When I transitioned to Berlin, I began to highlight my professional worth and engage in salary negotiations. (There’s so much to share on the topic of navigating these conversations and understanding your market value—perhaps enough for another article). Typically, companies inquire about your salary expectations and will let you know if your range aligns with theirs.

A particular experience stands out from last year: I interviewed for a promising position. The team was dynamic, the product compelling, and I resonated with the CEO’s vision on People Strategies. Early on, I was asked for my salary expectations and I honestly shared them. They didn’t mention it again. After several rounds of in-depth interviews and even a visit to their headquarters in another German city, their offer fell short by 40k. I was really surprised, I needed quite a lot of thinking, and after several negotiations, we managed to bridge this gap slightly. The experience left me discouraged and way less enthusiastic about the opportunity as I was when I started the process.


Understanding the question, “What are your salary expectations for this position?” is vital. As a Talent Acquisition myself and leading a TA team later on, I can say that this query isn’t just a routine step; it’s a tool to gauge alignment between a candidate’s value perception and the company’s budget.

Sometimes, the hiring process may commence without a fixed salary range (not ideal), but a seasoned recruiter can still identify if a candidate’s expectations far exceed the budget. Sometimes, you even need to adapt your salary range because you are out of the market (this always depends on your salary strategy) You can use free tools like Glassdoor or Payscale (slowly with European data but pretty accurate for the US) or paying ones, like Figures for getting a salary benchmark in your region.

I am 100% inclined to give transparency with the salary range. If candidates are expected to be forthright about their salary aspirations, employers should reciprocate by sharing their proposed range. Joining a company that evades transparent conversations right from the beginning can be a red flag about its internal culture. This lack of clarity not only demotivates potential hires but also sets a negative precedent for their future interactions within the organization.

Here are a few guiding principles I’ve always upheld:

  • Know Your Numbers Before You Start: Kick off the hiring process with a clear salary range. This helps your TA team to deliver an excellent #CandidateExperience and ensures internal alignment.
  • Uphold Transparency: Share your salary ranges openly. If a candidate’s expectations are beyond your budget, inform them early on. Many candidates continue with the process even if their initial salary expectations were higher when they’re well-informed. While money isn’t the only factor, it’s a crucial topic for discussion.
  • Promote Fair Compensation: Sometimes, candidates might quote a figure below the market rate. From my experience, I’ve seen candidates from regions with lower salary standards or women who undersell their worth. Empower these candidates with feedback and ensure they get a competitive offer, helping eliminate gender or racial pay disparities.

Remember that candidates invest significant time getting to know your organization. Engage into a fair play and reciprocate by providing an honest and transparent glimpse into your company’s values and culture. These steps will contribute to higher retention and engagement. From day one, your team will feel at ease discussing compensation, knowing there will be no negative consequences. This speaks volumes about your company culture and what you stand for 💪

By Irene