How to get paid what you're worth

Two women having a business meeting over coffee

"What do you expect to be paid?" is always a hard question to answer, particularly if you’re just starting your career or moving into a new industry. Many of us don’t talk about our salary, and may avoid telling colleagues, friends and even family what we earn.

So how can you know if you’re getting paid what you’re worth? Get some tips below.

Before the interview

Do market research

  • Explore the pay information for relevant jobs in our jobs database
  • Are you a graduate? How much experience have you had and what’s the average market wage? Know where you sit so you can get an idea of what you’re worth.
  • Browse job vacancy websites like Trade Me and Seek to see what pay range the types of jobs you are interested in fall into.

An interview is your opportunity to show the employer you have valuable skills to offer, would fit into their culture, and are up for the challenge of the job. Stand powerfully beforehand, look over your research and walk in confidently.

Be proud and speak confidently about your abilities.

During the interview

  • So you’ve done your research, you’re in the interview and the question is asked: "What do you expect to be paid?" This is your chance. Be confident, take a deep breath, and answer. It is up to you whether you say a range or a specific figure.
  • Even after doing your pay research, you may still be unsure of the likely starting rate for the job – particularly if you are applying for an entry-level position. It’s OK to ask the employer to indicate what the likely starting salary for the position is. You can say something like:

Money/salary isn’t the defining factor for me, but it is important. You know the job and the industry so could you please indicate the likely starting salary for this job?

Dealing with gender bias

  • Women are less likely to negotiate their pay than men. According to Linda Babcock and Sara Laschever, by not negotiating a first salary an individual stands to lose around $500,000 US by age 60, and men are four times more likely to initiate salary negotiations when offered their first job.
  • Research by the Ministry of Women's Affairs in 2010 showed a 6% gender pay gap in graduate starting salaries. This increased to a substantial gap of 17% after five years.
  • So – be careful not to sell yourself short, or accept the first offer you get straight away. You have worked hard to get to this point and deserve to be paid appropriately for the job you are doing. Your first income sets the standard for you, and for pay rises from there, so start out right. 

After the interview

  • If you’re offered the job, you don’t have to accept it there and then – you can ask for some time to consider the job (one week is an average amount).
  • Read over your contract slowly and more than once. Ask the employer about anything that doesn’t make sense to you. Remember you can also ask a friend, colleague or someone at the Citizens Advice Bureau to help read over your contract.
  • After you have taken the time to consider the job and read the contract thoroughly, remember that you can discuss anything you are unhappy with (such as negotiating pay or perks) with the employer.
  • Be sure you understand all the fine print and what is expected of you in your new role. When you are happy with the contract from start to finish, sign it.

There are jobs out there, so get your CV and cover letters together, know your skills and use the tips above to make sure you get paid what you’re worth.

Good luck!

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