macdonald and company
macdonald and company

Accountant Salary: How to Negotiate Yours

Posting date: 24 May 2019
Ricky Fullman our consultant managing the role

Salary, A Hard Question For Accountants?

You don’t want your answer to scupper the chance of an accountancy job offered. You don’t want to sell yourself short, either. What would that say about your own confidence in your abilities? You’ve navigated and negotiated the interview process successfully. You answered all those tricky behavioural interview questions for accountants. You prepared well. The interview panel are clearly happy with your performance, because the hiring manager just asked the one question you’ve been dreading the most: “What are your salary expectations?

Why Interviewers Ask About Salary 

You might dread the question being asked, but it’s not bad news. The company wants to know if it can afford you. That’s a good sign, especially when you’ve answered a few awkward questions already. It means you’re heading in the right direction. 

Laurna Barry, Accountancy Recruitment Expert

Some employers may try to get you on the cheap. Your job is to sell yourself; to achieve the accountant salary that you want – higher than the general market average. 

It seems like you're in a good position and they may want to hire you, so you can use this to your advantage.

Accountant Salary Questions

There are three ways in which a company will ask about your salary expectations. They will either tell you the salary or salary range, or ask you to ‘name your price’. The latter doesn’t mean they will pay the first number that pops into your head. 

Rather, they’ll ask you either:

  • “What salary are you expecting here?”
  • “What is your current salary as an accountant?”

You should plan for both these questions before attending your interview.

Ricky Fullman, Accountant Salary Interview advice

How do you answer, “As an Accountant working here, what salary are you expecting?”

There are two hurdles to consider when asked this question, especially if it comes early on in the interview for an accountancy jobThe first hurdle is that you haven’t yet had time to sell yourself properly. If this happens, it is best to try to swerve the question. Be non-committal and delay answering.

The second is that you could sell yourself short. You are so keen to progress to the next interview stage, that you try to put yourself ahead of the competition by undershooting them. The employer may also be concerned with why your desire falls short when you measure it in your salary expectations.

If you aim too high, will you price yourself out of the running? If you go too low, will the employer think you must be a fraud? Would you be setting yourself up to accept a salary that wouldn’t meet your living expenses?

To jump either hurdle successfully, you should know what the market rate is for the position for which you have applied. Your objective is to know what the average salary is for someone like you: with the same qualifications, experience and seniority.

One way to do this is to search different job sites, newspapers and other sources. It’s a lot of work, and not very scientific. It should, however, give you some idea of the salary you could ask.

 (Tip: Contact the Accountancy and Finance recruitment team. We’ll give you valuable insight from the RICS and Macdonald & Company Rewards and Attitudes Survey 2019 as well as salary benchmarking using our extensive database and industry expertise. You’ll be armed with the exact numbers you need.)

Irrespective of your knowledge, if the question has been answered early on in the process, you should try to delay answering for as long as possible. Use the question to sell yourself, by offering an answer like:

I’m mostly concerned about the opportunity. I want to ensure a good fit, and also that it offers me the opportunities to progress my career and make a valuable contribution to the accountancy team. I’m certain you would offer a market-competitive salary.

This answer tells the interviewer that you are confident, and also hints that you know the market’s rates for accountant salaries. Like when playing poker, it doesn’t do to be too keen to show your hand – you want to know more, first (so I’m told!).

If you are pushed for an answer, saying something like:

Well, based upon my experience and qualifications and the research I have done, I understand that around £55,000 to £65,000 is the typical salary range for the responsibilities and duties expected of this role.

Answering in this way places your answer in the context of the market, rather than a purely personal number.

How To Answer, “What Is Your Current Accountant Salary?”

This is a tricky question to answer if you feel either underpaid or overpaid in your current job. You might be concerned that it will lead to a low offer or immediate disinterest because you are seen as unaffordable.

Like above, the best tactic is often to delay answering. You want them to love you before explaining why your salary is low. And if they love you, you won’t need to explain why your current salary is on the high side.

Oliver Dyer, Accountancy Recruitment Expert

A good way to answer may be as follows:

You know, I think it might be best to discuss the position a little further, to determine exactly how it measure against my current role. Then we can decide what a fair salary would be.

The risk you run is that the interviewer may become suspicious that you are on a low salary. If you are pushed to answer and this is the case, then you should explain the shortfall. There could be many mitigating factors, such as:

Salary is only a part of my compensation package. I receive sizeable quarterly bonuses, and I benefit from flexible hours. Plus, I get to work from home one day each week.

There could be many reasons why you currently receive a lower-than-average salary. Shorter hours, location, and the fact that you have taken on more responsibility without an appropriate increase to your salary.

Sell Yourself To Buy Your Salary

Whatever the salary question you are asked, you should also discuss how to answer the salary question with your Recruitment Consultant who will already have spoken to the employer about salary and budgets for the accountant job as part of their recruitment service to the client. After taking their advice on board, you can view this as both a positive and another chance to sell yourself. How you answer may depend upon the stage of the interview process, and on how you feel the interview is progressing. How you answer is also your first chance to kick off the salary negotiations in earnest. If you sell yourself effectively, the salary negotiations will tip in your favour.

Want to know how much you should be earning as an accountant in the real estate and built environment? Get in touch with the Core Services, Accountancy and Finance Team for a confidential discussion about your accountancy career.

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