Coming back from a career break? Here’s how you should negotiate your salary

Coming back from a career break? Here’s how you should negotiate your salary

An interview is an opportunity for a candidate and a company to size each other up. For a person returning to work after a break, this interaction provides a window to explain the reasons and show they are still fighting fit.

Let us assume one such event is playing out: An interviewer and an interviewee are in the midst of a discussion. The interviewee has strong skills and experience. The interviewer is happy with the answers and the attitude.

Then the interviewer raises a point: “So your resume says that you did not work for some years?”

The interviewee replies honestly, “Yes, I was on a career break. But I kept honing my skills. And I believe that I am more than qualified to excel in this role.”

From here on, the conversation could play out in multiple ways.

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Assuming that the candidate is strong, they would get the job. But sometimes, there is a clear gap when it comes to pay.Let us now assume salary is being discussed at the interview.“Since you are returning after a break, we will only be able to offer you what your last salary was,” says the interviewer.

Here is where it gets tricky. What is the best way to negotiate for rightful pay while also showing interest in the job?

Harold D’souza, Co-founder and Director, WalkWater Talent Advisors, one of India’s fastest growing executive search and talent advisory, says it is important to start with a good recognition of the core skills and job fit while returning to a job after a break. Reach out to your industry sources and also to relevant people from the recruitment and search industry. This will help you gauge the market and the potential for similar roles.

He recommends mentioning the reason for the sabbatical in the CV and keeping references ready for the company to corroborate. “Talk about the reason for your sabbatical throughout the interview process. Do not be defensive about it. That in itself is a huge positive tool for negotiating the right role and salary.”

The break might even work in the candidate’s favour if it was for a entrepreneurship stint or such initiatives.

D’souza says that it is important to understand the company, the role and the structure as thoroughly as possible. If possible, find out about similar pay scales at the level that you are being offered. The right information is important ammunition for negotiation.

“Most mature organisations consider a sabbatical positively. Coming back from a break is not always easy and please realise that there will be a period of adapting and adjusting. Most companies might make an allowance for the sabbatical and start with a reduced salary. But it’s important to have a limit in your mind to this reduction and negotiate accordingly. With the right preparation, clear understanding and clear communication, negotiating the right role, level and salary can be done seamlessly,” says D’souza.

In addition, you can also try the following:

  1. If you have been upskilling yourself and maybe worked in a different area, say, entrepreneurship or freelancing, try to bring out the value that experience will bring to this role. A good recruiter will be able to connect the dots if the interviewee is clear and honest
  2. The entire package could be more than salary. As you negotiate, look at the broader aspects such as the excitement of the role itself, the learning provided, insurance and healthcare benefits, leave policy, variable pay, ESOP eligibility, and more
  3. Last but not the least, explore options such as mid-cycle revision based on performance and signing bonus

For both sides, it’s important to show an openness to discuss the fit for the role, yet draw clear boundaries on what is possible and not possible.

Done well, specially at the mid-senior roles, it also shows the recruiter and the organisation that the candidate they hired will be able to navigate unknown situations also.

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Author: Shirley