When you sit down for a job interview, it’s perfectly natural to want to know how you’ll be compensated now and in the future. After all, the average job candidate in the United States stays in the job for which they were hired for about four years. After that, it’s time to move up or move on.
But how do you ask about promotions in an interview without making it look like you’re going to move on quickly? Or without coming across like you think you deserve a better job right from the start?
It can be an uncomfortable conversation, but there’s no opting out. In order to choose the opportunity that best fits your career plans, you need to have accurate information about the position. That conversation must involve a glimpse of what promotions and raises might look like if you were to accept a job offer.
Here are three effective questions to help you ask about promotions in an interview without looking presumptuous:
1. Ask, “How do you help good performers grow in this position?”
Companies attract competitive candidates by offering growth opportunities. It’s very likely that the company you’re interviewing with will want to highlight its efforts to help employees grow and evolve through professional development, education, or experience opportunities.
Since “growth” can be a codeword for future promotions, asking this question will give the interviewer an opportunity to talk about people who started out in this position and grew into promotions or raises. If they don’t bring it up, follow up by specifically asking if anyone within the company got started in a similar position.
2. Ask, “Can you tell me how you’d compensate the person in this position if they went above and beyond your expectations?
Start by asking the interviewer to identify what achievements would indicate success in the position. Not only will this give you an idea of what kind of work you’ll be focusing on, but it will also show the interviewer that you understand that each position is part of a bigger picture.
Then, ask what happens if an employee completes all of those milestones and then achieves even more. If it’s a good opportunity, that will naturally lead to a conversation about the company’s compensation structure, including promotions and raises.
3. Say, “Your company culture values X. Can you tell me how that plays out in compensating and promoting employees within your organization?”
Because company culture influences the work you do and how you do it, it also impacts future earnings. Therefore, be on the lookout for culture fit when you interview for a new job. For example, if you’re really good at specialized, individual work, but you’re interviewing with a company that values teamwork above all else, there might be a fundamental mismatch. if the company flat-out says it values one skill over another, it’s not going to invest promotions and raises in someone with those unvalued skills.
As you learn more about the company, ask follow-up questions to see how the company’s culture impacts compensation and promotion. This question, in particular, will give the interviewer a chance to share examples of skills they value and how they have compensated and promoted individuals with those skills in the past.
Don’t shy away from a conversation about promotions and raises in an interview. It’s important information you need to be able to make an informed decision. But remember: no matter how strategically you ask about promotions in an interview, no promotion is guaranteed. Once you get the job, use these tips to set yourself up to get those promotions.