Salary Expectations

How to Handle the Dreaded Salary Question

There is one question in the interview that no candidate likes to hear. It is the question about expected salary. Salary expectations differ from individual to individual. Unless you happen to guess the exact salary the employer expected to provide, there are a number of risks associated with how you answer this type of question.

Suggested Salary Expectation Risks

  • Too High

Requesting a salary that is too high can cause an employer to lead to a less expensive candidate. Most businesses are suffering from the poor economy and cutting down on salary costs is one way for the company to save money.

High salary requests may also reflect poorly on your character. The interviewer might ask themselves “why does he/she believe they deserve so much money?” and come up with personality flaws (arrogance, etc.) that could prevent you from getting the job.

  • Too Low

Requesting a low salary will lead to doubts about your candidacy. It may cause the employer to wonder about your previous work experience. It may cause the employer to ask themselves if you are really “in demand.” It may cause the employer to think that you are getting desperate for employment. All of these negative feelings can lead to doubts about your candidacy.

How to Answer Salary Questions

The best way to answer salary questions is to not answer them. If a question about salary is brought up at the first interview, you should respond by stating “I will answer that question once I know more about the position.”

  • Do NOT discuss your salary at your previous place of employment. No two jobs are equal.
  • Do NOT discuss your “dream salary” or what you “hope to make.”
  • Do NOT discuss other offers that you have received from other employers.

Experts recommend that you do your best to avoid answering the salary question at all costs. Eventually this question will be unavoidable. Once you must answer it, the best course of action is to ask the employer their approximate range. By forcing the employer to provide you with a salary estimate, you will be placed in a position of strength during the negotiations. Use such answers as:

  • What is the range that you have budgeted for the position?
  • My preference is to hear an offer first and adjust from there.
  • There are still aspects of the position that I will not know until I begin. What is the company’s expected salary range?

You may be forced to be direct about your refusal to answer questions about salary without a number to use as a starting point. Employers will understand, and if they truly value your potential employment they will be willing to give you a number.

Working With the Number

Once you have been given a number you can offer your own counter offer. Consider salary negotiations like buying a car. Haggling is expected. Employers will rarely offer their highest available salary from the start. If you believe you can increase your annual salary, provide a counter offer with an explanation as to why you believe you have earned that value. The employer may counter and you can continue the discussion.

It is also a good idea to come prepared. Thoroughly research the average salary of the company before you get into salary expectations. Free tools at websites like Indeed.com and Monster.com can provide you with estimated salaries of similar jobs in your area. These will give you a firm starting point from which to negotiate from.

Sometimes You Must Be Honest

Throughout your salary discussions there will be times that you need to be honest to both yourself and your employer. First, if the highest available salary is considerably less than you deserve, you must be willing to walk away. It is difficult for both your reputation and your future employment to take a position that you ultimately will not be able to afford to stick with.

There will also be times that you must be honest with your employer. If the salary they offer is beneath your budget, let them know that you require a position with a higher pay. If they have the funds available and value your potential employment, they will make you the counter offer. If not, they may not be a potential fit for your skills and experience.

Wait for a Position of Strength

Overall, you should avoid salary discussions until you are on the brink of employment. First interviews are never the place to discuss salary. Salary discussions should be saved until the end of your second interview unless the topic cannot be avoided. Once it is time to discuss salary, do you best to make them provide you with the first offer and use the salary research you prepared to conduct the negotiations. That is the best way to ensure that both sides reach an ideal number without affecting the success of the interview.