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Simple Truths About Handling Salary Questions in an Interview

Knowing What You're Worth

Perhaps just as important as knowing how to defer salary discussions until the appropriate time is knowing what your value is when it is time to negotiate salary. Many factors go into determining what an appropriate salary is. First of all, you need to think in terms of total compensation, not just salary. Total compensation includes things such as paid vacation, medical and dental insurance, life insurance, vehicle allowance, 401K contributions, tuition and training allowance, and more. Depending on where you live, medical coverage for a family of four can easily exceed $10,000 per year in health insurance premiums. If the employer is paying for that in full, it may impact what your starting salary would be. The other benefits carry similar value that must be considered during such negotiations.

A word that appears many times throughout this book is “research.” Just as you have been encouraged to research the company, its products, its business challenges, and its culture, you will also want to research salary and compensation issues before entering into negotiations with your prospective employer. Websites such as www.salary.com, www.bls.com, and several others listed in Appendix C are superb resources for determining what the average salary is for a particular job title in a particular city or region. Determining the average salary that an employer in your industry in your market will pay will give you a fair idea if the company interviewing you is on a par with other similar businesses. This information, along with other details of the benefits that are included, will help you decide what salary to ask for once negotiations start.

If you're considering relocating, you'll also want to explore the cost of living in the city where your prospective employer is located. The costs of housing, food, clothing, gasoline, childcare, and just about everything else will vary widely from a large metropolitan area on the East Coast to a relatively small community in central Ohio, in Upstate New York, or in one of the Dakotas, for example. Salaries may be lower in less populated areas simply because it costs so much less to live in such places. On the other hand, places such as Alaska or Hawaii may have significantly higher costs of living because virtually everything from building materials to breakfast cereal must be shipped in from elsewhere.

The local chamber of commerce can be a resource for some of this information, as can the real estate section from the local newspaper. Many larger newsstands may well have newspapers from around the country, including one from the city or area where your target employer is located. You can also find volumes of information on the Internet. In addition, if you are invited to an interview and it's held in the area where you would be working, try to squeeze in a trip to the local supermarket to do some comparison shopping. Likewise, if time and circumstances permit, call a real estate agent to get a sense of what homes cost and/or what it might cost to rent an apartment that meets your needs.

One strategy is to take along your spouse or significant other and have that person check out the real estate market, supermarket(s), and perhaps the school system while you're busy interviewing. This can be a great help in gaining intelligence about the general lifestyle in the area. Also worth considering is what the job prospects are for your spouse in the new location. If you garner a 30 or 40 percent increase in compensation, but your spouse has trouble finding employment in his or her field, the salary increase may not seem so attractive.

All of this research will help you to decide on a figure that's going to enable you to make a move and accept a position with the new employer. This is simply one more compelling reason for delaying salary discussions for as long as reasonably possible.

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Job Descriptions and Careers, Career and Job Opportunities, Career Search, and Career Choices and ProfilesJob Search, Job Interview Questions, & Job Interview TipsSimple Truths About Handling Salary Questions in an Interview - Avoid The Subject (or, Let's Play Chicken), When To Discuss Salary, Knowing What You're Worth