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Simple Truths About Handling Salary Questions in an Interview

Tips From The Pros

Many candidates lose a job opportunity by negotiating salary too soon…and they don't even realize it. Once you quote a specific salary, you have started the negotiations. Even worse, you may have quoted too high, and they may already eliminate you. How to prepare? First, understand that salary is only one aspect of your total compensation. Determine in advance, what your total needs are including salary, vacation, benefits, commuting costs, etc. Decide where you are able to be flexible. How to answer? First, ask the employer what the salary range is for the position and you can then affirm (or not!) that the range is within your ballpark. Try to avoid further discussion about it until an actual offer is on the table. Second, you can quote a salary range that you are looking for, based on research; emphasize that you are interested in being paid fairly for the scope of the position and that of course, the acceptable salary will be influenced by the rest of the compensation package.

Diane Irwin

Dynamic Résumés

Here are some tips on how to dodge the salary question if it comes up before you're ready:

  • When an ad asks for salary history or requirements, write this: “I have always been fairly paid for my contributions and I will be happy to discuss salary with you when we meet.”
  • When an application asks the same, write: “Confidential” or “Will discuss.”
  • During an interview, say something like, “I always keep my salary history confidential for two reasons. First, I've never felt it right to divulge the salary scales of my previous employers. I am sure you can understand why. Second, I don't wish to be judged only on my past earnings.” Then, since most employers already have a range in mind, ask them what it is. They might just tell you.

Pierre G. Daunic, PhD, CCM, CRW, CECC

Fast Forward Career Services, LLC

Your negotiating power stems from your ability to demonstrate how your contributions will increase revenue and productivity and/or decrease costs and stress for your employer. Therefore, the earlier you talk about salary (without having first addressed the employers’ concerns), the worse your negotiating position.

  • If prompted for compensation requirements before the interview, avoid giving a “ball park” figure. Instead say, “I'd like to find out more about this position and the needs of the company before we talk about salary.”
  • If probed for salary information during or immediately following the interview, politely decline by saying “I've learned a lot in meeting with you and I remain interested. However, I'd like some time to fully digest our discussion. Is Wednesday, the 12th soon enough to get back to you so that I'm still in the running?”
  • If you're pressured repeatedly to give your salary requirements and you see no way around supplying an answer, try this: “I'm looking at positions that fall within the $55K to $65K salary range.” This comment will satisfy the hiring manager's demands while leaving you with some breathing room to negotiate later.

Cliff Flamer, MS, NCC, NCRW, CPRW

BrightSide Résumés

If the prospective employer appears to be interested in you but discloses a salary range that is below your expectations, remind them of the value you will bring to their organization. If you had been listening carefully to the manager's spiel about their plans and goals, you should have picked up clues to their hidden agenda beyond the requirements of your target position. At this point, you can negotiate a win-win situation by bringing up what you perceive to be their unmentioned needs and convincing them that you have what it takes to address them.

Melanie Noonan

Peripheral Pro, LLC

Don't consider “salary” alone with deciding whether to accept an offer. Your decision should be based on the “total compensation package,” which may include several of the following items:

  • –“Cafeteria Plans” –Disability Insurance –Car Allowance
  • –Medical Insurance –Stock Options –Expense Account
  • –Paid Vacation –401K/Pension Plans –Club Memberships
  • –Sick Days/Personal Days –Life Insurance –Professional Memberships
  • –On-site Childcare –Relocation Expenses –Flex Time/Job Sharing
  • Telecommuting Options –Tuition Reimbursement –Employee Assistance Program

Gail Smith Boldt

Arnold-Smith Associates

No-Nonsense Job Interviews © 2009 , Career Press, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Additional topics

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