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Slippery Salary Slopes

Avoid Locking Yourself In To A Low Salary

Job Seeker's Story

Beth had recently graduated from a prestigious MBA program with top grades and was thrilled to have the opportunity to interview with her number-one choice of firms, The Alcor Company. The interview with Ms. Salsbury, VP of Marketing, was going well until she asked Beth about what kind of salary she was seeking.

Beth rapidly recalled that her classmates were receiving offers from the low 50s to the high 80s, and without hesitation decided it was smart and safe to put herself in the middle of the range. So, she told the employer, “I am looking for around $65,000 to start.” The interviewer thanked Beth and told her that she would get back to her shortly.

A few days later Beth was invited back in and offered $63,000 to join the company. She was surprised they had offered her the low end of the going range with all that she had to offer. It was even less than what she asked for! But Beth felt that she was in no position to negotiate because she had thrown out the first offer.

Disappointed, Beth accepted the offer, which she would regret during the next year as her colleagues told her about the offers they had negotiated for themselves.

Job Seeker's Stumble

Beth's error is that she limited her options by naming a dollar figure. Even if the employer might have considered offering her $80,000, he would not consider offering more than $65,000 now.

Job Seeker's New Strategy

You can easily avoid pigeon-holing yourself to a specific dollar amount by answering the question of salary with a more open-ended answer such as one of the following:

I am negotiable, what do you have allotted for the position?


I am confident that if we agree I am the right choice for the position, we will be able to come to an equitable arrangement for salary, wouldn't you agree?

Each of these responses deflects the question and allows you to lob the offer back over into the interviewer's court.

Sometimes, however, the interviewer will push you to commit to a specific dollar figure. If that is the case, you might try one of the following:

As I explained before, at this point I really don't feel I have enough information to commit to a dollar amount. However, based on my knowledge of salary ranges for this position and my personal salary requirements, I am expecting the position pays between $50–85K.


I'd prefer to leave this topic until we're more certain about my appropriateness for this position. However, I am expecting that the position will be somewhere in the $50–80K range.

Should the interviewer ultimately offer you the low end of your range, you should be prepared to negotiate and prove your worth by demonstrating the value you can bring to the company. By knowing the salary ranges for the position and answering in a way that allows you to keep your options open, you will have a stronger position from which to get the salary offer you desire.

Additional topics

Job Descriptions and Careers, Career and Job Opportunities, Career Search, and Career Choices and ProfilesJob Search, Job Interview Questions, & Job Interview TipsSlippery Salary Slopes - Keep Your Salary Expectations Current, Ask And You Shall Receive More Salary, Avoid Locking Yourself In To A Low Salary