The job interview is going as you’d hoped. You are qualified, you get along with the interviewers, and those practice sessions you did with a friend helped you present well and with assurance. You really have a chance of getting this job.
Then you hear that awkward question: “What’s your expected salary?”
Many job candidates fear this question about salary requirements. There’s the worry that if you lowball a figure, you will lose the money. But if you give a number that’s too high, you risk pricing yourself out of consideration for the position. Regardless of where you are in your career, that’s a tough calculation.
The good news is that there are strategies for giving figures that will be fair to you and within the employer’s budget when you are discussing compensation expectations throughout the hiring process. When bringing up money with a potential employer, timing, tracking, and research are the keys to your success.
Here’s what to do:
Whatever the position or level you are applying for, the job interview is your chance to convince the hiring manager that you deserve the highest pay.
Salary expectations will possibly come up during the formal interview – or even during the preliminary phone interview. That’s why you should start preparing your “expected salary” answer as soon as you apply for the position.
Also, get the average national salary for the position you’re seeking.
When submitting application documents or even during the initial phone vetting, job seekers should avoid asking about salary. If you bring up money too soon, it will appear that you are more concerned with the pay than the position.
But that doesn’t mean that the company won’t ask about salary requirements during the initial contact.
If a job post asks applicants to specify their expected salary when applying for the position, then give a range — not a specific number — you’re comfortable with. Answers like “negotiable” might work.
An employer who asks about an expected salary before fully addressing the job in detail can’t demand a more specific answer.
But you also have an opportunity to turn the question around at this early stage. Whether the topic of salary requirements is brought up during a phone vet or at the beginning of your initial video interview with the company, you can smile and say:
“Before we talk about money, I’d like to learn more about the position and the duties, and what the team’s like. But may I ask what salary range you’re considering for this position?”
If you say it respectfully, the employer will accept that you prioritize finding out if the position is really what you are searching for. And it will be difficult to resist your clever request to reveal the planned salary range.
If the employer’s salary range is in the area you were considering, or even higher, thank them for sharing the information.
Always focus the conversation on your abilities and the value you’d bring to the position rather than what you’ve been paid at other jobs. However, if you are asked about your current salary, be honest. The discovery that you inflated the numbers might lead to the loss of the job offer.