At any stage in the interview process, you may be asked to disclose your salary history, current or most recent salary, and/or salary expectations. Although most career/job search books and articles recommend that you never discuss salary unless you have an offer, this is easier said than done. I believe that it’s better to be prepared to handle these types of questions appropriately and diplomatically when they arise.
Of course, it is true that the best time to negotiate is when you are in a position of power. You are only in a position of power when you have an offer.
To ensure that you feel prepared and confident discussing salary at any point in your interview process, it’s essential to know three things:
- your ideal salary
- the range that the position commands in the marketplace for the specific industry, company size, and your skills/expertise
- your survival salary – your bottom line
To augment this article, there are several online resources for salary information that you might want to review. One of the best and most comprehensive is www.salary.com. Others include www.joboptions.com and www.jobsmart-org/tools/salary.
Questions about salary are asked in a number of different ways. The most common are: What salary are you looking for? or What are your salary requirements? Listed below are several examples of how you can respond to these questions. After your response, take back some power and control by re-directing the conversation. Examples of what you might say are also listed below.
I would like to know more about some aspects of the position, then I’ll be in a better position to discuss salary. Follow this up by asking, “Could you tell me more about?”
I’d be happy to discuss salary when I know more about the specifics of this position. This is another way to restate the above statement.
I’d like to return to that when I have a better picture of your needs and how I might contribute. Follow up by asking, “What are the key things you’d want the person in this position to accomplish within the first 3 months?”
Given what I know so far about this position, I’m sure any offer you extend will be competitive. Follow up by asking any question you have prepared or going back to an earlier question and asking for clarification or adding additional thoughts.
Given the requirements for the position, as I currently understand them, I’m sure any offer you extend will be a fair one. This is another way to restate the above statement.
I can appreciate your interest in discussing salary and I’m happy to do that when I have a clearer understanding of your needs. Again, another way to restate the above, with an additional acknowledgement of the interviewer’s need.
I’m looking for the right combination of compensation and opportunity. This is one of the most vague responses you can give. It’s best followed up by redirecting the conversation one of two ways: (1) make a strong and compelling statement about the opportunities that you see and how you can make an immediate contribution, or (2) ask about growth potential or typical career paths within the organization.
If you are pushed to give a concrete answer, consider the following responses:
What did you have in mind for this position?
What range have you established for this position?
I would be interested in knowing about the entire compensation package, not just salary. Wait for a response or follow up by saying, “That would help me to more appropriately respond to your question.” This and the above two responses buy you time. With this response, you can consider the value of the benefits package and compare it to your ideal or needs, on the spot, then use your original range (based on research) or increase the range.
My research tells me that the salary range for this type of position is in the mid $30s to mid $40s.
Based on research and my experience in the field, I am looking for salary in the mid $30s to mid $40s.
Are you making me an offer? This response is best used with a touch of humor; and only if you are extremely confident.
If the interviewer tells you the starting salary or the range for the position, and it’s lower than you want or had expected, you can say:
I think that my background allows me to contribute more in the areas of:
I was looking more in the range of:
I believe that my skills in the area of “x” are stronger than most candidates, allowing me to hit the ground running with a shorter learning curve. This can save you time and money. Therefore, I was looking more in the range of:
I think that my experience in this field is stronger than most candidates, and I’d be willing to consider that range. If I met the goals or surpassed the goals we discussed in 3 months, would you consider a performance or merit review and bonus?
Sometimes, you could find that the range is too low to even meet your bottom line (survival salary). If this happens, there are a number of factors to consider: how long you’ve been out of the job market, what other interviews you have scheduled, how in demand your skills are, and many others.
If you are asked about your salary history, consider the following:
I can tell you what I made in my last job, but this position is at a higher level. What range have you established for the position?
I would carry a much larger caseload in this position: a natural career progression for me. I don’t think that my previous salary has much bearing. What salary range did you have in mind?