Salary is a touchy subject during an interview. Of course, you don’t want to appear as if you’re just in it for the money—but money is important because it’s how you pay your bills. Salary is especially important if you’ve been in the workforce for a while; you definitely don’t want to take a pay cut in the paygrade you’ve worked hard to build up.
Since the salary conversation has potential to hurt your hiring status, some states have outlawed it during interviews—but many have not. In general, your best time to negotiate salary is after being offered a job and before accepting it. But if asked point blank what your salary expectations are during an interview, it’s best to be prepared with a good answer. So what should you say?
Three ways to answer questions about salary
When preparing for your interview, it helps to have a few salary answers up your sleeve. You can be ready to go with the following tips:
Do your research. You’ll need to be prepared to answer the question, “What are your salary requirements?” To give a reasonable answer, visit sites like glassdoor.com and payscale.com to see what the average salary is for similar positions. This way, you can manage your expectations about what you might be able to earn. Also, you won’t give an answer that immediately pushes you out of the running—either too low, making you seem desperate, or too high, making you seem unreasonable.
Think about what you need to make. This is mostly in terms of what you need to maintain your living expenses and have a decent quality of living. You’ll need to decide the lowest salary you’d be able to comfortably accept—plus have an idea of the amount you’d prefer. This gives you the fuel you need to negotiate later on in the process, as well.
Push off the question, if possible. You may need to get creative to do this. The closer you get to the end of the interview and the more the interviewer knows about you and how well you’d fit the position, the easier it becomes to discuss salary. Ideally, it’s best to leave this until after a job offer is made. But if you can, push it to the end of the interview. If asked what you’d like to make early in the interview, say something like, “I’m interested in learning more about the position before I consider salary. What can you tell me about my responsibilities?”
Think about advantages other than salary. Does the job offer pluses such as plenty of room for advancement, a rich benefits package or plenty of PTO? If so, salary might not be a huge stumbling block.
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