Handling the salary question is probably one of the biggest hurdles people face during an interview. We all know the question is coming and often freeze at the mention of it, like a deer in the headlights. It is best to defer answering the question, but often we get caught off guard or are simply too nervous to handle the question appropriately.
First, it is important to understand why deferring this discussion until after an offer is made is critical. Before an offer is made, you have no negotiation power. “Hiring is a lot like shopping”, according to Master Career Coach, Susan Whitcomb. You want the employer to make the mental switch from shopper to buyer before you start negotiating salary. At this point, the company will be much more willing to spend a bit more to bring you on board. Besides, spending a little more is preferable to starting the interview process all over again.
How to deflect the salary discussion
If the recruiter initiates a discussion about salary there are some tactics you can use to deflect the topic without sounding rude or stand offish. The following responses will help. Remember too, how you say it is just as important as what you say. Be polite.
‘Salary is important but it is not my first consideration. I am more interested in finding the right position, where I can make a solid contribution. I’m very interested in what you’ve told me so far; can we continue that discussion?’
‘I am sure your company pays competitive salaries. Can you tell me what the range is for this position?’
‘To tell the truth, I don’t have enough information about this position yet to be able to determine a meaningful salary. Can you tell me more about the scope of the position and your performance expectations?’
‘Are you offering me the position?’ Assuming the answer is no…’ Well, I think we should defer the discussion of salary until we both determine I’m the right person for the job.’
‘I can assure you that if we both feel I am the right person for the job, salary will not be an issue. My research tells me that your company pays competitive salaries, and all I expect is to be treated fairly and rewarded for my contributions.’
What are your salary requirements?
If you get hit with this question make sure your answer addresses ‘salary ranges’, not hard numbers. That way you avoid coming in too high or too low and risking the possibility of eliminating yourself. Consider the following responses.
‘I understand the fair market value for this position is in the 70 – 85K range. Is that what you expect for this position?’
‘I’ve always been paid competitively based on my contributions to the company. Most recently I’ve earned in the low 70’s and I would expect a 15 to 20% increase for this challenging role.’
‘Based on the value I can offer and meeting the challenges we’ve discussed, compensation in the 130 – 160 range seems appropriate.’
‘My research tells me that your company pays 40K – 45K for this level. I am comfortable with this range.’
What is your current salary?
Hiring managers and HR frequently use an applicant’s current or most recent salary (if they know it) as a basis for an offer. It is not in your best interest to divulge this information for several reasons. First, if you haven’t received a merit increase in 3 years your current salary could be well below market. Second, if you have worked in a different industry, your salary may not be reflective of the actual value you bring to the new role. Think retail vs high tech. In this case you could respond, ‘My prior industry was different and paid significantly less than your industry; though I know my skills will easily transfer to this position.’ Finally, perhaps a large part of your prior compensation included stock with a low base salary. In this case you could respond by saying, ‘My prior compensation was significantly focused on equity and stock and less on base salary.’
If you focus on what is really most important during the interview, i.e. communicating your value and whether you are a good fit for the position and company, you will stand a much better chance of negotiating your best offer. Follow us on Twitter and Facebook.