How to Answer the Salary Question Without Losing Your Leverage

Brian Young

 

Owner | Career Consultant | Coach

RockIt Career Consultation Services

 

"How do I answer the question about salary during an interview?"

 

This is a question that we always get asked during our workshops on interviewing. Intuitively, we all know that we should never give the person asking the salary question a number. Why? For a couple reasons. First of all, the person asking the question is filtering candidates out who are above their budget for the position. Giving too high a number is essentially pricing yourself out. Secondly, if you give them too low of a number, you'll get an offer that matches. Recruiters and Hiring Managers are trying to fill positions with the best quality candidate at the lowest price. When you give them a salary figure, you're losing all your leverage come negotiation time, when an offer is made. Your goal is to set the expectation that you may turn down an unreasonably low offer. This compels the employer to make an honest offer based on how important the job is to them and how well they think you match what they need.

 

You will always be in a better position if you keep them guessing and force them to make the first move. 

 

With this in mind, how should you answer this question? I mean, you have to answer it, right? Well, yes and no. Do as the politician does. Deflect. The key to getting around this question is to give them a reason why you can't give them a salary requirement upfront. Almost any reason will do. Here are a few suggestions that we came up with.

1. I'd really need to know more about the position and responsibilities before I could give you a number.

This is actually a really valid point. No two jobs are the same. Even if they have the same title, the responsibilities can be vastly different from one company to another. Additionally, some companies might value the role considerably more than another company. Company budgets are different. Your experience might be exactly what Company A is looking for, but not so much for Company B.

 

In other words, there are really too many variables to factor in to give an honest answer about your salary expectations and requirements for the role you're interviewing for. You may have a number in mind for you that will make you satisfied, but you don't have a number in mind for the job. That's what the employer is supposed to provide.

2. I'm less concerned with my salary and more concerned with finding the right job where I can make an impact.

Here you are demonstrating that your goal for this interview is not to talk about money, but to talk about what you've done in the past that will give you the ability to perform at a high level in this role. At the end of the day, that's what the interviewer claims they want to know. This answer also tells them you're open on salary if it's for the right opportunity.

 

But, it still leaves them guessing.

3. I'm sure you'll make a fair offer if I'm the right person for the job.

With this response, you're appealing to the better angels of their nature. You are showing that you trust them to be fair with you. It also puts you on the high ground when an offer comes. Because you're being generous in your assessment of them, they'll be more inclined to be generous to you in return.

4. I'm open to negotiation. But whatever we decide on, I can assure you that you'll make way more hiring me than I'll cost you in salary.

This one might catch them off-guard and pique their interest about why you are so confident. Make sure you can back up you're claims with solid facts for the rest of the interview, otherwise this will come off as being all bark and no bite. The best part of this response is that it completely takes away the worry about cost and puts them in the frame of mind to think about gain. If you're able to do what you claim, the cost of your salary will be worth it!

5. I know I'm worth a million dollars (laugh), but I'm certain we'll find a number we're both happy with when the time comes.

This technique is known as "anchoring." Give them the absurd number as a joke. Even when they know it's a joke, the absurd number gets lodged in their brain and suddenly they think you're worth a lot more than they might have thought otherwise. The other beautiful thing about this answer is that you actually did  give them a figure. Even though you didn't really.

If they push you on the issue...

In my recruiting days, I had a few candidates who tried to get out of giving me a salary requirement. But it was my job to push a little to see if they would spill the beans with a little more prodding. It almost always worked when I said, "Well, if you can't give me a definite salary, do you have a range in mind?" Don't do it! It's a trap!

 

So what do you do in this situation? It's as simple as saying, "I'm sorry, I really can't." Repeat it as many times as you have to until they move on. 

 

That's it. You've just been given the secret behind answering the salary question. Use it well and get those dollars, ya'll!


About RockIt Careers

At RockIt Career Consultation Services, our mission is to help you discover your true strengths and use these strengths to set your course to something more rewarding and exciting in your career.

 

We will guide you on what job or career best suits you and then help you market yourself through your resume, your networking strategies, your interview skills, and your negotiation to ensure that you are doing something you love and are maximizing your earning potential. Throughout, we will be there to keep you motivated and determined.

 

We'd love to help you launch your career and encourage you to learn more about the services we can provide you on your path to a more prosperous future. With our help, you will become the applicant every company wants to hire!

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