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How to Answer the Salary Question during a Job Interview

Learn how to answer the salary question from career expert Nicole Williams in this Howcast video.


It is the question that every single person dreads, and interestingly it's not just you who dreads this conversation, it's your hiring manager, the person on the other side of the desk. It's one of these very tenuous conversations where you may be the perfect talent and this may be the perfect company, but you're going to decide based on salary whether or not you're the right fit. So here's my number one rule: being the person who is being interviewed, as much as possible you want the employer to state the first figure so that there's some room for negotiation. You want as much as possible to ask the question, "What kind of range are you looking to hire this person for? You know, what is the budget that we're looking at?" I've seen on so many occasions people either underestimate, so grossly underestimate or so grossly overestimate a salary. And with that comes a no hire. If you lower your standard too low, they think that you're not talented enough for the job and this is the absolute truth. If you over ask, you're going to be immediately dismissed as someone who's not potentially viable for the job because you're never going to be satisfied because they're not going to come close to what your salary expectation is. If you can't get that information out from the person on the other side of the desk, you want to give a range. You need to go to industry resources, for example, and know what the industry standard is for this particular industry. You need to quote a price range, a salary range within that range, but you want to go the high end of that range. You want to go as high as possible because the expectation is that you're going to get negotiated down by the end of this negotiation, so you need to start from a place where ultimately you're going to feel satisfied. The other thing to note is that and I'm a big believer in this is to overstate how much you make. One of the number one questions that an employer will ask to try and get your salary level is what were you making in your previous job. I know this sounds terrible, but I need you to lie. I need you to enhance that salary by 5% to 10%. If you are hoping to make $40,000, I don't want you to say in your last job you made $30,000. I need you to say that you expect and you did make $40,000. That's what you need to do in order to get that initial salary boost. And also in this economy it's really important to negotiate a salary that you're going to be satisfied with for a year to two years because the old day and age where every six months you get a review and get an immediate increased as attached to that performance appraisal, that is gone. So you need to start with a salary that you're comfortable with sitting at for probably a year to potentially two years. So consider that when you utter your first salary bid in a job interview.

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