Interview Strategy: How to Handle the Salary Question

From the blog of a colleague:

The job interview is going well.  You and the hiring manager have established a good rapport and the questions asked so far you have answered with ease.  But then comes the dreaded hardball, “What kind of salary are you looking to make?” and your heart drops into your stomach as you seek to find the right words that don’t sell yourself short, yet don’t price you out of the job.

If you don’t know what to say to this question, you aren’t alone!

This is where a little preparation on your part prior to the interview can go a long way in helping you to know what to say.  Prior to the interview you should have done some research on the position and what the position typically is paid in your local market so that you have a ball park idea of the range you might expect the position to offer.

Then be very straight forward about your salary.  Many companies will require you to provide documentation on your current compensation such as providing W-2 forms or paystubs.  So be honest from the beginning.

A good way to phrase it is like this: “John, in my current position I am making a total comp package of X, which is composed of a base salary of Y and commissions (or bonuses) averaging Z.  Given the increased responsibility of this new role and the level of commitment I would be assuming, I have every confidence that when we reach the point where an offer is being made, I would receive a very fair and equitable offer based on those expectations.”

If you are currently making a comparable salary, this will denote that you expect a reasonable increase.  If you are making a lower salary than the range, you have positioned it well to demonstrate how this position is a more demanding position, therefore deserving of more money.  If you are currently being paid more than their range – you just gave them fair warning of your expectations.

Reality check – most changes of employment for a better position come with a 10-15% salary increase.  On rare occasions one may gain slightly more, but that would be the exception, not the rule.  Be sure your expectations are reasonable going into any discussion.

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