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Salary Question? The Ball is in Your Court

Salary Question? The Ball is in Your Court

In the later stages of the interview process, it’s inevitable that an interviewer will pose the dreaded salary question. This will come up in direct ways such as questions like; “What are you currently making?”; “What are you looking to make?”; “How much do you think this position pays?” 

This may also come up indirectly throughout the interview process. Your confidence, etiquette, and other non-verbal factors may have an outsized influence on your ability to negotiate salary. Also, it’s fair to assume your prospective employer already has some predisposition or knowledge about the appropriate salary range for your background and experience. It’s your job to convince them that you are worth what you are asking for. 

It’s crucial to realize the impact of your response to the salary question. How you negotiate these muddy waters can have lasting ripple effects on your future earnings growth with this prospective employer. It can be a make or break moment, so it’s important to plan ahead for this question. We have collected the following guidelines to help you prepare and achieve the best outcome.

Research the position salary ahead of time

You can find the anticipated salary for the position ahead of time. Check online to see the salary range for similar positions across your industry on websites such as Blind, Glassdoor, LinkedIn, or Indeed. If the salary is mentioned on the job posting, even better! Once you know this information, you can make sure to keep yourself within the ballpark. 

People often reply on the high end or just beyond it to leave room for negotiation. This is not a very strategic idea because it can eliminate your candidacy for the position. Oftentimes it comes down to a couple of great candidates and salary can be the determining factor.  Another common strategy is to respond ‘negotiable’.   This is also not a winning strategy.  When an interviewer hears the word ‘negotiable’, it invites a lower number, however companies are weary of candidates who accept a salary cut with the plan to leave the position sooner rather than later to restore their salary.  Low isn’t always the answer either. Your best strategy is to  know the salary range to help you in moving you forward in the interview process. Let’s discuss how to respond using this “range” tactic. 

Provide a range of comfort

If you know the position typically pays $75-85K then say, “I’m looking for a position in the $80,000 range.” By leaving the details more open you achieve the following benefits: flexibility if they think you’re at the top or bottom of the range, you can leave room to negotiate down the line, you ensure you don’t box yourself out by being too high or too low. This also confirms to the employer that you are a fit from a compensation viewpoint, and worth continuing in the process.  As a best practice avoid any verbiage such as, “I’m negotiable” or “The lowest I would ever accept is 80K”.  

If you aren’t able to find out the salary in advance, let them know that salary isn’t the most important factor in determining your alignment with the role. You can respond by saying, “I’m confident that this salary range will be competitive in the market for the position. My goal is to align myself with your brand for the long term and I’m interested in pursuing this interview process because this is where I see myself for the long term.

Be direct and move on

In interviews you have a finite amount of time with your interviewer and you want to make the most of it. Elaborating on salary is not helpful in moving you forward in the process or securing an interview. Be direct and then move on to your alignment with the position and brand. 

Conclude with your brand alignment

Acknowledge that salary is not the most important factor and express why this company is far and away the one you want to join. For example you can say, “I’m looking for a position in the $100K range, but salary is not the most important factor. I’m looking for the right long term fit where I can stay and grow. That is precisely why I’m so excited about this position with your company…” Think of specifics from the company to include here to help you conclude your statement on a note that shows the interviewer your brand alignment.