Interviewing? This is How You Answer the Money Question
July 18, 2020
When you are in an interview, how do you answer the question, “What are your salary expectations?’
The simple answer is: “You don’t.”
If the number that you give exceeds the salary budgeted for this role, you could put yourself out of contention before you’ve even begun.
If you list a number that you think may be a lower salary, you may put yourself in a position to work for less than you are worth.
Regardless… If you answer this question at all, you begin negotiating your pay before you even know if you want the job.
Here’s an example:
Let’s say you’re shopping for a used car. You’ve got your eye on a car on the lot, but you haven’t taken a good look at it yet. The salesman asks you: “How much do you want to pay?”
Would you give him a number?
Or would you say, “I don’t have a number yet because I haven’t looked under the hood, inside the car, or taken it for a drive. Until I do, we can’t talk about that number.”
Your salary discussion should run the exact same way.
Until you have a solid sense of the position, the work you’d be doing, the people you’d work with, the people who would manage you, a sense of the business culture, and all of the particulars, it’s best not to answer this question.
Honestly, it’s hard to have an accurate number without all of that information!
So, what should you say?
There are a couple of ways that you can answer the question, “What are you expecting for a salary?” that will increase your chances of negotiating for a higher one when you receive an offer.
“I don’t have an exact number in mind because I do not know enough about the role, responsibilities, challenges, or the company. Can you give me the salary range for this role?”
If the range they give is within the range of what you were hoping, your response can then be: “That fits within my range. Thank you for sharing it.”
If they tell you that they cannot share that information, you can say: “I understand. Thank you.” And then take note of this as a useful piece of information about the organization that you’re thinking about working for.
“Can we table this discussion later in the interview, after I’ve heard more about the expectations, responsibilities, and challenges of the position?”
This delays the conversation until a later time when you will have more of the information you need to represent yourself well in the salary negotiation.
Regardless of which option you go with, choosing to not answer the salary expectations question too soon in the process puts you in a better position to negotiate for a higher salary when you receive an offer!
Do you want to make sure you're happy in your next job?
Use this worksheet to clarify what you need in the next company you work for.