HOW TO ANSWER: What Are Your Salary Expectations?
Answering the consequential salary expectations question the wrong way can cost you a job offer. It can also put you in an untenable situation by forcing you to consider a job at a less-than-desirable salary. After all, in some circumstances, the only thing worse than failing to get a job offer after an interview, is failing to get an offer that’s sufficient to support you and/or your family.
Why do companies ask job candidates the salary question? Ultimately, company leaders and HR professionals want to know if they can afford you before they invest time and resources courting you to come to work for them.
Answering “What are Your Salary Requirements?”
It seems like an innocent enough question. It makes sense that potential employers would want to know a ballpark figure for your expectations, right?
This is a great opportunity to sell yourself while putting the pressure on the organization to make a fair offer by saying something along the lines of:
“I’m more interested in finding a position that’s a good fit for my skills and interests. I’m confident that you’re offering a salary that’s competitive in the current market.”
You’re letting them know that you’re confident of your abilities and respect yourself too much to sell yourself short.
At the same time, you’re giving them an opportunity to earn your respect by making a fair offer. By doing this, you’re tactfully letting them know you’re not desperate and expect to be compensated appropriately for your time and talent.
By playing hardball on the salary issue and not giving in and answering right away, you’re also letting the hiring company know that they’re getting a savvy and tough negotiator if they hire you. This may be the perfect incentive for a better salary offer.
When asked: “What are You Making Now?”
For the most part, interviewers ask this question believing that offering a salary 10 to 15 percent higher than your current salary will be sufficient to lure you away from your current position.
There are a number of reasons why this question may not be so straightforward for many candidates. Most typically, many candidates are either underpaid or overpaid in their current roles. They fear an overly high or low number could lead to an unattractive offer or knock them out of contention. Others may be making a career change or moving from commission-based to salary work or otherwise in a situation in which the comparison isn’t valid.
If you’re making “too much,” the interviewer may feel they can’t afford you or you are overqualified. This can be a problem if you are okay with taking a lower salary — perhaps because you know you are/were overpaid, you are making a career change, or you are prioritizing work-life-balance or other aspects of the job.
It’s far more common for someone to be underpaid and worried about the perception that there’s something “wrong” with them for that reason.
When pressed to give your current salary when you know it would sabotage your chances, consider the following tactic to delay the question a little longer, if not put it off altogether:
“Since this position is not exactly the same as my current job, let’s discuss what my responsibilities at this company will be and work together to determine a fair salary for this position.”