“What Salary Are You Looking For?” the interviewer asks.
“$80 to 85 thousand”, you reply. The offer comes in at $80 thousand, after-all, you told them that number was OK. Why pay you $85 thousand? Perhaps their range on the position would have allowed them to go to $90 thousand in their offer to you, but you’ll never know.
“80 to 85 thousand”, you reply. No offer is made. You didn’t know that the salary range is only up to $70 thousand for this position. You probably would’ve accepted $70 thousand because you really liked, and needed, the job, but you were trying to not undercut your salary by naming too low a number. They chose not to offer you the lower number as they felt you might be insulted or disgruntled in the future because you accepted less money than you were really looking for.
“$80 to 85 thousand”, you reply. No offer is made. This is a higher level position and since you have some good experience, they assumed you were making at least $100 thousand, as were some of the other candidates they were looking at. Because you were 20% less in your expectations than other candidates, they presume that your lack of expectations or past earnings power might be an indicator of less potential than they may have thought. They hire the higher salary person, figuring that their expectations more closely match the demands of the position.
You’re getting the idea – naming expected salary numbers is a sure-fire way to “shoot yourself in the foot” and can possibly cost you thousands or a job offer. Depending on the personality of the hiring authority, you might be forced into giving them a monetary answer – but if you can avoid it by pursuing more strategic answers to the question, do so!
“The most important thing to me is finding the right company to work for, long-term. If you feel I’m the right person for this position, which I hope that you do, then I would want you to offer a salary that you feel is fair for the market and what I’m bringing into your company?” With this response, you challenge the employer to evaluate your value and make you a fair offer. If you name the first number – you’re most likely locked-in. If they name the first number, you might be able to negotiate it to the range you need to be in. If you can’t negotiate it higher, odds are that you were out of the range from the start.
“I am very open to considering an offer that you feel is competitive to the market and fair for my skills”. Similar to the previous answer, just abbreviated.
You can also answer their question with a question. “Is there a range for the position that you have in mind” or “Given the skills that I’m bringing into your company, what salary do you see as being a potential?” This again puts them in the position of showing their cards first. You can reply to their answer with an indication that you’d certainly consider an offer, if made, while still not committing to the exact numbers. If they state a range and it’s a very acceptable range for you, then you could answer that and offer at the higher end of the range would certainly be given serious consideration. If they state numbers that are clearly under your acceptable range, you could reply that you would appreciate their offer, but your expectation ultimately might be above that range.
No matter what you answer, it is always possible that the interviewer will say, “That’s all well and good, but I really need to know a salary that you would accept for the position”. In this case, I would recommend that you side-step again and ask if you can follow-up with them the next day with an answer to that. Ask them if they can give you benefit information and any other incentives to weigh into coming up with an appropriate salary proposal. If they are serious about wanting to offer you the position, then they will gladly give you the requested information and understand that it is better for you to answer the question after having had an opportunity to reflect.
When you call them the next day, be prepared to tell them what you like about the position, what you feel like you’re bringing to the position and name one number that you feel is fair and that you will be happy with. Let them know that if they make you that offer, then you’re prepared to accept the position. Don’t undersell yourself and don’t push for out of a competitive range, but propose what would be on the higher end of a your range.
If you have other ideas of how to respond to the salary expectations question, please add your ideas as COMMENTS to this blog. I’m also glad to answer any questions about this subject that you add as COMMENTS too. Good luck in your next interview and in getting the salary offer you’re looking for!