Beware of the Dreaded Salary Questions

By Steve Frederick, Frederick Career Services
Nothing knocks you out of an interview faster than mishandling the salary question. The key to success is coming from a place of confidence: it won't be an issue if you're right for the job.
The first rule of salary negotiations is Postpone Salary Talk Until You Get an Offer.

Prepare by creating and memorizing a "put off the question" phrase customized to you and your style. One will answer "What are you looking for?" The other will answer: "What are [were] you making in your current [previous] position?"

Usually, the employer wants to know if you’re affordable and the right caliber of candidate for the job. Your research will give you a general idea of what’s affordable for the employer, but you can’t know for sure — especially these days. Rather than blindly guessing, use one of the phrases below.

  • Here are some answers to the dreaded salary questions:
    • I’m really uncomfortable talking about salary right now. I don’t want to get screened out because I was making too much or too little. Can we discuss the job—and if it’s a good fit, I’m sure we can come up with a number that will work for both of us.
    • I believe in being paid for the value I produce for a company. Can we talk about how I can produce value for you before we discuss salary?
    • I’m sure you pay fair wages. If you decide I’m the right candidate, I’m sure we can work something out. Let’s talk about the job.

  • Career changers and others who may be facing a pay cut:
    • I was making a lot. Frankly, I don’t expect to make what I was being paid before. I’d like to fit into your salary structure.

  • If you’re in sales:
    • I’m sorry, but I can’t give you that information. Certainly, if I was working for you, I would never reveal that sort of information to a customer.
  • If the employer is insistent, you can move to the second rule of salary negotiations. Let the Employer Go First.
    • You probably couldn’t afford what I was making. What is the range that you’re looking to pay?
    • Give me an idea of the range you have in mind, and I’ll let you know if we’re in the right ballpark.

Artful handling of these salary questions can mean the difference between being seriously considered—and getting a quick rejection.

Steve Frederick of Frederick Career Services in Skokie (847-673-0339) helps people to find the work that brings them the satisfaction and the money they want. Our low-cost 90-minute Career Action Plan Meeting gets to the root of any career issue and provides a plan to solve it.