“What is your salary expectation?” It’s one of the most dreaded interview questions of all times probably because it blends the awkward conversation topic of money with the fear of asking for too much, too little or downright rejection in the worst case scenario. While answering questions about salary may be low on your priority list, it’s important you know how to prepare for this question so that you can manage the conversation with confidence AND come out financially ahead. In this blog post we’ll share 8 rules to follow when answering this tricky interview question.
1. You’re Not Negotiating Hardball (Yet), So Take Your Time
Sure we’ve all seen the Hollywood version of a high-powered corporate negotiation and we want to feel as cool, calm and in control but the truth is there’s no need to talk numbers yet. Just because the interviewer asked the question, doesn’t mean you have to answer it on the spot. Take a deep breath and take your time with this question. No need to rush into a conversation until you are confident the job’s a potential fit. Avoid any mention of numbers here. If you’ve done your research (and you should have) you know the expected range for the role. You know exactly what someone like you should be making otherwise you wouldn’t be sitting across the table from that sneaky interviewer, right? RIGHT!
2. Do Your Research and Be Prepared to Have a Salary Conversation
As a general rule of thumb when interviewing, be prepared. This goes for all conversations around salary as well. There are a number of great resources available to you for the job search and the same goes for conversations around salary. Some of my favorites? In order to know your market value, I suggest using Glassdoor’s salary tool. Another resource for this is Payscale.com. Payscale offers the opportunity to gain insight into what you’re worth as well as what you’ll want to ask for in your next role considering a ton of factors (location, market, industry, etc.). You might also want to check out a few more ways to prepare for an interview in this blog post I wrote. Finally, I have a boatload of interview prep resources in my Job Search Accelerator community.
3. Avoid Talking Numbers Until it’s Absolutely Necessary
Yes, I just shared salary tools with you. Yes, you should use them to be as prepared as possible to talk numbers. No, you should not be talking numbers when answering this question. Otherwise, you are bound to make one of the top 8 salary negotiation mistakes. You want to be as vague and disinterested in numbers as possible. You can talk numbers further into the process, but right now it’s all about learning about the opportunity. The only reason I shared those resources? Simple. You have to do your research if you’re going to be prepared and predicting interviewer behavior is not totally guaranteed (even by me). In the off-chance you encounter an impatient interviewer who is pushing to have the conversation right now, you’ll want to have at least some sense of what you’re worth and what’s realistic.
4. Stay Calm and Don’t Get Defensive
You know the question is coming so try to avoid feeling sabotaged. Your interviewer doesn’t want to make you a lowball offer, he/she just wants to make sure it makes sense to keep talking. After all, would it really be worth it for you or them to go through an entire interview process only to find out you both wasted your time on misaligned expectations? Heck no! Try and remain calm even if you are uncomfortable. People who remain calm do better in interviews. If you struggle with interview nerves, you’ll want to check out this blog post I wrote on how to mentally prepare for job interviews.
5. Keep the Tone Casual & Friendly
Likeable people receive job offers and win salary negotiations. If you aren’t perceived as being likable, you are decreasing your chances of advancing in the process. Whatever you do, don’t get ruffled by this topic. Smile and casually express more interest in learning about the role and potential fit.
6. Talk Fit, Not Finances
No one wants to hire someone who’s only interested in money. Why? Because money can’t buy you happiness. Money also can’t be increased to make you happier once the new job glow wears off. The company needs to know you are invested in their mission, your career advancement, doing something that keeps you fulfilled – anything other than money. If your interviewer senses that you are only in this for the money, he or she may perceive you as someone who’s only in it for the short haul. This is the fastest way for you to axe any chances of being hired. Stress the importance of wanting to learn whether or not this is a fit before talking money and you’ll gain much more respect than going straight for the money.
7. Don’t Get Overly Confident
Conversations around salary are pretty standard for the initial phone screen or interview. Just because we’re touching on money, doesn’t mean we’re talkin’ money just yet. Your interviewer wants to know if it makes sense to continue talking which means, he or she might see you as a fit (or they just need to tick a box on their screening checklist). Either way, stay calm and carry on.
8. Don’t Ever Lie
If you do happen to go down the path of money and you start to get interrogated about your current salary, avoid any temptation to inflate your current or past earnings. Number one – lying is just outright bad (but you knew that). Number two – employers can get their hands on this info and nothing will take you out of the running faster than an interviewer who’s been lied to.
If you’re hoping to ace your interview, check out the Job Search Accelerator. In this budget-friendly job landing community you’ll have access to all of Noelle’s expert job interview resources including thank-you email templates, answers to the toughest questions, interview strategy tips, panel interview question prep, interview answer scripts and more – everything you need to feel confident in the interview process and put your best foot forward as an applicant.