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Conquering Salary Question Fears

by: Michael R. Neece, CEO,

Today we're discussing how to confidently handle the most-feared job interview question: "The Salary Question." In this segment, I'll give you several different ways to respond to this question and tell you what to do if interviewers ask multiple times. By giving you several options, you'll be able to create a response that feels comfortable and effective for you. I'll also describe what to do before you're asked "The Salary Question" and provide specific examples of what to say. I'll not only give you the strategy, I'll give you some examples.

Career advisers generally agree that it is best to not be the one to first provide or mention a salary number. The job-seeker risk is high when replying too early to the salary question because the salary number is used to screen candidates from further consideration. Stating your salary requirements before you know the company's salary range is risky.

Your overall strategy is to delay stating a specific salary number until the company has decided to hire you. Any discussion of compensation before this time runs a high risk of eliminating you from further consideration. Companies ask "The Salary Question" to ensure that your compensation is compatible with what they are willing to pay someone for a specific job. The problem is that when this discussion occurs too early in the interview process, the interviewers do not know how your compensation requirements compare to the value you can deliver. In the end, it is all about paying for results. Through the interview process, you have the opportunity to discuss the results you can deliver. At the end of the process, you are in a much stronger position to discuss compensation because the hiring manager understands the value you can deliver. It is in your best interest to delay the salary discussion until the company has decided it really wants to hire you.

What makes me angry is that companies are much less aggressive using "The Salary Question" when the job market is strong for the job applicants. Job markets favoring the applicant force hiring managers to focus on getting the best value from an employee. During a weak job market, companies feel they have the upper hand and can be more aggressive screening job seekers regarding salary.

Know the Salary Range Before They Ask You Before the interview or phone screen, research the salary range for your occupation. and are two web sites that provide salary range data. You can find out what companies are paying for your occupation in your industry and location. Corporations use data from these web sites to compare internal salary ranges against what other companies are paying for similar positions. When using the sites I just mentioned, you are researching salary ranges from many companies. The salary range for a specific company may be quite different, but it is likely to be similar to the broader salary ranges for your locale.

Your Strategy for Handling "The Salary Question"

When you are asked "The Salary Question," your response strategy is as follows:

1. Don't give them a salary number

2. State your interest in the position

3. Express your openness to discuss salary later

Here is an example of how this strategy might sound when the interviewer asks, "What are your salary requirements?"

You smile and confidently say:

"I'd rather not give you a specific salary number right now. I am very interested in this opportunity with your firm, and I'll be thrilled to discuss salary after we've mutually concluded I'm a strong fit for your company."

I can hear you saying to me, "Hmm, that might work some of the time, Michael, but I'm not comfortable saying those words to avoid giving them a number." All right! Let's try another approach.

If you're already a user of Interview Mastery you'll recognize this strategy from the Interview Mastery module titled "Handling the Salary Question."

Second Time They Ask: Salary Range

Sometimes interviewers ask about salary a second time or in a different way. They often ask, "What is your current or most recent salary?" This question is more specific and feels more difficult to handle without providing a salary number.

Your response strategy remains the same; you don't want to state a number first. So your response to their second inquiry about your salary might sound like the following:

"I understand that you need to make sure my salary requirements and your salary range are aligned. Please share with me the salary range, and I'll tell how my salary fits in your range."

This second response almost always works, and the company representative reveals the salary range. Then you respond by saying approximately where your salary requirements are within their range.

You're not going to let me off the hook this easy. You're probably asking, "What do I say if they ask me again to give them a salary number?"

Third Time They Ask: Multiple Job Factors If the interviewer or phone screener asks you a third time about your salary your strategy remains the same and you can say the following:

"When deciding on a position, I consider the following factors: quality of the opportunity; quality of the company and the people I'd be working with; growth potential; location; and finally compensation.

Compensation is the least important criteria I use to evaluate a position. So far, I'm impressed with what I have learned about this opportunity and remain very interested. What is the salary range you have established for this role?"

Remember that the first person to give a salary number is at a disadvantage. You want to discuss salary only when they are absolutely convinced they can't live without you. It is at this point that you have negotiating leverage…and not until then.

Craft a response that feels comfortable for you and practice saying it. Decide right now that you are not going to discuss salary until you are ready. Using this response strategy and the examples I've just given you could make the difference between you getting a job or being eliminated from further consideration. Your response to this frequent question will definitely influence the salary you are offered. You are worth it! So get ready to confidently handle "The Salary Question" and a few other difficult questions and you will secure a great job.

Handling difficult interview questions can be uncomfortable unless you know how to best handle them and have practiced responding to these questions. This is why Interview Mastery was built…to help you be confident and ready to get hired during your next job interview.

The job interview is the most important moment in your job search. The career success you enjoy is directly related to your job interview skills. When you have interview skills, you control your career during the bad economic times and the good times.

Good luck on your next interview. You're going to be awesome!

If there is an issue you are struggling with and would like me to create a Podcast to help you, just e-mail me at And you can always find my contact information at under Contact Us. There you will find my e-mail and phone along with links to my blog, twitter posts, and LinkedIn profile.

I'm Michael Neece. Thanks for joining me.


Conquering Salary Question Fears

by: Michael R. Neece, CEO,