Q&A: The Secret to Giving Your “Salary Requirements”
You’ve worked really hard to look for a job that is in line with your skills and interest and when you finally get a call for an interview, you get all giddy and excited.
So you take all of your graduating papers, scholarships and other educational certifications with you and prepare for some of the most common questions you could get asked like “tell us about yourself,” “how many years of experience do you have?” and “why should our company hire you?”
It’s all going well until you finally get asked one question that never crossed your mind or doesn’t get thrown around often:
“WHAT ARE YOUR SALARY REQUIREMENTS?”
At this point, the interviewers would like to inquire about both your current and expected salary. The way to answer this depends on your level of experience and the wage rate is or was from your present or previous company respectively.
You may be a tad nervous about responding especially because if you answer incorrectly or in a way that puts off your interviewer(s), you may lose the opportunity of getting this position.
WHAT IF THE INTERVIEWERS INSIST?
Sometimes companies will postpone this question for later after you’re on board and after your probation is done, but others may insist you answer before moving on with the rest of the interview process.
You may get the salary question at the beginning of an interview – depending on the type of company you’re going for – which is what makes it a sneaky question. What you may not know is that it is a salary negotiation tactic that only looks like a gatekeeper-type interview question.
If you want to know how to properly answer these questions, we’ll show you how, but first, let’s have a closer look at each of those questions and what they mean.
“WHAT IS YOUR CURRENT SALARY?”
This is the type of question usually asked of employees who are currently working elsewhere. It may come to you like this:
What’s the least salary target we can offer you to switch companies?
To some, this may be the second time your new potential employer brought up this question and when they asked about your current salary then, they offered to pay you more.
This most definitely is no coincidence and it’s not them wanting to pay you more than what you’re really worth. Let’s say that you told them your current salary was $45,000 and they offered to pay you $47,000. It does technically look like they’re “paying you more” but it’s not as you pictured it in your head.
But we’re here to tell you that this is normal because the new company offered to pay you more than enough to entice you to leave your present job in order to work for them.
The only upside to this deal is that you’re getting more than what you did from your current or last job, but the downside to it is that you could’ve gotten more if you hadn’t shared your current salary. You’ve got to be more strategic when it comes to salary negotiations.
What is your expected salary?
This is a bit tricky because it sounds as though the interviewers wish to give you a chance to set the target for a new salary. It also sounds as if they’d like you to contribute to the job offer’s terms in hopes that you’ll consider.
But let’s have a look at this question in another way just to unravel what they’re really asking you:
“Can you guess the likely salary rate that we may pay someone with your skills and experience to do the job you’re applying for?”
The best thing you can do is just guess because, in the end, you have no idea how much a company is willing to pay someone. That’s because the decision is dependent on a number of factors and most of which have nothing to do with your set of qualifications to perform this job.
Some of those factors include:
- their hiring budget
- the number of positions they require in order to fill this job
- How badly they need to fill those positions
- How the company is doing in terms of profits, revenue, and growth
So when you think about it, answering the ‘salary expectations’ question involves just having you guess the number of factors that you can’t accurately fathom.
But it might take an even worse turn from that point on.
What are the chances that you’ll actually guess what they’re willing to pay someone of your skill set and experience for the position that they’re offering? It’s more of a rhetorical question because you can’t. You’d probably going to go over- or under-estimate the budget that they’re willing to offer.
WHEN ANSWERING “WHAT ARE YOUR SALARY REQUIREMENTS?”
It seems like a harmless enough question and it also makes sense that your employers would want to know a rough estimate of your expectations, right?
You should be cautious when frankly stating your salary expectations way too early in the interview as it could lead to a set of problems.
- Problem 1: For starters, the organization isn’t exactly convinced that you’re even the right person for the job. They’re still just trying to get a good feel of the pool of prospects that are lined up for the same position. You can touch upon salary negotiations for later in the second part of your interview, but for now, it’s best to avoid naming a specific number right off the bat.
- Problem 2: You may be risking a move that sells you short and prevents going ahead with the rest of the interview. There may be some businesses who will offer the lowest price from the get-go, whereas others who understand the marketplace, will look to distance themselves from candidates who are too to lower their standards. It may also make them worry that you’ll lower your standards somewhere else.
Also, ask yourself this, do you really want to work for a company that will offer the lowest deal possible? Or do you want to work for an organization that’s after the most qualified prospect for the job?
- Problem 3: If your price is too high, then it could put you out of the job seeking process before you can even get a chance to make a good impression. In fact, if you name a price that is out of their expectations, whether it is low or high, then you could lose your chance to vie for the position.
- Problem 4: If you give a price that’s too low, it could put you in a position where you can’t afford a job, yet at the same time, can’t turn it down either. This is true for candidates who offer low-end figures in hopes of getting a job or out of depression. This hardly ever leads to anything good.
That’s why before you can even think about answering the question, we recommend that you do some research about the ideal price range for the jobs in your field and the job market. You can use the following websites to your advantage:
These sites will help you not only understand the market salary range for your potential position, but also the size of the company that’s interviewing you, the location as well as your experience level.
Be advised that you may come across some sources with conflicting information, but least you’ll have a general sense of it as you go on.
The goal is to come to an ideal salary range that is fair based on your current or recent salary and the market value. This way, you can name your price based on actual data and position it as the market range instead of going with your guts.
Here are some of the price ranges for the architectural industry for instance:
HOW TO ANSWER THE “WHAT”S YOUR EXPECTED SALARY?” INTERVIEW QUESTION
When the interviewers come to the “what are you looking for” part of the salary expectation question, consider this response:
“I want to give myself an opportunity to move up in terms of both salary and compensation.”
With this answer, you will show that you are willing to take up additional responsibilities so that you can be compensated as such for those contributions.
HOW TO ANSWER THE “WHAT’S YOUR CURRENT AND EXPECTED SALARY?” INTERVIEW QUESTION
Here’s the best robust response to this kind of question:
“I do not feel comfortable in sharing my current salary. I am more in favor of the amount of value that I would bring for this company, instead of how much my current company is paying me. At the moment, I do not have a target rate in mind and you already know what kind of value my skill set and experience can bring for your company. I want this to be a big leap for me in terms of both responsibility and compensation.”
WHAT IF THEY ASK ME FOR MY SALARY AGAIN?
The part where you avoided mentioning your salary expectation is just the first phase and that’s good.
Many recruiters usually won’t bother asking such questions as it slows down the recruitment process because they wish to have this position filled just as badly as you want it.
But others feel the need to ask you about your salary expectations so there’s no shaking that when it happens.
But once you decline to share, some interviewers can check that off the list and move on with the rest of the interview.
However, sometimes interviewers insist by saying something like:
“We can’t move along without this relevant piece of information”
“I need something to share with HR”
The first thing to do is to repeat that you’re not comfortable at all in sharing that information:
“As I said, I’m just not comfortable in sharing information about my current or expected salary. I would much rather focus on providing value to this company and look forward to hearing whatever you think is appropriate.”
This works sometimes because employers are willing to try one last time in having you share your salary expectations. But other times, it just won’t fly because they insist on getting that information anyways.
It may seem uncomfortable, but it’s all worth it.
It’s good that you made it past two rounds with your employer from sharing your salary expectations. But if they didn’t give up, this can only mean that there may be a good chance that they’ll choose a candidate that is more agreeable for the job.
Your current and expected salary expectations are two of three pieces of the following unique pieces of information that you have:
- Current salary
- Expected salary
- How much you want the job
Now let’s compare this to your employer’s unique pieces of information:
- The salary range for the position
- The overall compensation budget they have
- The number of positions they’re trying to fill in
- How long they’ve been trying to get this position filled
- How much do they want to fill this position
- How much they prefer you over the other possible candidates
So if you give them two pieces of information, you’re just down to one. Whereas the interviewers have more of other pieces of information than simply one.
WHAT IF THEY STOP ASKING ME?
The employer’s primary objective is to interview you because they’re in need of a qualified candidate. They also want to get a good deal from a candidate, after finding the right person for the job.
If they’re pressing on with the same questions, it means they’re really interested in working with you, so they’re curious about getting a good deal from you.
But what if they do?
If they hold off the interview because you won’t share two of the three unique pieces of information with them, that means that your employers are very much looking forward to getting a bargain on your experience and skill set and are not, in fact, trying to find the right candidate for the job.
That’s unfortunate for you, even if you do get the job. Because if that’s what they’re looking for instead of someone who fits the job requirements for the role, then you might as well say ‘no’.
HOW TO NEGOTIATE WHAT YOU’RE WORTH
Congratulations! You’re getting hired! Only to be let down by the low-ball offer. But one thing to keep in mind is that it is what it is – an offer. Which means that you have a chance to negotiate your way to a better deal and your interviewers are trying to test you.
Your future with your potential new employer lies with how you respond to the offer. Here’s what you should do:
- Try to remain positive: This also applies to when the offer you’re getting is not one to be enthusiastic about. Always display a positive demeanor towards the offer and enthusiasm about being given the chance to opt for the position before you start negotiating.
- Make the offer you have in mind, one that is fair, backed by actual research and well-reasoned: You could provide a salary range as CBS Money suggests for a counter offer, which seems to imply that companies avoid offering the lowest range to escape from looking impolite.
And when you do provide a range, please ensure that the bottom range is the one that you can work and live with. Salary ranges also give employers the indication that you’re flexible – which is a trait they often want in their employees.
- Walk away if the offer isn’t right: This may be a hard one to do, especially in a competitive job market. But if you’re that persistent in earning your livelihood, you may as well just hold back and wait until the right offer comes around, instead of opting for the next opportunity that comes knocking at your door.
- Other sources of compensation: While some companies have a limit on how much salary they can offer you for the job you seek, there are other ways to be compensated. Like if you cannot get the salary that you’re looking for, then try contributing in other ways to be rewarded, such as:
- Signing bonuses
- Performance bonuses
- Company stock
- Additional vacation days
- Future pay raises
- Retirement contributions
- Company stock
- Flexible work hours
- Health benefits
Some people can even bring in gym memberships for negotiations if you can believe that. But in the end, only you can determine your list of priorities. Don’t shy away from bringing it into talks, especially if they’re reasonable with your requests.
If your interviewers are being deliberate about reiterating questions about your salary expectations, then it’s only fair that you become just as deliberate about negotiating your desired price range as well.
After all, those who don’t negotiate are the ones who are the most unhappiest as the chart below indicates:
You can’t be certain about the kind of “salary expectation” questions that interviewers will throw at you.
And what’s important is that you shouldn’t have to live in fear about the kinds of questions that are on the low side of what you’re expecting.
That’s why our strategies and suggestions are the best fail-safe chance of you making not only a killer impression on your interview, but also get a fair and reasonable price range.
If everything goes as planned, any recruitment process will go smoothly, starting from the time job …