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How to Talk about Salary in Interviews

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We work jobs to earn money–but when the subject of compensation comes up during an interview, it can feel uncomfortable or like a dirty secret we shouldn’t talk about!  How should we best approach it?

It can feel tricky if you’ve mastered the last twenty to thirty minutes putting your best foot forward, explaining all your qualifications and past role experiences, and then you get asked the million-dollar question about salary.  It can leave you open for looking unprepared, too arrogant, or that you don’t know your worth.

Like most of the interview process, it’s always best if you’ve rehearsed as many of your responses beforehand.  Sometimes, despite research, you can get hung up on the answer of salary.  It isn’t easy to know how to negotiate for salary in a position you’ve never been in or in a field you are just entering.  So, what is the best way to handle this question?

First, do your research.

Try to find salaries in the field/position for which you are applying in your location (or the location you’re looking for work in).  Use these figures for a range that you can ask for.  You can find salary information on websites like www.glassdoor.com, www.indeed.com, and www.salary.com.

Secondly, think of an acceptable salary range.

Settling on one particular number can be limiting and also show a lack of negotiation skills.  By giving your interviewer a range to work with, it reflects back to them that you are negotiable and reasonable.  It also opens up the conversation for you to ask them what the range of salary they have budgeted entails and leaves the possibility for you to deflect the conversation back to them for the time being.

Third, think of flexible ways to answer the question.

Rehearse other ways to answer the question, such as “What is the competitive range for positions in this field?” or “I’m flexible.”  It will make the process a lot easier and less stressful if you are able to ascertain what their range is before you divulge all your personal information.

Fourth, if they don’t ask you what your salary range is, ask.

Usually at the end of interviews, the interviewers will open up the conversation to you and ask if you have any questions.  If the subject of salary did not come up, this would be a good time to ask them what they are able to offer the candidate who is chosen for the position.  You don’t want to waste your time doing several rounds of interviews with a company who isn’t going to come close to your salary requirements or expectations.

It can be tough to know how to answer the salary question, but with time and practice, you can learn the best way for you to approach it.  It may be different from interview to interview, too, so remember to try to stay on your toes.  Be willing to talk about it sooner–or later–than you did in any of your other interviews.  Good luck!


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