The Best Way to Answer the Salary Question

John Krautzel
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The first job interview represents a way for you and your prospective manager to get to know each other. At this time, your employer may ask a salary question. Although this is unusual because employers usually discuss salary at the very end after a job offer is on the table. However, it may be a good idea to get salary negotiations over early so neither side wastes time.

Answer the Question Honestly

Be upfront with your interviewer. Do not say an amount that you cannot live with when it comes to the salary question. You still have to meet your financial needs while maintaining your value to your employer. However, you don't want put yourself out of the running by asking for an amount that's too high.

Know the Context

Figure out how to answer the salary question by examining the context of the question. You may find the question comes up on the initial application. You can put in $0 because you may feel unprepared to answer right away. You could also put in a number that follows your market research, or one that includes a salary range. An ideal situation is that the employer has a firm number that it cannot wiggle from — that way, you can decide whether this company is worth your time.

Ask Before the Interview

Answering the salary question before the interview saves everyone time. You can move on and the company can move on if there is no way to reach an agreement. When you make an inquiry on your own, it doesn't have to be an awkward moment in your relationship with the company. When you get a call for the interview, politely ask about a salary range as you prepare your research for the interview. That way, you can take the salary numbers into account when you decide how to proceed.

Ask Again After the Company Says "Yes"

If the company comes in close to your salary requirements, ask again after the employer extends an offer to you following the job interview. This gives you a chance to look at the overall compensation package as it compares to salary. You might bring up salary again after your probationary period is up. That way, your employer sees your skills firsthand and HR can decide if you're worth the extra money. You might ask about putting a raise in the contract that stipulates a higher amount once you finish a certain time at the company.

Take Into Account Job Requirements

Answering the salary question may include trying to avoid the question by focusing on job requirements. Rather than say you're all about the salary, you could ask for more details about the job requirements and company culture to see if you're a good fit. You can leverage this into more time to research the salary based on what others say is a good range for your education, skills and experience.

The salary question doesn't have to be uncomfortable if you prepare for it beforehand. Having as much information as possible shows you're willing to do research about the position before accepting an offer, and that bespeaks an employee who works hard for the company.

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