Friday, May 05, 2006

The Scariest Job Interview Question

So, you're being interviewed for a job and feel like it's going pretty well. Seemingly out of nowhere, the interviewer hits you with, "What kind of salary were you looking for?"

As anyone familiar with negotiating tactics knows, the first person to mention a number is the loser. The above question forces the issue and, of course, is designed to get the job-seeker to reveal his highest price. Once it's out there, the employer need never mention that they were prepared to offer more. On the other hand, if the number quoted is unrealistically high or well above expectations, the employer may decide against making an offer at all.

How does one get around this - especially in this situation, when you're staring at your interviewer, who is sitting there expecting, any moment now, to hear words come out of your mouth?

I have heard that a good dodge is something like, "I am prepared to accept whatever you would normally offer someone with my skills in this position." Then, when they follow up with something along the lines of "What were you expecting?" you can quote them a wide range - maybe one you got from research on, or the like.

I'm interested, though, if you might know of any other clever ways to handle this tricky situation.


Solan said...

Most definitely mention a range, and say it depends on the detailed negotiations of job responsibility etc.

If you can, you could also quote a former salary or a competitive offer, or say "I was really hoping you'd be the one to make an offer. At my current job, I make $$$$ doing X, so I would consider the total package from you - salary, job responsibilities, benefits - against what I already have. It's the total package that matters, and I don't think I should make a hasty decision as to any precise number without seeing the details. I will review the offer with the same thouroughness that I do my work."

Trent said...

"The most important thing is to know whether I am the right person for the job and the job is right for me. If there is a good fit, the salary issue will work itself out."

Beyond that, I would say it depends on your leverage. Do you have a job? Then you can tell them they would need to pay significantly more than the current one to make it worth the switch. Considering multiple offers? Tell them you will take the one that offers the best combination of job fit and compensation. Unemployed? Quote a salary range based on research, then immediately kneel down and kiss the interviewer's wing-tip.

Andrew - Money Supply & Debt Blog said...

Did you ever think that the interviewer is more interested in how you answer rather than what your answer is? The business owners I know that do hiring are more interested in the potential of a future employee & their eagerness to perform than what kind of income the employee wants.

Anonymous said...

I think that it is important to first emphasize that you are looking for the right fit and a total compensation package - along the lines of the previous comments. When the interviewer continues to press, I read something along this line "I presume that you have salary guidelines for this position. Given my experience and qualifications, what do your guidelines indicate I would be worth?"
This should work for most mid to large size organizations, which will have such guidelines and may only be able to negotiate within those guidelines.