Want A Higher Salary? Respond To Salary Interview Questions Like This

Four practical ways to gracefully avoid talking about salary until you’re formally offered the job.

Money makes people squirm. It’s no wonder you start sweating at the mere thought of negotiating, especially when you’re finally offered the role you’ve been dreaming about.

I get it. Most of my clients have never negotiated a day in their life, yet when they attempt for the first time, with my expert guidance, they’ve been able to snag $14,000 salary increases, $10,000 signing bonuses, work from home Fridays and so much more.

What’s the secret? How does one go from wanting to pee their pants talking about money to confidently negotiating based on their value?

The first step is to avoid talking about salary. Yes, in order to secure top-dollar salaries, you need to master the art of gracefully declining the discussion of salary until you receive an official job offer. Of course, that’s difficult when the question seems to constantly pop up in applications, interviews, and conversations in between.

But, here are four practical ways to gracefully avoid talking about salary until you’re formally offered the job.

In an application…

While I rarely recommend applying for positions online, should you do so, it’s important to know how to answer questions regarding salary history and salary expectations. If the question only provides room for a number, put zero or “N/A.” The recruiter will instantly know your previous salary or salary expectation isn’t zero, but this approach saves you from throwing a number out there before they’ve had a chance to recognize your value.

If the question provides room for you to leave a full response, I’d recommend saying something along the lines of: “I look forward to discussing compensation once I’ve learned more about the position.” Or, “My previous salary was below market value, and I look forward to learning more about the role and discussing compensation based on my skill set, experience, and market value.”

Don’t worry that you’ll be tossed into the rejection pile, because even if that was to happen, that’s a good sign that you shouldn’t be working at that company anyway. You want to work at a company that wants to hire talented valuable people, you don’t want to work at a company that’s focused on the least amount they can pay their new hires.


In an interview…

Face to face interaction can be a little trickier to navigate. Before you walk into an interview, you want to be prepared with salary research and scripts in your back pocket. You don’t want to be caught off guard or flustered if the interviewer brings up the dreaded money topic.

Try something like this: “Salary is not the number one motivating factor for me right now. I’m really excited about the challenges and opportunities this company and position offers, and I’m sure when the time is right, and if this is a perfect fit for both of us, we’ll decide on a compensation package we’re all happy with. Could you tell me more about…”

This approach makes it clear that you’re looking for a position that’s a good fit for both you and the team and stresses that your main priority is learning more about the role and company. When using this script, be sure to end it by segueing into a new topic directly related to the role.


Over email…

Every now and then, you may find an email in your inbox from the recruiter or HR person wanting to know your salary expectations. Don’t agonize over your response, you want to keep the same demeanor regardless of how you’re asked about salary.

Avoid giving a precise number and opt for a simple response like this: “At this time, I’m really interested in learning more about the responsibilities and challenges in this role. I’m confident that if it is a perfect fit for both of us, you’ll offer a competitive salary. I’m excited about [something specific that demonstrates your interest in the position] and I am looking forward to hearing more about [company] and your goals for this position.”

Press send and move on.


When you’re asked repeatedly…

While you may be asked once or twice on different occasions, don’t expect to be pressed to reveal your salary history or expectations, especially since many states have passed laws that ban certain employers from asking about salary history to help improve the gender gap.

However, if you’re repeatedly asked to reveal your salary expectations, take note because you’re interviewing them as much as they’re interviewing you. Then, you can respond with a range on the higher end of your research. This way, if you’re offered the job, you’ll have wiggle room for negotiations later and will still have a good chance of ending up with a salary you’re excited about. Try: “Based on my research and experience, the market value for a position like this is [insert range]. However, I would love to learn more about the company and role first to determine if it’s a perfect fit.”

All the while you’re avoiding salary, your focus should be to understand the company’s needs and to clearly demonstrate the value and solutions you bring to their problems. Tackling conversations from this perspective will put you in a much stronger position to negotiate the salary you desire once you’re finally presented with the job offer.


Adunola Adeshola coaches high-achievers on how to take their careers to the next level and secure the positions they’ve been chasing. Grab her free guide.

Originally published at Forbes
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