Interviews are stressful. You go into them wondering: What they are going to ask you? Do you know enough to provide the right answer? Are there wrong answers to interview questions? What if they ask me why I am qualified for this position? But the biggest question I get asked is, In the interview, how do you answer, “What is your desired salary?” How can I answer that correctly without selling myself shoot or shooting way above the ballpark? The fact of the matter here is that pay for any job is really chosen by the hiring manager when they work with the CFO on this opening you have applied for. So if you want to get paid well, and get the salary you want, you have to think like the Chief Financial Officer, not just an employee. Range The great part here is that you can actually give a range number to really allow them to work with it. So when asked, “What do you expect for a salary?” You can answer strongly, and confidently, “I’m looking to make somewhere between $100-$150K annually. I understand this totally comes down to the outline and targets for this role, and also bonus structuring.” See how with that answer, you were able to be flexible enough by a $50K range to allow the hiring manager to negotiate your proper salary with the CFO? I understand that not all jobs will allow a $50K range- but think negotiating with ranges, not a specific figure. It also doesn’t make you sound like you are aiming for the stars, and it certainly doesn’t undercut what you are worth. Don’t Be A Time-Waster So many candidates make a major mistake in interviews when asked about their salary expectations. Don’t give the ‘deer in headlights’ example of, “I’m not comfortable with discussing salary requirements just yet. I would like to learn more about the scope of the job and what is expected of me.” There is probably not a faster way to irritate the one that has the ability to hire you. Good hiring managers understand how much you are worth based off of your experience, background and of course what the company is going to pay for that field and position. Don’t waste their time with a wishy-washy answer that is not going to get you anywhere. Lowballing is Bad Here’s the thing. Don’t lowball either just to get the job. You aren’t doing yourself any favors, and a hiring manager will know that is the game you are playing. Honestly, that isn’t going to help. Ask for a healthy salary upfront. Worse case, you overshot what they were offering, but when you go into the interview understanding what you are worth and what the company pay range is, you can fit in nicely with a good salary requirement. Is There a Budget? One technique you can use with good results is when you ask a hiring manager straight out- if there is a budget set aside for the salary for this position. For the most part, the CFO controls the budgets, and asking a hiring manager or recruiter what the budget is will surprise them, and honestly make them take notice of your boldness and confidence. Please be aware that they will typically give you a low number. So when you are asked what your salary expectations are – you can for the most part safely add 10-15% onto that and be within their range. Typically, the dreaded salary questions doesn’t pop up until you have reached the final interview. At this point, you know everyone is serious as they have invested time and energy into you. At the end of the day, if you are one on the lucky ones, you will be offered just what you were expecting and all parties will be happy with the outcome. Confidence Confidence is the key to make you jump from just a ‘worker’ to a ‘career professional’. By confidence, I do mean genuine confidence here. Feel good about what you have to offer and bring that to the table. Sidenote There is always a sidenote here. You may get asked directly, what you made at your last/current position. Eek. How do you answer that? Again, confidence is key in your response. Try something along these lines: “Honestly, I don’t think the salary I made in my last position is relevant to this opportunity with your company. It was a different position, responsibilities and budgetary guidelines. What I am hoping for is a company that will compensate me fairly for my expertise and skills. At this point, they may circle to that question of how much do you expect your salary to be at this company, and at that point- it is just what we went over in the beginning of this blog. Don’t think of it as a roadblock- think of it as success. They are very interested in you. Now you just need to get the numbers sorted. One thing you can do before you go into an interview is to research how much they were paying their other employees for that same or very similar position. There are some websites that will help you find out these details. Local recruiters can also help you answer this question for your job market and region if you are unsure. When interviewing, especially in the final multi- step interviews. This is not the time to worry about what they think. Be open, confident, and use small strategies to be on their playing field. I know this can be a lot to take in. But you are tough. You can do this!