How to answer the dreaded salary expectation question in the interview - SEEK Career Advice

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How to answer the dreaded salary question

How to answer the dreaded salary question

Are you a super salary negotiator? Can you answer the question: “what are your salary expectations”?

The big "S" question gets our adrenaline flowing and some of us need a little help with thinking straight to get the answer right.

What comes out of your mouth can make the difference between whether you get the job or not, and if you’ll be paid what you’re worth.

Too high and you can kiss the position goodbye. Too low and you let the employer know that you don’t really value your work. They might even think that your contribution won’t be as good as the person who puts a higher value on their work.

Too high and you can kiss the position goodbye. Too low and you let the employer know that you don't really value your work.

Mere mortals can feel downright awkward and shrink in our seats when asked. Don’t be one of those. It’s a common interview question. Here’s how to overcome the fear of the big "S" question:

  • Prepare, prepare, prepare. Don’t leave it to chance. Sure you want $50,000 or $80,000 or even $200,000. But do you know what you're worth in the market? As well as telling you how much you can ask for, homework arms you with facts and figures to back up your argument. It helps you get noticed. SEEK is the first place to look. Not every job has a salary range advertised, but there will be sufficient job ads that do to give you an idea.
  • Get in first. Make sure that you take the opportunity at the pre-screening call with the employer to ask: “what is the salary range for the successful person,” says Andrew Morris, director at recruitment company Robert Half. This arms you with some very useful knowledge.
  • Use your recruiter. Both Morris and Parker Bridge recruitment managing director Craig Hegan say a good recruiter should have spoken to both you and the employer in advance to exchange expectations about salary. You may still be asked the question. If so, word the answer this way, says Hegan: “I am looking for the right opportunity that is going to give me the career path I am looking for. In relation to the salary, I am after this figure.”
  • Try delay tactics. If you’re asked the salary question when you’re not ready to answer, use delay tactics such as saying that in order to make an informed decision on your ideal salary expectation you need to know more about the role, says Hegan.
  • Remember silence is your friend. When you’re asked your salary expectation in the interview, state a number confidently, then go silent says Morris. That’s a classic negotiation play. You’ve shot yourself in the foot if you say “Is that okay?” That gives the interviewer cue to start bargaining you down.
  • Use a smile. “Don’t feel awkward,” says Morris. If you do, you’ll put yourself at ease. Smile and look the interviewer in the eye when you answer this question. You’ll look a whole lot more capable that way. A smile is essential for interviews.
  • Think “total compensation”. Find out if there are other factors such as longer holidays, flexible work arrangements, or even gym membership and a company car.