If you are interviewing for a job, at some point you will be asked a question about salary. This question can take on many forms - some of them are:
- What are your salary expectations?
- What salary range are you looking for?
- How much do you expect to make?
- How much do you think we should pay for a job like this (personally, I don't use this one, but I've heard it done before.)
Regardless of how the interviewer asks the question, it is up to you to be prepared with a clear, reasonable, and business-savvy answer to this question. Anything less can really hurt your prospects of landing the job.
Clear: Answer the question in a straightforward manner. If the interviewer asks for your range, give them your range. Don't say, "Well there are a lot of factors to consider..." or "I don't like to think about my work in terms of my pay..." I have interviewed candidates before who have told me they don't really have a range - "I'm open." Really? When a resume tells me the candidate lives in an upscale neighborhood, coached youth baseball (so he probably has children), and enjoys golf as a hobby, I find it hard to believe he has no income requirements whatsoever. When I hear "I'm open" from the candidate, I start shutting down as the interviewer because I feel the person is not being honest. We all have our range - even if we don't like to place a price on ourselves, we all know what type of income it takes to pay for our current (or preferred) lifestyle.
Reasonable: Based on your skills and your experience, and your ability to make a contribution, what is a reasonable salary for you to be making? Remember, the hiring company is not responsible for your current debt load, number of children, or spouse that wants to quit his/her job in order to return to school. Last week a colleague told me about a recent college graduate he interviewed for a Marketing Coordinator position. She said she would be more interested in the job if the company would "throw in" a company car. She said that as a new college graduate she was finding it hard to get around the city without a car. She'll have an even harder time getting a car now that she blew that interview and didn't get an offer.
Business-Savvy: This is obviously related to the point above about being "reasonable." Being business savvy means that you have done a little homework on what various jobs within various industries are paying these days, and you can back up your salary request with some data.
I read many job-search articles that tell job-seekers to avoid the salary question until the last minute, or to say whatever it takes to get in the door and then try to negotiate up later. I cringe every time I see that advice. Why? First, because those approaches hinder the type of honest dialog that is necessary for a good hiring decisions to be made by both the organization and the candidate. And second, because those approaches disrespect the interviewer (be it someone from HR or the Hiring Manager) by assuming they are the type of person who can be bluffed and manipulated.
So what should you say in response to the all-important salary question? I think a clear, reasonable, and business-savvy answer sounds something like this:
"I've done some research into current salaries for IT Systems Administrators, and right now in this part of the country a reasonable range for a person with my credentials and experiences is $65,000-$85,000. I think I fall towards the higher end of that range because of my expertise in managing large-scale software implementations. I understand that will be a critical component of this job as well."
Wow! If I was recruiting a Systems Administrator and a candidate gave me this answer, I would be so excited! Now we can move on to discuss the actual job in-depth because we have this "basic" question out of the way.
This is a very important topic, so look for more on it soon. In the meantime, tell me what you think:
- If you are responsible for hiring, what type of answers do you like to hear?
- If you are looking for a job, what strategies are you currently using and how are they working?