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How to Answer "How Much Do You Expect to Make?" in an Interview

by Carl Carabelli

The question of how much you expect to make can be nerve-racking during an interview. Say a figure that's too high and the interviewer will either think the company can't afford you or that you're seriously overestimating your value. Say a figure that's too low and you may lock yourself in at less than you could have made. Research and confidence are key to developing an answer to get a salary that's appropriate for you.

Do Your Homework

Before you go into an interview, reconcile what you want to make with the industry standard for your position. Everyone wants to make as much as possible, but your salary will be based on title, location and experience level. Utilize sources like the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, speak with colleagues, and draw upon your own salary history to come up with a number that suits your experience and expertise.

Politely Dodge the Question

When the interviewer poses the question, don’t just blurt out a number. Instead, say something such as, “I’d rather discuss the job and how I can help your organization if I’m hired.” If deflection doesn’t work, you can say, “I’m looking for an offer that’s in line with my experience and skill set.” This may or may not work, but you can expect that the interviewer will ask about your current compensation. Resist the temptation to lie because he can find out the truth pretty easily and dishonesty isn’t going to be a feather in your cap.

Give It to Him Straight

Try as you might, the interviewer may persist in asking for your expected salary. When you resign yourself to the fact that you can’t dodge the question, be honest. “My understanding of the position in this market for an individual with my experience is X.” Or, “I’m currently making X. I’m looking to make 10 to 15 percent above that.” Be realistic. You don’t want to price yourself out of the job by going too, but you don’t want to sabotage yourself by going too low. This is where your research will really come into play.

Not So Fast

After you’ve outlined your salary expectations and concluded the interview – or several, depending on the process - you will hopefully receive an offer. Simply thank the hiring manager and request time to think about. It can be an offer beyond your wildest dreams or an insult of epic proportions. You don’t want to come off as too eager, just as you don’t want to decline a low offer simply as an emotional reaction. Be polite and request a day or so to think about it. Just be sure to give your answer within the time frame you requested.

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