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How to Answer Job Interview Questions About Compensation

by Rick Suttle

Many people shudder at the thought of revealing their annual compensation during interviews. They fear they may seem to earn too much or are worried about underselling themselves. Both are reasonable concerns, but they shouldn't leave you stammering for a response. Instead, research average salaries in your field. Scour the employer's job description for salary information before your interview, or ask the search firm they are using. Choose a response in which you are comfortable before your interview and rehearse it.

Diversion Tactic

One way to respond to the compensation question is to divert it back to the interviewer. Say something like, "I have a particular salary in mind for my next job. What is the salary for this position?" This is not only an appropriate response but many interviewers actually expect you to answer this way. That way you don't volunteer a salary figure that is above or below what they plan to offer. Hiring managers usually have a salary budget for specific jobs, and they must stay within those budget parameters.

The Delay

Companies often use compensation questions to screen applicants. They then eliminate candidates who expect too much money. That's why delaying your response to this question is appropriate, according to Quintessential Careers. Say, "I am very interested in the job, and know I could contribute to your company's success. But if it's okay, I'd like to wait to discuss salary after we both agree I'm right for the job." Understating your salary can cost you thousands of dollars in compensation, especially if the company plans to pay more. The interviewer might eventually divulge the salary anyway, if you use the delayed response.

Providing a Range

If you've done your research, you might know what salaries are being offered to those in your field. Therefore, provide a salary range that would be acceptable to you. Search similar jobs on sites such as Monster, Simply Hired or CareerBuilder, and check to see if any companies provide salary information. If certain salary ranges keep appearing, chances are the employer with which you are interviewing has a similar range in mind. Follow your salary response by saying, "Based on my research, this is the salary range most companies are paying. Is that acceptable? Finding out if your compensation range is acceptable is crucial. You can then free to discuss your skills and accomplishments and convince the interviewer to hire you.

Direct Approach

State your current compensation or the amount you want if you are adamant about it. You don't have to take the job if the salary's too low. This approach works better if you know the salary is negotiable, which some companies indicate in advance. Again, your salary expectation must be reasonable for the job title. After stating your salary, say, "I am not as concerned with money as I am in finding the right job. Is my salary commensurate with the one you are offering?"

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