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Are you Prepared to Answer Questions About Salary?

June 16th, 2017

As you apply for a new position, you’ll probably be asked to supply a resume that documents your previous job titles, and you may be asked to furnish references who can speak candidly about your character. Your prospective employers can use these details– plus any information they find online—to assess your readiness for the role. But most employers don’t want to stop there; they’d like assurance that you can do the job, but they also want to know how much your services will cost. And to make that assessment, prospective employers may ask some challenging questions. Will you be ready to answer? Keep these tips in mind.

Your previous salaries are (usually) your business and your business alone.

Prospective employers do not have a right to your salary history. If you’re asked what you earned at your last job, you’re under no obligation to answer honestly, or at all. Many job seekers don’t recognize this, and when faced with a firm question from a panel of serious-looking hiring managers, they feel pressured to respond. As a result, they’re often presented with an offer that’s equal to or just above whatever they were making in previous roles, and over the long term, this can seriously limit their earning potential and financial growth. Think about it: if you make a negotiating mistake while landing your very first job, this mistake could haunt you for life…but fortunately, it doesn’t have to. Past jobs are in the past, and unless your salary history is publicly available online, it’s nobody’s business but your own.

Answer by providing your preferred range.

Instead of answering with: “I made $52,000 per year, plus benefits,” you can say “My salary was in the fifties.” Even better, you can say: “I’m looking for a salary between $60,000 and $65,000 per year.” It’s what you want and what you’re willing to negotiate for that matters. Be sure the lowest end of your range still falls within the amount you can accept. And keep in mind that an offer at the lowest end of your preferred range sends a message about how much your work is valued and how much this company can afford. Either could indicate a red flag, so keep your eyes open.

Salary history and public employment.

If you work or previously worked in a government role, your salary history may be made public, so recognize this before you attempt to negotiate for an offer that’s vastly above your past earnings. Keep your expectations reasonable, and be ready to provide a clear list of all the reasons why you’re worth what you’re asking for.

For more on how to set the opening stage for your salary negotiation, contact the job search and career management experts at Merritt.

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