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How to Answer When You’re Asked About Your Desired Salary

August 16th, 2019

As your interviewer sits across the table from you, she’ll have plenty of goals that will frame the meeting. She’ll want to find out if you can handle the job. She’ll want to assess how you’ll get along with your team. She’ll want to know if you have the personality to enjoy this job’s unique challenges. Some of these things are not up to you; you have no way of knowing if you’ll click with your new team, and you can’t really assess your readiness for the role if you can’t see behind the scenes. But your interviewer will also want to assess something only YOU can possibly know: How much would you like to be paid?

In other words: What is the lowest possible amount the company can give you without going so low that you reject their job offer?

How can you answer without a) underselling your skills and accepting a rate that’s less than your time is worth, or b) asking for so much that the offer isn’t made? Here are a few tips to keep in mind.

Don’t be the first to state a number.

No matter how direct, firm, or polite the request, don’t provide a number when your interviewer asks you how much you want. Simply smile and say, “I’d rather not share a number first.” There’s no need to play games (such as changing the subject to avoid answering); just say you aren’t ready to share a number and stick to your guns if pressed.

Never share your previous salary.

Your previous salary is a private and personal data point that should never be shared with a potential employer, ever. Even if you’re a government worker and your past salary is publicly posted, don’t share it. Let the company look it up on their own. Why keep this info private? Because once your interviewers have it, they can make you the lowest offer you’re probably able to accept. If you want an offer that’s twice or ten times your past salary, you can get that. But it will be harder if your interviewer can peer into your history.

Recognize that this is a negotiation, even if the company says it isn’t.

This is a negotiation and the number is NOT firm until you both agree to accept it. The offer may be presented as non-negotiable, but here’s a secret: every offer is negotiable. Before you dive in and try to bump the number up, remember that negotiations come with specific rules. Know the rules and respect them. (For example, don’t suggest a higher figure and then continue to raise it after the company agrees). If you’ve never negotiated before, get some coaching before you step in.

For more on how to receive an offer that matches your skills and experience, talk to the job search pros at Merritt.

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