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How to handle salary questions to your advantage

So you’ve made it to the interview stage. A job interview is your opportunity to learn more about the role you’re applying for and also to present to the potential employer what you are able to bring to the table, and perhaps more importantly, what you are worth!

Let’s get this clear. Honesty is always the best policy in a job application process. But being honest doesn’t mean you have to undermine your interests by giving up all your negotiation chips at the onset.

You may be getting the expected / last-drawn salary question even before the actual interview. An HR assistant may be trying to fish the information from you in order to save the interviewer’s time, or to make comparisons among all applicants based on paper qualifications and experience.

While this may seem like an efficient screening method – for both the employer and the applicant – this is also the key reason why many people end up with grossly under-paying salaries. Because good salaries need to be negotiated and justified, and you can’t do that when the interview process hasn’t even started.

Now, if you’re job-seeking in a jurisdiction where salary history questions are outlawed, then you do not have to read on. However, if you’re like most job applicants everywhere else, here are 3 clever responses to that dreaded question of “what is your expected salary?”.

Not ready to discuss

I’m not ready to discuss remuneration at this point. I would love to discuss about the company’s directions, the challenges of the role and what I can bring to the company before I can enter into salary discussions.

Probe for better opportunities

Well, since you are asking this question so early on, I imagine you believe I might be over-qualified for the position. Why don’t you tell me what you have in mind and if we are way out of sync we can talk about other opportunities within the organization.

Not appearing desperate

At this point, I’m looking to see if this position is a good match for me. I haven’t had the opportunity to research salaries for similar roles in this area, but if you have some salary and cost of living information you’d like me to review, I would be happy to do so.

For many job-seekers, landing a good salary is one of the most stressful aspects of job seeking. Before you worry too much about whether you are hoping for too much money or whether you deserve the amount you set for yourself, remember that the employer has already deemed you suitable for the role to have requested you to come for an interview.

In salary and benefits negotiations, the worst thing that can happen is not giving enough thought to what you truly want before agreeing to an amount, and then subsequently change your mind after you’ve accepted the position. Therefore, it’s important to be clear of your own expectations, be confident that you are worth that amount and never accept an offer that is clearly disadvantageous to you.


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