Last week in my blog, I discussed how HR’s question of “What are your salary requirements?” is counterproductive to finding the best employees to achieve the objectives and missions of the position they are trying to fill. Regardless of this fact, there is one thing you can almost guarantee. HR managers interviewing you will try to force the issue so that they can either eliminate you or pin you to a number so you lose any negotiating leverage. So how do you handle this? There are several issues to consider, and prepare for so that you can successfully navigate this area of the interview.

The first issue to resolve is, you need to know what your range is that you are looking for. While it should be irrelevant to the company what you need, you need to know for your own protection what your market value is. There are two components of knowing your market value:

  • Based on the objectives of the position, and based on your past achievements, what are you contributing to the success of the company? The best way to understand this is to look at your accomplishments in your past, and what did these contribute to previous companies in terms of helping the company generate revenue, reduce costs, or mitigate risks. Many professionals list these up in accomplishment statements often referred to as an acronym such as PARs – Problem, Action and Results. Identifying and understanding your previous accomplishments will help you understand your value to a company.
  • Research industry and function ranges for positions similar to the ones you are applying for. This will help you in responding to salary questions and also justifying your range you have determined for yourself.

In the interview itself, when HR asks this screening question, your goal is to defer this discussion until after both parties have determined that there is a good fit and they are prepared to offer the position. There are several ways to do this, and the key is to answer in a rational and non confrontational manner, along the lines of:

“There are so many components that go into my decision process of choosing a job, and salary is just one part. Once we determine that I am the best candidate to achieve the objectives of the position, I am extremely confident you will be able to offer a mutually beneficial and market competitive compensation package.”

If they do not accept this, but still press you, you can respond with:

I appreciate that you do not want to waste anyone’s time. What is the range you have budgeted for this position?” If they give you the range, you repeat the highest number and then be quiet.

If they still insist you give them a number, you can say something like:

Based on my current understanding of the position, objectives and expectations, I would expect the salary to be in the range of ______ to _______, which is within industry standards.”

Keep in mind that when interviewing, you are dealing with human beings. The only thing predictable about responses is that they will be unpredictable. While these types of responses are very effective in many cases, they do not always work. In addition, these are responses to salary questions early on in the interview process, and completely separate from negotiations at the time of an offer.

Finally, keep in mind that companies and HR are trying to commoditize employees and candidates. While this may make their job easier, as stated last week, it does not make their job more effective or efficient. The best way to get around this commoditization is to not approach as a job seeker but as a problem, and network your way in through informational meetings.

I am looking forward to getting your feedback.

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Comments
  1. A says:

    Just got in this discussion today wtih a phone screening. The HR person wanted to know if they should continue the discussion and bring me in for an interview. She pressed and pressed. I finally gave her a range and my low number she stated was at the high end of what they claim they can pay for the position. How do you get around this when they are phone screening applicants?

    • Thanks for the question. Sometimes you can not get around the question, because you have an HR person that has a check list to complete, and if they do not, you can not proceed. The problem is they are treating you and all prospects as a commodity, and not as an asset worth investing in. Remember, you are interviewing them as much as they are interviewing you. While it doesn’t always work, I find calmly explaining that you are confident they can offer a mutually beneficial package once it is determined you are the right person for the job often succeeds.

  2. Op-lya says:

    If they ask me about salary before interview in online application, what should I do?

    • If you focus your job search on the job boards, you are forced to go through on line applications. In order to proceed, you have no choice. I suggest you research market value and answer accordingly. However most importantly, if you approach the hidden job market through research and networking, you often bypass this process and only fill out the online application as a formality. This will give you the best chance of success.

  3. Donna Johnson says:

    I recently had a phone interview with a company. Salary was never brought up during the phone interview. The recruiter then emailed me some times that they were available to meet face-to-face. At that point, they also asked me what my salary requirements were. I responded that I was open on the salary. We met for a face-to-face interview and once again, salary was never brought up during the interview. The next day, they emailed me and wanted to know what my salary expectations were. I responded back and asked if they had a range in mind for the position. I told them that I was willing to consider what they would consider the the position to be worth. So far, not a word back from them. Now I do know that they have contacted every person on my reference list that I provided, and they sound very interested in me. I’m just wondering did I handle this the correct way about salary? I highly enjoyed the company and I think it would be a perfect fit. However, I really I want to know if we are even in the same range and I don’t want to shoot myself in the foot by being to high or to low for salary.

    • Donna, I have to congratulate you because I believe you handled the questions very well. You are correct in that you do not want to shoot yourself in the foot. The company seems to be interested because they contacted your references.

  4. Alfred Knowles says:

    This is great stuff, but HR personnals do not understand most of the things associated with the job that you are applying for so they try to tie you to an answer as to what you are expecting

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