How to answer the salary question

So often, the elephant in the interview room is the one with dollar signs.

Getting paid what you’re worth is one of the most important aspects of a job, and for getting that work satisfaction. While broaching the subject of money may be one of the trickiest parts of any job interview, it’s also one of the most vital.

So how do you tackle the salary question to ensure you really are getting what you deserve?

Know your worth

Any discussion about salary will be a lot easier if you know what you’re worth to an employer and can back that up with solid reasons why.

  • If the job advertisement didn’t come with an indicated salary range, find the market value range of the job you want online.

  • Research the salaries of similar positions and experience levels, as well as current salary trends in your industry.

  • Ask contacts in your industry (but probably not people from the company you’re interviewing for) about salary and other remuneration they would expect to get.

  • Consider your own current salary, bonuses and benefits in comparison to the position you hope to move into. Are you taking on significantly more responsibility, or is it relatively similar?

  • Are you also moving between towns or cities? Don’t forget to factor location into your salary range, which could differ significantly between a regional centre to the capital city.

Leave room for movement

If you are asked to provide a salary figure up front, then consider presenting a range rather than a solid number. You can back your answer up with all that in-depth research you did before walking into the interview room.

Don’t go too high

If you throw a number out on the interview table that is staggeringly high then you either need to back that up with solid facts, or accept that the chances of you getting the job will have dropped through the floor. Again, your previous research will indicate what a reasonable amount for the position and your experience could be.

… And, don’t go too low

Yes, you may really really really want this dream job, but is it worth taking a massive pay cut for? Possibly yes, particularly if you’re changing industries and lack experience or you’re shifting from a metropolitan centre to a lovely rural town. On the other hand you may be dramatically underselling yourself and that will bite you in the long run, both in terms of your bank account balance and probably your job satisfaction. Ensure that you know exactly the reasons for the figure you’re throwing out there and why.

Negotiations can wait

Although salary is important to discuss, negotiations do not actually need to take place until you are presented with a formal written job offer.

It’s not all about the money

Remember to factor in that there may be more to the salary package you’re being offered than just dollar amounts.

  • Is there a company car, phone and laptop, exciting travel, gym membership, insurance, carpark or an annual bonus? Take all this into account when considering the black and white salary figure. You may actually be better off when you think about what you spend on fuel, parking and the gym now.

  • Balance the salary with your own career path and aspirations. Is it worth the amount you’re being offered to progress within this company or industry?

Be confident

If you’re asked to present your interviewer with an expected salary figure, look them straight in the eye and show that you are confident about what you expect. This will help greatly if there is any sign of ongoing negotiation or bargaining. Remember, you don’t have to settle on a figure now - and do not feel pressured to do so.