How to Deal with the Dreaded “Salary Question” in an Interview

In an interview, how do you answer “What is your desired salary?” without either seeming too cheap to be happy or too expensive to get the job? originally appeared on Quora.

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Molood Noori, Career Coach at, on Quora:

You should not answer this question. I’ll give you a scenario that is likely to happen.

Interviewer asks about your desired salary and you probably say: “I prefer not to answer that question at this point” or something similar.

Then they would ask you the same question a few times in a few different ways until you give in and quote a number! That’s a big mistake! You have to do everything in your power to refuse answering this question. The rule of the negotiation game is that the first quoted number has to always come from the employer. NEVER from the candidate/employee.

Most newbies would get trapped right away and feel uncomfortable and will end up saying a number. No one wants to argue with a “standard” process. Well let me tell you, there’s no such thing as a standard form or process for recruiting someone new. There may be agreements made in the company, but there’s no one thing that cannot be changed for hiring a top candidate. So stay confident when you get exposed to the “standard process” talk and continue with something that is both compassionate and reflects your firm position as someone who does not want to quote a number. This way you also convey that you’re not cheap nor expensive, but you are a professional.

Here’s what you can respond: “I understand that is your standard process. However, I need to understand this position a bit better after talking to a few more people at your company.”

They would then probably say, “OK, but what is the minimum you want?” Or they could say “well then, what is your salary in your current job?”

You see they do everything in their power to get you to reveal your desired salary, but you should stay strong and NO NUMBER should come out of your mouth.

At this point, I’d recommend you smile. And continue with confidence. You can reply like this: “I see where you’re coming from and why you would like to know my salary expectations. I believe my current salary is irrelevant to this conversation. Simply because this position and this company is quite different from what I do today. As I said, I really need to understand your company’s needs better before I can even think about the salary. How about you tell me about the salary you are willing to offer?”

As you see, you (the candidate) should always stay calm, confident and never get adversarial. You always start your sentence with compassion (I understand. I appreciate. I get it. Etc.). You then acknowledge what they just said to show that you are fully present and listening. Then you make your point. Wanting to learn more is a good point, but be very careful not to promise quoting a number after you learn more. You just need to say you wan to learn more! That’s it! And in the end you let them have the ball in their court and say something new.

Eventually you turn the conversation around and ask them what they would offer.

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