Sidestepping the “Salary Requirement” Interview Question

During any job interview there may be at least one question that presents you with a challenge. Sometimes it’s figuring out how to list your weaknesses without putting yourself down. In other cases it could involve talking about some of your former bosses in a gentle and professional way. However perhaps the hardest questions to answer (and the one that could bite you in the behind more than any other) are the ones about how much you should be paid or how much you currently make.

On the one hand you don’t want to waste anyone’s time by moving forward with a job that won’t be able to pay you what you need. At the same time, could saying how much you currently make or how much you’d want to be paid only serve to give your potential employer the opportunity to pay you less than they planned? Recently Richard Feloni of Business Insider looked at this very issue and offered some advice for sidestepping this tricky question.

One option that might cross your mind is to just politely decline to answer. While this might work with the right person, others might begin to push and prod, which could quickly become uncomfortable. Additionally this exchange could leave a bad taste in their mouth (fairly or not), which could ultimately hurt your chances of getting the job.

Instead personal finance author Ramit Sethi recommends a response to the effect of, “You know what, I’m happy to discuss money down the road, but right now I’m just trying to see if there’s a good fit for both of us. I’m sure you’re trying to do the same thing.” Sethi says that not only does this type of answer show confidence but could also imply that you’re considering multiple offers. Ideally this will help kick the salary can down the road until you’re actually offered the job at which time you can discuss and negotiate specific terms.

So what happens if you get an interviewer who really wants a solid answer? According to human resources consultant Lynn Taylor, whatever you do, just be sure to answer truthfully. She adds that you should do some research beforehand so you can give a realistic salary range for what people in the position you’re applying for make. Additionally, if you make significantly less  at your current job than the range you’re requesting, be prepared to explain yourself and why you’re actually worth more. Still she says that deflecting and being able to keep the focus on the job and not the salary is your best bet.

Interviewing for a new job can be an awkward experience. Even if you know that you’d be a great fit for the company and for the position, you still need to convince someone who’s never met you of that in only a few minutes. Furthermore the mention of salary requirements can place yet another obstacle in your way. In these cases, by carefully crafting an answer that shows confidence, honesty, and commitment, you can hopefully avoid shooting yourself in the foot.


Jonathan Dyer

I'm a small town guy living in Los Angeles looking to make solid financial decisions. I write for a number of finance websites, including HuffingtonPost and Business2Community. I founded in 2015 to focus on personal finance and the emerging FinTech markets.

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