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What Are Your Salary Expectations?

ai practice interviews negotiating compensation negotiating salary practice interviews ai Jun 13, 2021

It’s an inevitable question that comes up during most job interviews, often in the first conversation. Any good Sourcer, Recruiter or hiring manager will ask you about your salary expectations. You may have something in mind and a salary range may have already been posted with the job description. However, you should never give a number during your first conversation. You shouldn’t even give a range.

Providing any compensation information in the first conversation can backfire on you in multiple ways. If you throw out a number that’s too low, you will not get paid what you deserve and you are devaluing yourself. If you throw out too high a number, you may be setting a bad tone early on. If you provide a large range, they will almost always default to targeting the low end of the range.

There is a chance that they could remove you from the candidate list if you don’t provide a number when asked this question. That’s okay. In fact, you probably just dodged a major bullet. Any company that won’t move forward because you won’t talk salary in the first conversation is probably a company you don’t want to work for anyway.

Here are some tips you should follow if you find yourself in this situation:

Item #1 – Be Gracious and Kind

When it comes to any hiring discussion, the number one rule is to always be gracious and kind. This is especially true in any discussion involving compensation. You want to set the tone early on that you will be easy to work with on this topic. Show that you appreciate them asking, but kindly and positively deflect as much as you can.

At no point should you display frustration if they repeatedly attempt to understand your salary expectations. Remember it is their job to figure out who is the best fit, and the candidates’ compensation is always a factor. And, your job is to always respond positively, no matter what they ask.

Item #2 – No Numbers Early On

And I mean none! In my entire career as a recruiter, I never removed a candidate from the hiring process because they didn’t provide numbers. That didn’t stop me from asking because it was part of my job. The Sourcer, Recruiter or hiring manager is typically going to ask you about your salary expectations in the first call. If they get this information from you, it makes their job easier. Unfortunately, it can make your road to being hired tougher if not handled properly.

They may bluntly ask, “What are your salary expectations?” Your response should be something like this: “I am open and negotiable for the right opportunity.” There may be some back and forth and they may press harder with follow-up questions. Here’s a good response:

“I am excited to learn more about the position and meet with members of the organization. I would like to learn more before discussing compensation.”

If they continue to press and ask for a salary range you expect, then your response is to mirror the question. Ask them if they are able to provide you with the range they are targeting for their ideal candidate. If they give you a range, then make sure the high end of that range exceeds your expectations. 

Item #3 – Let Them Make the Offer

This question will be revisited throughout the interview process. They aren’t going to give up and neither should you. Let them make the offer first. You might even ask them if they’ve ever given an offer to someone who did not share their desired number. They may say “no,” but the real truth is 100% “yes!” They are testing you and hoping that you will slip and accept a lower salary.

Don’t let them beat you into submission. Stay strong, yet gracious and kind in your responses. Simply make it clear you would like to learn more about the position and the company before talking about compensation. If you know you are a good candidate for the position and it seems they like you, let them know you would like to think about it some more. Show your appreciation for being at this stage of the process. Let them know you understand why they are asking these questions, but don’t back down. Let the recruiter give in before you do.

Item #4 – Set a High Anchor

After all this back and forth, and ideally after multiple conversations, you will inevitably come to a breaking point. The Recruiter may not want to move forward and you can usually tell when the push back is not going to work any longer. Acknowledge that the Recruiter has a tough job and that you are not trying to make the process difficult for them. Let them know you follow this approach to make sure the company is fairly providing you with the right offer.Typically, you will have to implement this strategy. If you do this well, you will make more money!

If you have reached this point where you must be the one to give out a number (and you really want the job, of course), now and only now should you give in to this question. The secret is to go higher than what you really want or expect. I’m talking 10-20% higher (or more). Also make sure you have the research and data to back up your number, and be readily willing to share it to the Recruiter.

They may react negatively to such a high number. Even if it is a fair amount, it is their job to keep pushing back and get you for the best price. It’s all part of the negotiation. Let them know you are appreciative of their time and effort throughout the process. Let them know you would love to see what offer they come back with and that you will take it under strong consideration. You are only at this point because, other than salary discussions, the process has gone well. They like you. You want the job.

Don’t give them anything more than this and don’t back down from your number. If it truly is a good fit, they will come back with an offer that is acceptable for you. If they low-ball you, then keep negotiating. In the end, they are still holding all the cards, but they have more flexibility than they’ll ever let you know. Do your best to hold out as long as you can and try to make it an even playing field. This is how you successfully negotiate a fair salary.

Check out my full video on this topic below:

For more resources visit my website -  Practice Interviews and check out our AI Practice Interview App.

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