How To Answer Interview Questions About Salary
4th February 2019
Do you think this is the hardest question you can be asked at interview: "What are your salary expectations?"
Employers don't ask this question to make you feel uncomfortable. They ask because there is a budget in mind and they are trying to discover if you value yourself for around the same amount as they are willing to pay.
So, the reason is straightforward. But it's still tricky. You don't want to blow your chances by asking for too much, effectively pricing yourself out of the job offer, and of course you don't want to state a number that results in you earning less than you could, or even worse, a number that you really can't afford to live on.
It's for these reasons that you should try to avoid answering the question too early in the interview process. Instead, focus on demonstrating your value by talking about what you've done, your skills and how you would contribute in the role. Take the opportunity to create the best possible impression as this has the potential to increase your rate of pay.
If the interviewer is persistent early on in the process try not to feel under pressure, instead put the question back to the employer, try something like this:
"I'm sure the rate of pay will be market competitive, but before we get into that, I'd like to understand more about the company and the role and whether it is a good fit for my skills and experience. Can you give me some more information now?"
"I'm expecting a rate of pay that is competitive and commensurate with other workers undertaking the same type of work. How much is paid for this job here?"
Do Your Research
At some point in the interview process though there will be no avoiding the question. It's really important that you've done your homework so that you appear as credible as possible (there are lots of online salary guides but for the local market we recommend this North East Scotland guide). Be careful and ensure you are gathering information for the same geographic area, company size, sector and responsibilities. If you are job seeking through a recruitment agency your recruiter will be able to give you salary guidance too.
From your research you've probably determined that there's a range or salary band for the work you are applying for, enabling you to answer like this:
"From my research and understanding of the role I believe it pays between £x and £y per annum."
Salary can be only one element of the total remuneration on offer. From informal perks to robust flexible benefits packages it may be the case that you are willing to offset the rate of pay for commission or bonus payments. Perhaps a car is offered, additional holidays or excellent pension payments. Perhaps a job with a flexible work pattern is more important to you than the rate of pay. Talk the options through with the interviewer or the person making the employment offer to you.
A Twist To The Question
An alternative question that you may be asked is "What is your current rate of pay?" Your personal circumstances may dictate how comfortable you are sharing this information. If you feel you are under paid you may not want to disclose your salary for fear it undervalues your skillset, derailing the salary you hope to earn in the new role. Conversely, if you are on a higher salary you may worry about pricing yourself out of the discussion, as we covered earlier in this post.
Use the same tactics of trying to defer the conversation until the interviewer knows more about you but when you have to directly address the question it is important that you are honest but provide context.
For example, perhaps the roles are so different that they cannot be fairly compared in terms of remuneration. Maybe you are taking on more responsibility or it is in a different sector or simply yes, your current rate of pay is below the market rate and that is the reason why you are looking to move.
If your current salary is higher than the interviewing organisation can pay, but you've done a great job of selling yourself then they will enter into a negotiation with you. It's at this point that you will need to carefully consider all that is on offer (benefits and career prospects) compared to your earning potential. Whatever the outcome remember to remain polite and positive throughout the discussion, there is a fine line between being confident in your own worth and arrogant.