Questions About Salary And How To Avoid Them

This article will show how you will benefit by trying to avoid questions about salary at the early stages of an interview. You'll also learn some techniques for handling salary questions like, "What was your previous salary?" Or, "How much money did you make on your last job?

Reasons why employers ask questions about salary

Prospective employers for full or part time jobs love to ask questions about salary so they can start you at the lower end of their salary range or hourly rate. That makes good business sense from their point of view, doesn't it?

But you need to try and start at the upper end of the range, which makes good business sense from your point of view. Then you're in a position to negotiate and meet a company half way within its range in order to enter a new job with more money than you made previously.

Reasons why you should try to avoid giving salary first
  1. Why should a company pay you any more than what you've been earning?" Many companies like to pay in accordance with your previous salary.
  2. When you give salary or wage expectations first, you lose. Now that your prospect knows how much you make or made, you've lost your chance to negotiate and enter a new job with more money than you made in the last.
  3. Any time you make more money than the job you're interviewing for pays, employers feel you'd pick up and leave when something better comes along. Conversely, when you make less than what a job pays, interviewers often feel you're too light for the job.

A recent case history that illustrates the point

Malcolm, one of my career-coaching clients, earned $45K as a customer service representative for a major bank in New York City. When Malcolm lost his job, he decided to work part time for awhile while taking a course in bookkeeping to those skills and get back into accounting.

My client wanted to work part time to tide him over while he studied. Yet he was turned down for a part time position with an outlet of a major drug chain. And even though Malcolm explained he was willing to work less money, the interviewer said he feared Malcolm would quit when something better came along. And believe it or not, a temporary employment agency refused to work with my client for the same reason.

While it's okay to talk about your career expectations when asked, try to avoid discussing salary until the offer and negotiating stage of the interview process.

What follows is an example of how job search pros handle the question about pay expectation and not giving salary first -

INTERVIEWER: "What kind of money are you looking for?" (Or how much did you make on your last job)?"

YOU: "What do you pay?" (Or better yet, "Whadda ya pay," with a shrug and a smile).

INTERVIEWER: "We need a figure in order to process your application.

YOU: "Well, what's your salary range?"

INTERVIEWER: "Yes, we have a range, but I need to know your expectations first."

YOU: "Look, what do you think I should be asking for?"

When you're able to get a figure first, say, "ok, I'll put that down on the application." Or, "that seems to be in the ballpark."

This technique doesn't work each time out. In that case, you'll need to divulge your total for salary and bonus.

It takes a little moxie to use this technique. Some job candidates are uncomfortable using it. And who can blame them. Nobody likes to ask for more money because most of us weren't taught how to negotiate and are uncomfortable talking about money.

But nothing ventured, nothing gained. At least try to use the technique to handle the salary question of getting the company's figure first. When interviewers don't know how much you made in your previous job, you have a good chance to enter the new position with a raise.

Randy Place, a career management consultant in private practice, and Internet host of Your Career Service -- Daily posts feature job-finding tips and career management advice. Topics include job interview tips, networking strategies, dealing with job loss, resume writing and personalized cover letters, getting ahead at work, how to handle standard interview questions and much more