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Apr 19th

Brace yourself for the ultimate interview question

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By Julie Desmond

Death, taxes and THAT interview topic. In life there are certain discomforts everyone will eventually have to face. If you're in the interview stage of a job search, one question you can count on hearing is, "What is your salary expectation?" Give the wrong answer and you might botch the interview. Give a different wrong answer and you might get robbed. Death, taxes and THAT interview topic. In life there are certain discomforts everyone will eventually have to face. If you're in the interview stage of a job search, one question you can count on hearing is, "What is your salary expectation?" Give the wrong answer and you might botch the interview. Give a different wrong answer and you might get robbed. Your blood pressure went up just thinking about it, didn't it? Job seekers can alleviate some interview anxiety by knowing how to respond with confidence and poise to this and other universally dreaded questions.

Negotiating salary during a job search is unavoidable. No hiring manager will present a job offer without establishing a budgeted salary. And who would accept a position without a promise of a definite dollar amount and a few perks? Be prepared for the inevitable by discovering in advance what your skills are worth.

Salary survey information abounds. Any genius can type a few key phrases into an Internet search engine and produce mind-numbing statistics. But which of the ten million sites do you view first? Which ones can you trust?

When Steve, an accountant in Minnesota, needed a substantial salary increase to support his family, he found it in a lateral move to a firm in New York City. The company was already accustomed to paying a relatively high salary and agreed to fly him home to Minnesota on weekends. The cost of living in Minnesota is thankfully lower than in other parts of the country. But so, generally, are the pay rates. Likewise, compensation will often vary according to industry. Focus your research on comparable positions within your preferred city and industry.

The information you collect will need to be current, within the last six months. Earnings have bounced wildly since 9/11. Industries across the board have seen changed demand, and just recently seem to be on the rebound.

I'm a big fan of anecdotal evidence. Consulting with large and small companies alike, I am privy to firsthand conversations about tight markets, rising pay rates and evolving benefit structures. Tap the knowledge of recruiters and your own network of business contacts to learn what salary levels look like in your area. Check recent ads on positions like yours for posted pay rates.

Do you need additional training or certifications to step to the next salary level? Universities and Community Colleges are another willing and unbiased resource for salary information. They all have career resource centers and most will guide you to current data even if you're not a graduate.


Armed with solid information, you can welcome the money discussion, usually late in the first or second interview. When asked, begin your response with a comment indicating your interest level in the position. Use specifics to illustrate your ability to add value to a certain project or within a particular department. Finally, look straight at the interviewer, briefly mention the research you've completed, and name your price. Smile, and never apologize. You're qualified for this position, willing to contribute to the success of the organization, and asking for a salary you know to be competitive and fair.

Julie Desmond is an Executive Recruiter with Hunter Hamilton Professional Resources. Please forward career planning questions to This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .
 

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