This can be one of the trickier questions so it is important to answer it carefully. Most people like to cross their fingers and hope that they just don’t get asked this question. One of the best ways to battle interview nerves is to prepare well for the tough questions, so we are bullet proof when we sit in front of the employer.
Research – Before you go for interview make sure you know the salary scales for your industry. There are many websites that have salary calculators to enable you to research salaries. If you put salary calculator / salary survey into a search engine you should be able to find salaries for your specific sector. Another good idea is to look for advertisements for similar roles to see what other companies are offering.
Placing yourself on the scale – When you carry out your research, you will more than likely find a salary range. It is important to know where to put yourself on the range. This will depend on your previous salary, experience and education. If you are just starting out with a little experience then you will be at the lower end of the scale, if you have a high level of experience, then you will be asking for a figure closer to the top end of the scale.
Waiting for a better time – While in the interview, you are not in your strongest negotiating position. When you are offered the role you are in a much better position to negotiate, as you know that the employer wants you. Therefore if you can, it is much better to give a more vague answer to this question and try to put if off until the hiring stage. You could formulate an answer like this;
“I have a degree in ……………………. and have worked in this area for two years and I would like to receive a salary that would reflect this”.
Even if you say this, they might still push you for a figure so have one in mind. If you do get pushed for a figure, your answer can be given in a similar way;
“Considering my previous salary my 4 years experience in ….. My diploma in ……and my excellent …….skills I feel that I should be earning (€€€€€€) or between (€€€€€€) and (€€€€€€) however I am really interested in this role and am willing to negotiate .”
Willing to negotiate- It is important to show the employer that the role is really important to you and that the salary is not the main driver. If the employer gets the impression that the salary is a main motivator for you, it could be a worry for them that you might leave if there is a better offer. I spoke recently with a HR manager of a large car rental firm, they discovered that a new hire leaving in the first 3 months of their contract, cost the company €7000 in resources. This is a risk that most employers will be reluctant to take.
Don’t lie or inflate your current salary. Be realistic don’t aim too high or sell yourself too cheaply. Try to convince the company that you are worth the figure you are asking for.
Never be the first to raise the topic of salary in an interview- If they haven’t mentioned it in the interview, breathe a sigh of relief and be ready to discuss this when they offer you the role.
Negotiation – When you are offered the role, try and ask for the salary or the range and work up from there. When negotiating salary always focus on why you deserve that figure and what you are bringing. Your salary negotiation should not be based on the price of you mortgage and shopping bills, the employer is not interested in this.
Change your mind – If you mentioned a figure in the interview that you realise later is not in line with your experience and education, or you realise the role entails more than you had initially thought, then you can try to renegotiate the salary, in a very polite, positive and diplomatic way. If you are sent a letter offering you the position, with salary outlined on it, you can always ask if this can be negotiated.
Smile – This is a tricky question for both recruiter and candidate so try to answer it in the most positive and don’t lose that smile.
Breda Hegarty is the Pre-employment Trainer in Business in the Community, supporting people with barriers gain employment, and author of the blog www.thejobmotivator.com . For more information and to book an appointment for a place on our next free training course in relation to CVS, cover letters and interview skills, call (01) 874380 / (01) 8743814 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.