The time the employer wants you the most is at the end of the interview process. By this point the company has spent a few or many more hours in evaluation of your criteria, qualifications and fit for their organization and now they want you to join them. They are interested and excited by what they hear from you and if you play your cards right you will be able to get a premium for your services.
You should have already determined your value from your previous research and now have a realistic target compensation number in your mind. You are prepared with the knowledge of what is a realistic number for your services.
The employer also has a number in their mind, or better yet a range of numbers, that are acceptable for them to spend for an individual to work. You want to be as close to the high end of their range as possible.
The First Salary Question
You will most likely encounter a question about your compensation expectations early on in the interview process, quite often during “first contact” when you learn about an opportunity. Compensation is often a prescreening category for a candidate to be considered.
When you are asked about your salary expectations, avoid giving someone a range of numbers unless want to receive the bottom of that range. Think about it. If you offer me an apple and tell me it will cost from $1-3 dollars, how much do you think I will want to pay? (in case you are wondering…the answer is one dollar).
The recommendation of GigSpire is to use the “Market Range Response.”
The Market Range Response
“I would prefer to learn more about the opportunity as a whole before I commit any number. There are so many elements to an opportunity so let’s make sure this is a fit first. I can assure you that if I am the right fit for your organization and your opportunity is the right fit for me, I’m sure we will be able to come to an understanding as my expectations are within market range.”
That is your first effort of getting out of the salary question answer, using the Market Range Response. It should work with 30-50% of your interviewers over the phone. A savvy Screener, Headhunter or Hiring Manager may push for more information and ask again.
If they press you for a number see if you can get them to provide a range first by using a Reversal Question. Say something like:
“Let me ask you, what kind of expectations do you have? What type of range make sense for you?”
Reverse the question on them and see what they say… they may give you a salary range. This is a great way to get people to give you information.
The person on the phone may avoid providing a direct answer to a Reversal Question and since they have the job (and the leverage at this point) you don’t want to blow up the opportunity by standing firm on this question.
Should they ask you to provide them a number a third time you can now demonstrate that you have done your homework by helping them understand you know your value. For this, GigSpire recommends the Detailed Market Range Response.
The Detailed Market Range Response
“Again, I don’t want to commit to a number now. I would rather evaluate the entirety of the opportunity first but if we must discuss some numbers I can accommodate to make sure we aren’t wasting anyone’s time. As I am sure you know the average compensation for this type of work and my experience level is between XX and XX dollars. And although I am on the front end of the bell curve, as long as I am the right fit for you and your opportunity matches my goals I am sure we can come to an understanding. Does that meet your expectations?”
Set the interviewer’s expectations that you are on the front end of the salary range for your profession and then ask if it meets the requirements for the position. Provided your range is based on the market research you have done, you will most likely move on with the rest of the discussion.
Don’t Discuss Dollars In The Face-To-Face
Avoid mentioning compensation during the face-to-face interview until the employer brings up the subject. Should the interview end without a discussion of the dollars, that’s ok. If asked your response should follow the format of the Detailed Market Range Response. You want the employer to provide an offer before beginning negotiations. Information is everything in negotiation and getting someone to offer a deal first allows the base-point for negotiations to begin.