You’ve probably dealt with it before: You sit down for a job interview, and the interviewer asks how much you expect to be paid. At those moments, you should resist the urge to say, “A million-billion dollars.” All joking aside, a potential employer asking you for a salary number ahead of a job offer can create significant problems. If you state a figure that’s too high, you may sink your chances of landing the job; if you lowball yourself, you might get the offer—while leaving thousands of dollars on the table. Neither option is fantastic, which leaves you with one ideal route: Deflect as much as possible. If the interviewer asks what you’re being paid currently, you can say that your salary is “industry standard” or “competitive.” If he or she asks for your ideal salary range, you have a handful of possible responses:
- “If you offer me the job, I have no doubt we can arrive at a number that’s agreeable.”
- “What sort of range does this job pay?”
- “I’m sure we can arrive at a salary that’s appropriate for my experience and skills.”
These tactful answers should divert all but the most insistent questioners. But what if you try every possible tactic—asking for a range, hinting at flexibility, suggesting you’re competitively priced—and the company still wants a hard number? That’s where research comes in: Before heading into any job interview, take the time to analyze the position’s industry-standard salary; even better, see if you can find out how much your potential employer has paid the position in the past. But whatever the circumstances, only state a hard figure as an absolute last resort.
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