A properly prepared job candidate needn't dread or be tripped up by questions about compensation.

Well before you reach the point where an interviewer asks how much you want, formulate upper and lower bounds of your required pay range using separate methods, advises Jane Ashen Turkewitz, founder and president of T & Jam Resume Services and a former executive recruiter.

For the lower end, choose "a number you'd be happy with - and could live on," Turkewitz writes in a recent post on her blog, Let's Talk Turkey. Then, make sure to stick with the range you've chosen. "Don't deviate. If you say your bottom number is $75K and someone offers you $70K, you KNOW you are going to say 'no.'"

When fixing your lowest acceptable pay number, remember the law of gravity: any offers or raises you get in the future will start from your current salary at that time. And because markets will eventually recover, you will probably make another job move somewhere down the line. So if you do take a step back in your salary, Turkewitz says to limit it to "a baby step, so that you can catch up quickly with the next stage of your career."

What about the top of your range? Turkewitz says that should be a number you think is reasonable for a person with your qualifications. Coming up with that number usually requires a bit of research, such as checking salary surveys in your profession, or consulting a former boss or mentor.

One final point: While candidates often are advised to hold their cards close to the chest on pay until the last possible moment, don't expect to get away with that if you're interviewed by an external recruiter. Turkewitz warns that external recruiters "need to get the candidate to talk first," so they can use that information to screen out candidates whose pay requirements fall outside the client's budgeted range for the position.

-- Jon Jacobs