All applicants and interviewees dread questions about salary. It is difficult to put a price on your unique talents, education and background (or lack thereof!), but candidates must come to terms with the fact that all hiring managers can use this question as a good indicator of quite a few things:
Are the candidate’s expectations realistic? Are the candidate’s expectations in line with our budgetary restrictions? How much value does the candidate place on himself or herself as an employee?
It can be challenging to figure out which of these questions the recruiter is trying to have answered, especially if you are new to the job market. In this case, it is a good idea to make sure that you have a response prepared in advance. This question is complex enough that you cannot simply answer it by saying “minimum wage” or “whatever the going rate is”.
The interview process is an opportunity for both the recruiter and the candidate to determine if this job will be a good fit for them and vice versa. While you should not sell yourself short, you should have a few things ready before heading into that interview and being asked the question “what are your salary expectations?”
Do Your Research
There is a wealth of information available online that can help you determine what the going rate is for your particular field, position and level of experience. New entrants to the job market can find it difficult to breakthrough simply because employers can make attempts at lowballing them in an effort to get a quality employee at a bargain basement price.
(Just as a word of warning, a company that behaves like this is not a company that you want to work for. A solid organization values its employees and realizes that an important part of keeping the turnover rate down is paying your employees what they are worth and in some cases, more.)
Never refuse an interview on the basis of assumed salary expectations as the information provided online should only be used as a guideline.
Provide A Range, Not A Figure
It is always safer to provide a hiring manager with a range that you are hoping to fall within as opposed to a hard and fast figure. Providing an exact figure can put off a hiring manager, especially if it is too high. For example if you are going to an interview for an entry-level administrative position and you have no previous experience, you would fall on the lower end of the scale.
So, if the general range for a new entrant with no applicable experience falls between $20,000-35,000, it would be a good idea to pitch between $21,000-$25,000 when asked what your expectations are.
Always deliver your response confidently, and do not allow the intonation in your voice to turn your answer into a question. A smart recruiter can recognize a candidate who has done their homework and is able to be realistic while at the same time, not selling him or herself short.