How to Talk About Salary in a Job Interview

By Staff WriterLast Updated Jun 24, 2020 6:48:06 PM ET
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Job interviews are usually stressful. After all, you’re selling yourself to a prospective employer, and a great first impression is critical. But interviews can become even more awkward when the discussion turns to money. It’s a subject that is private and not suitable for "polite" conversation — or so you've always been told — so the topic is guaranteed to make you squirm. Unfortunately, you can’t avoid it talking about it, but you can easily learn the right ways to approach the subject during your interview.

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Do Some Homework Before the Interview

The best way to avoid awkward discussions about money and salary during your job interview is to go into it prepared. Before the big day, go online and check out sites like the Bureau of Labor Statistics or Glassdoor to find out what key companies pay for similar positions as well as what people with your qualifications typically make and what people in your area typically earn. If you know someone who works for the company, find out if he or she knows what the company currently pays people in similar positions. Having an idea of how much your skills are worth and what the company typically pays can boost your confidence during the salary discussion.

Allow the Interviewer to Bring It Up

Another way to avoid awkward money talk is to allow the interviewer to bring the topic up first. Every interviewer has a different style. Some bring it up right away, while others may ask about your expectations before the interview or not mention it at all. If you’re asked about salary expectations before or at the beginning of an interview, it’s okay to delay your response. Don’t be afraid to say you want to know more about the job before getting into a salary discussion. It’s always best to discuss money at the end of the interview or at a second interview if multiple interviews are necessary.

Don’t Start with Exact Numbers

When you have the actual discussion regarding your potential salary, avoid providing any specific numbers. If the interviewer asks how much you currently make, you don’t want to lie, but if you feel the answer could have a negative impact on the interview or your future earnings, express that honestly but respectfully. Keep in mind that it’s actually illegal for a company to ask how much you currently make in many cities and states. If an interviewer asks how much you want to make working for the company, respond with a range based on your research.

Know What You Want and Be Confident

One mistake many job candidates make when discussing salary during an interview is selling themselves short. You may go into an interview thinking you deserve a particular amount but end up quoting a lower range because you feel intimidated by the requirements or responsibilities. Try to avoid this by knowing the job expectations and knowing what you want. Take how much you need to make for daily living expenses into consideration, but don’t appear desperate during the discussion. It’s also important to know how much you're "worth," based on your experience, skills and education, but you shouldn’t appear arrogant during the conversation. Ask for the amount you feel you're worth with confidence, and don’t be afraid to negotiate.

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But Don’t Make It Your Motivating Factor

Again, the best time to discuss money is at the end of the interview, usually after the interviewer brings it up. If you’re the one who has to introduce the topic, don’t do it in a way that makes it sound like money is your motivating factor for working there. Employers know that salary is a factor, but you need to show the interviewer you enjoy your work for reasons beyond the paycheck. Find out if you’re a good fit for each other, and prove that you're the right person for the job. Then you can confidently bring up salary.