Great responses to 5 potential salary questions asked during interviews

By · Tuesday, June 3rd, 2014

I read an article this week on salary negotiation.    It listed 5 excellent questions that an interviewer could ask.  But, the article did not provide possible answers to those great questions.  Below is one potential answer for each of the 5 questions.  There are at least several possible responses for each question.  When and how the interviewer asks the question will determine the framing of your answer.  These are just two factors that impact your response.

Here are the 5 questions followed by my response.

“What’s your real bottom line?”  Answer:  My real bottom line will depend on many factors.  I don’t have enough information about your expectations of me to provide a bottom line figure.  One area I’d like to explore more is when you mentioned the interface I’d have with the principals of the firm.  (Then I’d ask pertinent questions about my dealings with the executives.)

“How much do you think you’re worth?” Answer:  That’s a great question.  But my answer depends on me determining what issues you are having and the time frame in which you need them resolved. Then I can determine the requirements to achieve your goals.   Once we do that then I can calculate my worth.

“What other offers do you have?”   Answer:  I have several other situations that are in different stages of the interview process.  None of them are at the offer stage, but two are close to it. (only state this if it is true) It is wise to not reveal any dollar amounts.  You should be able to argue your case based on the end results to the problems they want solved.  Always look for the added value that you bring to the table that your competition can’t or won’t deliver.

“What were you making in your previous job?”   Answer:  With all due respect, I am not comfortable sharing that information.  (If the interviewer presses you then you can say) The expectations on each job are different.  So judging one position against the other would not be a fair comparison.   It is what your position is worth to you that counts.  I’m sure you would agree.

“If I were to offer $xxx right now, are you prepared to say yes?”  Answer:  I will consider all offers, but would like to continue discussing your expectations for this opening.   I have some other questions the answers to which will help me decide on compensation.   This position is of strong interest to me and I know that I can help you.  Is this a good time to continue our discussion?

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I agree with the answers to 1,3 and 5, but the answer I would suggest to # 2 is “The better question is what do you think I’m worth?” A candidate should never bit against him or herself so the less you say in response to that question the better.

Re question # 4; In my 35 years of executive search experience I have never seen an employer make an offer without knowing what the person is now, or was most recently, making.

Never! As in not even once.

My advice is to answer that question clearly and honestly since a background check may include income verification. I have seen employers rescind offers when a candidate deliberately overstated his/her income and was found out.

Occasionally someone refuses to state their income when I ask and I assume they’re embarrassed by how little they’re paid. I will explain why I’m asking and if they still refuse to disclose it I just go on to the next candidate.


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