When you are looking for a new job, you should be prepared to respond if a hiring manager asks you about your salary expectations. While this isn't something every interviewer is likely to ask, it comes up often enough that you should have a reply ready.
Respond With a Pay Range
Rather than give a specific dollar amount, respond by specifying a realistic range. Before you interview, use PayScale to find out the going rate for the position in the local area. Quote a range that is realistic for the job and acceptable to you. Include a little wiggle room, as salary isn't the only compensation factor. For example, you might be open to taking a lower base salary for bonus opportunities or great benefits.
With this in mind, you can say something like: "Based on my research, the average rate of pay for this type of position seems to range from $XX,000 to $XX,000 per year (or $XX to $XX per hour) for candidates with my background. This range is what I would expect, depending on specifics about benefits and other non-salary compensation."
This approach shows that you have conducted research, which interviewers may find appealing. Be sure you can explain how you arrived at these figures if asked. This approach also leaves room to negotiate if you receive a low offer that isn't offset by other forms of compensation.
Mention Company Standards
If you are applying for a position that is also held by a number of other people, you may want to focus on positioning yourself within their pay band rather than mentioning a specific monetary figure. For example, a company may have several customer service representatives on staff. If so, they probably have standard pay ranges, with variations based on qualifications.
When applying for this type of job, word your response based on your career level and experience. You will use that information to indicate to the interviewer where you feel you should be placed in the pay range for the job. Keep in mind, though, that the interviewer may push to find out your expectations for the dollar amounts within the pay range. Be prepared to respond.
- Experienced applicant: Say something like, "In my last job, my pay was well above the midpoint of the pay range for the XYZ position. Due to my successful track record in this type of job, I would expect my pay to be between the midpoint and the top pay rate for this role in your organization." From there, consider highlighting how your experience might reduce the training time needed for you to be fully functional in the job, as compared to someone with less experience.
- Inexperienced applicant: If you do not have experience in this specific type of job, consider wording like, "I would expect my starting pay to be positioned appropriately in the pay range based on my background and experience. My experience as XYZ and my credentials such as ABC and DEF are valid factors to consider. I am open to a pay rate offered to other employees with a similar background."
This strategy allows you to get the interviewer thinking about where your pay would need to fall within the range, and why. Without quoting a dollar amount, you are steering the interviewer to recommend to the hiring manager what your compensation should be. This can help you push up the amount of any offer you might receive below the bottom portion of the pay range to a higher level.
Delay Pending Additional Information
If you don't yet have a clear picture of what the job entails, you may want to respond by asking the interviewer to let you hold off on answering the question until you have a better understanding of the job. Of course, if the interviewer moves in to a detailed explanation, you will either need to be prepared to give an answer at that time (ideal), or ask for more time to do some research (not a good idea).
If you opt for this approach, say something like, "While I have a general overview of what is involved in the job, I would like to have a better understanding of the full scope of the position before commenting on salary expectations. Would you be able to provide me with additional details on the job before I answer?"
This technique shows that you are a thoughtful candidate who wants to have all the facts before giving a response. This can be great if you are applying for a job that requires analytical skills and patience. However, if you are applying for a job that requires the ability to think on your feet and make quick decisions even when you don't have time to consider every angle (such as a management job), you may come across as unprepared and unsuited for the role.
Preparing for Success
No matter which approach you decide to take, you need to be prepared to give a specific salary or pay range if the interviewer pushes. While you aren't locked in to the number you quote, what you say can definitely be factored in to any job offer you may receive and impact salary negotiation.