Answering the Question, "What are your salary requirements?"



Let’s look at what you should do if salary comes up in the early stages of the interview:

“First, YOU SHOULD NEVER BRING THE TOPIC UP! Never, never, never bring up salary questions until you have a JOB OFFER! But, if they bring it up, you have to address it, even Though it is inappropriately early. In the early stages of the interview, wanting to know your salary requirements is simply a ‘screening tool.’ In other words, they want to know if your salary is realistic for the position – is it too low, meaning perhaps you aren’t as qualified or appropriate as you seem, or that you are higher than the salary range they had set.

Now, if you are higher, you are probably thinking that you would want to address this early on and not waste your time – no! Stop for a moment and think, have you ever bought something that cost more than you set out to spend after you heard about its value? Perhaps a car with added features or a house or even a washing machine? Three positive outcomes could come out of this interview even if you are out of their price range:

A. You could convince them that you are worth the extra investment.
B. You could create a new niche for yourself.
C. You could be put into another position other than the one for which you interviewed.

So, why burn your bridges with a straightforward answer that might ruin your chances for consideration? You must play the salary game. Here are a few ways you might offset this question being asked early in the interview:

A. ‘At this early point in the interview process, I don’t feel that either of us has gained enough information to value my skills for the job yet. Could we please address this at a later point in the interview process?’

B. ‘What’s important to me at this point is not so much the salary, but whether I am the right person for the job. I am certain if we both end up agreeing that I am the right person for the job, we’ll be able to come to a fair agreement, don’t you think?’

C. ‘I’m negotiable, what do you have allotted for the position?’

With answer ‘C,’ you are likely to experience one of two answers:

A. ‘We haven’t determined that yet. . .’
B. ‘The range for the position is $XX to $XX. . .’

With the above, don’t feel that you have to commit to a number in the range. I once dealt with a student who, in interviewing for a job, used answer ‘C.’ The employer responded with, ‘The position pays between $12 to $15 an hour.’ The applicant thought for a moment, decided that she was too experienced for $12 but not experienced enough for $15, so she said, ‘$13.50.’ She was hired at $13.50. The next applicant we sent a few months later was coached not to feel she had to pick from that range. She kept her mouth shut and was offered $15 with the same level of skill as the first applicant!

At this point, the interviewer might accept your brush-off answer, or they may decide to push for a commitment. You might next be asked, ‘You must have some idea of your financial needs?’ or ‘Certainly you have a range in mind?’or even, ‘hat’s the least you’ll take?’ Well, you can’t get around this. What you must do is have a range of pay to offer the employer with a very limited commitment to any particular dollar amount. In order to do this, you have to do your homework first on salary issues including:

A. Your financial requirements (wants and needs).
B. What the market will bear (range of pay for this job in this marketplace).

”A’ should not be too hard; you just need to do your budgeting. Never go into an interview without some kind of concept of what you want to make, need to make, and how realistic that amount is for your market and level. For instance, you should not be interviewing for a receptionist position in a small office in Florida if your salary requirement is $22.00 an hour. The most you could reasonably expect to make in this position is probably $9.00, and that could be on the high end.

A. Salary Survey and Pricing Yourself

Determining rates of pay for the position can be a little more complex, unless of course the company published a range. Some of the methods you can utilize to determine salary is:

A. Competitive research: Visit competitor’s websites to see if they post salaries.
B. Professional associations: If you are a member of a professional association for your industry, contact your local chapter. To join or gain information, visit your public library and ask the Reference Librarian for The Encyclopedia of Professional Associations.
C. Visit salary information Web sites such as and

Once you know your needs and what the market will bear, you are more prepared to handle this question. Stick to a range. Never, never say, ‘the absolute least I’ll take is. . .’ or ‘my ideal salary would be. . .’ Trust me, you could very easily have just undersold or oversold yourself too early in the interview process!

Stick with a non-committal answer such as:
‘As I mentioned, at this point I really don’t feel I have enough information to commit to a dollar amount. However, based on my knowledge of salary ranges for this position and my personal salary requirements, I am expecting the position pays somewhere in the $40s. . .’


‘I’d prefer to leave this topic until we’re more certain about my appropriateness for this position. However, I am expecting that the position will be somewhere in the $60s. . .’

See, that isn’t too hard. Again, it is just a matter of doing your homework and knowing your
guidelines so that you don’t sell yourself out of the job.

Also, if an employer asks you, ‘Would you accept $XX,XXX for your salary,’ you MUST counter with, ‘Is that an offer?’ If it is not an offer, refer back to one of your earlier answers about not being sure yet, etc. You are just being tested.”

An excerpt from Career Directors International Employment Interviewing Course