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Every job seeker faces difficult questions on applications and during interviews, but few answers need to be as delicately balanced as the response to the question of salary requirements. It’s a double-edged sword, too: ask for too much and you may price yourself out of the market, and naming a figure too low could cost earnings when you receive a formal offer. Although there’s no single strategy to employ when faced with questions about your salary needs, job-seekers can avoid problems by using several tactics.
Ignore Questions on Applications
Many job listings specifically request applicants to submit their salary requirements as part of the application process, and many job-seekers worry that by ignoring the request human resource managers will see them as unable to follow directions or otherwise disqualify them from the application process. A 2001 study by the Career Masters Institute revealed that only one out of 10 hiring representatives will eliminate an applicant who doesn’t provide salary information on a cover letter or application, according to Bankrate.com. Withholding salary history or pay requirements is so inconsequential it probably won’t affect your chances of consideration for employment.
Delay Your Response
In most salary negotiations, the person who plays his hand first is usually the one least likely to get what he wants, so delaying the question during an interview may force your potential employer to reveal what he intends to pay before you reveal the salary for which you’ll work. Instead of answering the question during an interview, respond that you’re not comfortable talking about salary considerations until you’ve received a formal offer. Although you may be faced with the question after you receive an offer, you can be confident that you won’t price yourself out of the market immediately if you request too much.
Turn the Tables
It’s easy to romanticize talks about salary as a battle of wills between you and a hiring officer, but that may not always be the case. Instead of revealing your salary requirements, simply ask your interviewer what salary range the company has budgeted for the position. Many interviewers will tell you a range, according to AARP, allowing you to avoid up-front salary negotiations and enter into discussions with a framework for discussion should you receive a formal offer.
Provide a Salary Range
If you reveal a definite salary figure during your interview, you may be forced to stick with it if you receive an offer. If you are placed in a position where an interviewer demands a figure, answer broadly, providing a salary range, and indicating that your final salary requirements would also hinge on the value of benefits, the details of your responsibilities and other compensation such as vacation time.
Do Your Homework
Knowing the details of the marketplace arms you with the information you need should you be required to answer questions about salary requirements. Use salary reporting tools such as PayScale, CB Salary and Salary.com to research common salaries in your field in your geographic location. Gauge your own experience in the field against average salaries. If you’re confident that your data is accurate, cite the area’s average earnings for the position when you answer the question.
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Wilhelm Schnotz has worked as a freelance writer since 1998, covering arts and entertainment, culture and financial stories for a variety of consumer publications. His work has appeared in dozens of print titles, including "TV Guide" and "The Dallas Observer." Schnotz holds a Bachelor of Arts in journalism from Colorado State University.