Answer, Negotiate, And Potentially Avoid Dreaded Salary Questions

Do interview and application questions about your salary suddenly erode your confidence?

It’s easy to understand. The wrong answer can cost you a job or result in a thinner paycheck. That’s some harsh reality. It pays—literally—to know how to respond when asked tough questions about topics many workers feel uncomfortable discussing.

salary interview question

Quoting a salary figure too high may keep you from being a viable candidate, while sharing a number too low may minimize your value. In some cities and states, it’s illegal for employers to even ask how much you earned in your last job.

Tips For Answering Salary Questions

The salary question is a difficult one to answer when job seekers haven’t thought through potential responses. Negotiating a raise or more vacation time also causes stress for many employees. But such angst can be avoided. Research and prepared responses can help you negotiate a fair salary and sidestep thorny questions with confidence. Showcase your salary savviness with these tips:

Sidestep the questions about salary

Avoid saying a specific salary when asked, “What is your desired salary?” The best strategy is to provide a range, according to the Columbia Business School. Researchers found this approach worked best when the bottom range is set at the desired number while the top is more aggressive. This tactic often led to higher salaries since the employer chose not to offer the lowest salary.

Another dreaded question: “What are your salary requirements?” Consider skirting around it this way: “My salary requirements are flexible, but I have significant experience in the field that I believe adds value.” Deflect the question if the hiring manager raises it early in the interview process. You can low ball yourself or aim too high and price yourself out of the running. The goal is to get the hiring manger to discuss salary first.

Ask for more information

You can say something like, “I’d need to know more about the position and its responsibilities before thinking about salary.” Don’t be shy about becoming the interviewer. Turn the table and ask the hiring manager if he or she can provide a salary range for the position. If so, you “would be comfortable with an offer in that range.” Flipping the script can provide insight.

Know your worth

Do your research before the interview. Know the average salary for your industry and in your job market. Salaries can vary widely for many reasons, such as the area’s cost of living. Use sites like Glassdoor, Payscale, and to research salaries. Seek information for the total compensation package.

Be honest with your answers

“What was your previous salary?” is another question many dread. It may be tempting to lapse into creative fiction with your response, but don’t. Employers may verify your previous compensation.


You don’t have to memorize your responses. But take the time to think about and practice your interview answers on video, in the mirror or with a friend.

Negotiating Salary Raises And Counteroffers

Thinking of asking for a raise?

It pays to negotiate

According to, 75 percent of the workers who asked for a raise received it. A survey by found only 37 percent of people always negotiate their salaries, 44 percent occasionally do and 18 percent never tried.

“You’ll never have more power in your relationship with a company than the time in which you’re offered the job until when you accepted it,” Katie Donovan, a salary and career consultant told USA Today.

Know your value, and present all your requests at the same time

Negotiating a counter offer for a job works best when you have another job offer and you know your market value, experts said. Submit your counteroffer at once—not piecemeal. But know this: the company can rescind its offer so a counteroffer is not without risk.

Don’t take your manager by surprise

If you plan to negotiate more aspects of your job than salary, schedule time to meet with your manager so he or she won’t feel ambushed. It’s important to feel confident about your value, so bring data and other measurables as reminders of your successes and contributions.

Salary issues can be a nerve-racking experience. Demystifying the process, even in limited ways, can reduce stress and intimidation for employees. That’s a winning combination to take into any interview.

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