How to Answer Salary Questions in Your Interview

One question that often makes people feel uncomfortable at interview is ‘what salary are you looking for?’…or something along those lines.

I personally feel ok talking about money and I think it’s fine to state your expectations clearly and confidently.

Most people shy away from talking money

However, I’ve been in this game long enough to know that the majority of job seekers don’t like to discuss this at interview. They don’t want to be the first person to mention a figure. If it’s too low, they may miss out financially. If it’s too high, they could miss out on a job offer.

If a recruitment consultant asks you this, then I would advise you be as open as possible. They will give you advice on the market rate for your skills and will often do the negotiating for you when you get offered a role. They need to know where your expectations are, so not to waste your time with lower paid jobs in the future.

How to deflect the salary question

If the employer in the interview asks you this and you really don’t want to answer it just yet, then here are a few ways you can deflect the questions.

‘I’m quite open and slightly flexible on salary as the opportunity to add value and to be valued is important to me. I’d appreciate knowing how you value this position and what your budget is for this role?’

The way you say this is very important. Say it with a smile on your face and raise your voice at the end of the sentence, so it seems like a question.

Or just bat it straight back…

‘I’d rather not commit to that quite yet. I’m really open to your thoughts on this as I’m sure you will be consistent with the market?’

Then pause. Just stop talking. By silencing yourself quite abruptly, you are forcing the other person to talk and it shows you are in control.

Again, you must do this in a very ‘upbeat’ way. We don’t want you to become defensive as this can sometimes come across as aggressive… not a good look!

Smile and nod while you ask it. By nodding you are assuming the answer you want is coming back to you and increasing the chance of the other person giving you what you want. Practice it in other conversations and you will see what I mean and how well it works.

Practice makes perfect

I’m not talking about ‘jedi mind tricks’, but there are lots of NLP books that talk about your body language during negotiations. I would check them out if you are unsure.

At some point you are going to need to discuss salary (unless there is a recruiter involved) and I would recommend practicing these answers.

Say them out loud in the mirror, while you are washing the dishes or driving. The more comfortable you are when you get asked this, the less likely you are to be conditioned by the interviewer.

Related: How to Prepare for Your Salary Negotiation [6 Clever Ideas].

By Aimee Bateman

Aimee Bateman worked for some of the world's largest recruitment companies, before setting up her own consultancy. She has helped thousands of people get their dream jobs and has appeared in a number of TV programmes as the 'Recruitment Expert' on BBC 1 and BBC 3. Aimee is also the founder of Careercake.TV which is designed to help people thrive in their careers. Follow Aimee on Twitter @CareercakeTV.