How to answer the interview question “What are you looking for in terms of compensation?”

Welcome back, yesterday we covered “What is your biggest weakness?”. If you haven’t read that, check it out after this. But don’t skip today’s question because it is one of the big ones! This is another question I knew I absolutely must cover. In fact, I think if I was to put a poll out there it might be the question people fear the most. I ask this question to people every single day and the response I get is unique to this question. People sight, people say “I knew you were going to as that” and all kinds of other responses.

The fact of the matter is most recruiters don’t like asking it either. I have had recruiters tell me they hate asking the question just based on the responses they get and the way candidates sometimes react. Not me however. I know it’s a question that absolutely needs to be asked and I have no problem asking the question.

I have seen posts saying that your salary requirements are none of the recruiter’s business. That is certainly one way to look at it, I however, disagree. If I send a candidate over to a hiring manager and they have absolutely no idea what that person is making I am not really doing my job. So, I ask every single time.

Now I also get why candidates don’t want to give up that information. Candidates often feel that by giving that information up they are compromising their ability to negotiate later. That’s fair. However, I would counter that just because you tell them what you are making now in no way keeps you from countering an offer or walking away.

However, I know some of you want to know how to avoid giving your salary requirements, so here is my advice on that. If you are asked what you are currently making you can respond by saying “In terms of a new role, salary is not the most important thing to me but I am open to a fair a equitable offer”. Now, some people will press further and ask what that means. If they do, I would recommend giving them a salary range and say something like “it is open to negotiation but I am targeting a salary in the 75-95k range in order to make a move”. This gives them a wide range and if they are willing to accept that answer, you still haven’t given them what you are currently making.

Now, I always think that in terms of negotiation, you are better off not giving them your current salary. If you are able to tell them a range instead of an exact amount, it will help you down the road. However, you are going to deal with recruiters who hear that answer and still want to know specifically what was on your W2 last year. If they continue to push and as for this, I would recommend telling them.

Probably not what you wanted to hear but the fact of the matter is, the situation becoming hostile doesn’t help your chances at landing the role. Some people will also say, if they are going to push you here, then that’s a company you don’t want to work for. I disagree, one person not taking not taking no for an answer doesn’t mean it still isn’t a great company. So, if they really push I would say something like “I am currently making 65k but would be targeting a salary of 75-85 in order to make a move”.

If they wont take no for an answer, better to move forward positively then get into a hostile back and forth. By stating what you need to move you are reinforcing the fact that regardless of current compensation, this is what it will take of you want me to join your organization. And as I said earlier, if they come back with 70k because you are currently at 65k, you don’t have to accept that. Counter. And if they are willing to lose you over 5k, you probably don’t want to be there anyway.

The biggest takeaway here is don’t be afraid of this question and don’t let it turn into a hostile exchange. At the end of the day you decide your worth and don’t need to accept anything that doesn’t appropriately value what you bring to the table. Another takeaway is that asking is part of the job, so don’t be too hard on your recruiter.

Well there you have it. The way to properly handle the most dreaded interview question. Come back tomorrow when we answer the interview question “How do you handle competing deadlines?” Until then, please like and share this post on social media. Thanks for reading and remember, there is never a bad time to hear about a great opportunity.