Answering The Salary Interview Question – Part 2: Stating The Right Number

In Part 1 of this series, we focused on defining what a job interview really is. In this next discussion, we’ll cover why the salary question is a vital part of an interview.

Chances are you are at the very least a little bit uncomfortable when getting to the interview question “What is your expected salary?” But most often, this is the stage when you make or break the decision to hire you.

salary number in interview

The salary question

If you have reached this phase of an interview, it can mean: a) the employer wants to screen out the people who are under you and way out of their league; or b) the employer likes you and before he offers you the job, he wants to know if you are both on the same page.

So how should you answer the salary question?

While some experts suggest that to win the salary game (that is, not stating a number and if you must, not being the first to say a figure), others prefer you to honestly state your expectations (with smart ways of voicing this, of course). Before you get to that decision, here are several things that you need to remember:

1.    You are not there to “buy a house”.

The common perception of the interviewer/interviewee relationship is eerily similar to someone buying a house.

The buyer (i.e. the employer) wants to get it as cheap as possible and the seller (i.e. the interviewee) wants to get it for as much as possible. Walking in with this attitude is detrimental for both parties, as unlike a house sale, both sides need to live with each other for a long time after the negotiation is finished.

2.    “Whoever states the number first loses.” Not.

Negotiating your salary isn’t a poker game and it shouldn’t be one. That would suggest it is a win-lose situation and if you go into an interview with that mindset, it is possible that you are not eager to add real value to the employer either.

In some cases, it is not wise to state your number while in others, you can’t move forward with your offer without this being spoken. Thus, both parties will ideally approach salary negotiations as a win-win situation, and still maintain respect if the number is just not right for them.

What matters most in answering the salary question is not whether we state the number first, but if we actually state the right number.

And yes, stating the right number is an even trickier business.

If you missed Part 1, you can read it here. In the third and final part of this series, we will give you the rules of thumb for how to state the right number.