Two job interview questions that cause job seekers a lot of anxiety are:
1. How much money did you make in your last job? (Or, How much are you currently making?)
2. What are your salary expectations for this role?
You know that any money-focused questions (past or present) are a gauge for employers to know if they can afford you and how much they can get you for. You’re afraid that if you say a number too low, you’ll leave money on the table; but if you say a number too high, you may lose this opportunity.
So what do you do? How can you answer interview questions about money?
Goal #1 – Deflect
Your biggest goal with either question is to avoid giving any answer at all. Throughout the interview process, try to avoid any discussion of money or salary for as long as you can—and never, ever bring up the money issue by asking about the salary for this job. The ideal scenario involves getting them to love you and want you for the job before any salary discussion because then, your bargaining position is stronger.
How To Answer “How Much Do/Did You Make?”
‘My previous position is different than this one, so I don’t see that my past salary is relevant to this one. But I really want to answer all your questions about my skills and qualifications to see if you agree that I’m the right person for the job. I’m sure that if I’m a good fit, we can come to an agreement on compensation. I’m very excited about the possibility of working here.’
‘What is the salary range you have budgeted for this position?’ When they tell you, say “I’m comfortable with that. If I’m offered a salary within that range, I won’t turn the offer down over the money.’
Go ahead and tell them how much you made at your past/current job. In most cases, they really do just want to know if they can afford you. If you’ve done your homework and know what a reasonable offer is for this role in this geographic location, you’ll know if they offer you a salary that’s too low. You can always negotiate for a higher salary (based on your research) after you have the offer in hand.
How To Answer “What Salary Would You Expect?”
The good news is that if they ask you this question, they are thinking about offering you the job.
Smile and ask, ‘Does this mean you’d like to offer me the job?’
Ask, ‘What is the salary range for this position?’ When they tell you, say, ‘I’m comfortable with that. If we both decide that I’m a good fit for this job, I will be fine with discussing a salary in that range.’
‘I’m more interested in finding out if this job is a great fit. I’m sure that you’ll offer a salary that’s appropriate for the responsibilities of the job.’
Keep your focus on selling yourself for the job. If they don’t want to hire you, you really have nothing to discuss.
Here is your caveat for any salary discussion: Every interview situation is different. That’s why there are several different options for each question. You have to decide what your situation calls for, and what you are comfortable with. The more you research the company and appropriate salary levels ahead of time, the easier it will be for you to answer these questions.