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  • Writer's pictureJohn Karras

The Salary Question & Final Salary Negotiation

By John Karras

There are many strategies on this topic, but all job seekers should remember that when a company representative asks you the salary question in a job interview, you are not conducting final salary negotiations. You are simply answering a question. Avoiding this question can create negative feelings from the company representative. You start to lose the “Likability Factor” during the interview process. The question does have an answer, and the candidate avoids answering it. Why? This is not final salary negotiations. Handling the initial salary question should not be confused with conducting final salary negotiation.

Although this is an illegal question in some states, and some people have powerful feelings about answering this question, job seekers will most likely get this question if they live in a state where the question is legal. Despite your feelings on answering this question, if you are interested in the position, you will be running a huge risk of getting screened out simply by dodging the question. I would submit that most, if not all company recruiters and final decision-makers know what you are trying to do – dodge the question, and many will not let the job seeker get away with that and press for the answer. It might also be a required field on many job applications. Additionally, based on my experience, I think the worse possible answer to that question is - “That's Negotiable.” Some company representatives will gladly take you up on that offer due to the fact that you might really want this job and they have something you want – that initial job offer! The company would be in the position of power in that negotiation, at least at this point in the process. Generally, the initial salary question will relate to one of two things: 1) The company will ask about your current salary or 2) The company will ask about your salary expectation.

When the company asks the salary question relating to current salary, you can respond by stating "My current salary is $60,000 and I am looking for something competitive with that." Note - you did not say you would accept $60,000. If you use an expectation, give the company a few reasons why you deserve more money than you currently make. Something like "I am currently making $60,000, but based on the fact that I recently earned an MBA, I have over three years of experience in this field, and I have experience in supervising internal operations, my salary expectation is $70,000 and I am looking for something competitive with that." Again, you did not say you would accept $70,000, so you are not running the risk of underselling yourself at this point in the process. You are simply going for that all important initial job offer.

The three or four points used should be the points that you think are the most marketable to the job, and why you now deserve more money. These points can also be accomplishments related to previous jobs or school work that would be pertinent to the new position. Stating that you are seriously underpaid at your current position is not a really good negotiation point. I can guarantee you that most (not all) but most people think they are underpaid, and it does not give the potential new company a good reason to hire you, or to adjust their initial job offer.

Do not simply rely on salary surveys. Salary surveys are dependent on many variables and some may not relate to the job at hand. Additionally, job titles and associated responsibilities may differ from company to company. For example, a senior-level financial analyst at one company may have different responsibilities than a senior-level financial analyst at another company. At this point in the process, it is better to show the company why you deserve more money. The main point is to get the initial offer first.

Once you get the initial offer, no matter what that offer is, three dynamics change in the negotiation process all to the candidates advantage: 1) Now you know they want you for the job – didn’t know that until the initial job offer was made 2) You have a starting point to negotiate – you did not have that before the initial offer, and 3) You are now the decision-maker on them. Up until the point of the initial offer, the company was deciding on you. They were in the position of power. After the offer has been made, the candidate is now in the position of power. Out of all the resumes they reviewed, and all the people they interviewed, they picked you! The candidate can now use the information learned in the interview, conducting research, and sampling salary surveys as part (but not the only part) of the final salary negotiation process. The final salary negotiation should be done during that little period of time when the company has extended an initial offer, but before the candidate has accepted it. Negotiate from strength, not weakness. If you do that, my experience has been that you will receive a better final job offer.

Need additional assistance? Please consider contacting Job Transitions for a free resume review and initial consultation. Thank you.

John Karras, President, Job Transitions, Inc.

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