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When you’re interviewing for a new job, there’s a salary negotiation golden rule EVERYONE should know: don’t do it until after an offer is formally made.

Now, I’m sure your thinking, “Yeah, right!  They always ask what my salary requirements are before they even think about an offer!” I can say from experience that that’s not the case. You need to properly deflect the unavoidable question and get back to what’s most important – what you’re worth.



So how do you postpone the salary question?  There are a number of verbal responses that will do just that without seeming like you’re stalling. Here are some examples:

  • “I’d be glad to tell you. What, roughly is the range we’re talking about?”
  • “Salary shouldn’t be a problem. What did you have in mind?”
  • “Well, I’m probably not the cheapest, but I’m sure you pay a fair salary, don’t you?”
  • “Oh, are you making me an offer?”

Before moving on, it’s important to understand why you are being asked this question in the first place. There are three reasons:


1. They want to know if you’re within their budget. They need to be able to answer to their bosses that the money you require is affordable and within the compensation range HR has established as their market value.

2. They need to know your perceived value. The number you throw out is going to immediately create assumptions about how good you are at your job – the more expensive, the likelier it is you’re good at what you do.

3. They want to know if you know your value. In other words, they’re checking up to see if you know how much others in your comparative position make, and if your salary requirements are realistic (not-for-profit vs. for profit).  They are testing to see if you are willing to take less.

So, when applying for a job, you’re actually playing a version of the game show “The Price is Right”! There are a number of undesired outcomes if you decide to go ahead and answer the salary question too early.  Bid too high,you can lose the job and your dignity.  Bid too low, you could lose the job because your perceived value as a working employee is too low, or you could win the job for $5,000 or $10,000 less than you deserve.  Bid just right and you probably still lose some money because most offers are rarely the final or best price the first time around.  So you can see the difficulties in being the first one to give your salary expectations: you can rarely win!

Deflect the question and put the ball back in their court.

Join the discussion 2 Comments

  • Lenny says:

    That works for in person but not for online applications that will not process your application without a figure. How do you deal with those sights.

  • David says:

    A better plan is to identify your career target companies and network with their leaders/hiring managers. You get to tell your story first before they make a judgment call based on your resume or salary expectations. Don’t wait for the opening to appear before networking. I currently have 4 clients right now that are looking at job offers because they were focused on target networking. While networking the opportunities were brought to them the salary question was postponed until the hiring manager was convinced they would be a great catch and hire.

    If you use the front door approach only you will always have to lead with your salary expectation. You don’t get to tell your story or have a chance to show case the value to can give to an organization. Hope this helps.