How you answer this question could either end the interview process or cost you money. Either way, you need to anticipate that it will come and be prepared. You may be asked as early as the application stage, in the telephone interview, at the face-to-face interview or even at all three. Contrary to candidate opinion it isn’t asked as a way to make you feel awkward, it’s a necessary question for employers to make sure that the potential candidates are expecting a similar amount to what they can afford to pay.
You will often be asked what you earnt in your most recent job. This is a great way for recruiters to gauge what level you were at and what you may be expecting in your next position. Biggest word of advice: Do not lie. Recruiters can find this information out very easily and it doesn’t look good, especially if you’ve exaggerated the number. Be clear and transparent about how your salary was packaged as well. Include base salary, superannuation and bonuses so the employer has all the necessary information with regards to what you are expecting.
Some people might advise for you to avoid the salary question altogether and answer with vague responses such as you’re flexible or that you need to do more research, but in most cases nowadays employers will insist on knowing what your salary expectations are before proceeding. Some online applications will not let you proceed until you enter a figure or a range. Whilst this may be frustrating, it does make sense when you think about the amount of time and effort that goes into the average recruitment process. Neither party wants to waste all that time if something as important as the salary level is not going to be agreed upon.
So, our advice on how to answer?
- Be prepared – have a figure in mind before you even begin the application process.
- Don’t second guess what the salary will be – if you have a figure that you need then say that. It’s better to be honest than going through an interview process only to realise at the end that you really can’t accept the salary they are offering.
- Do lots of research on the market, comparable roles, the company. Have an educated answer based on facts.
- Don’t name a range if you would be unhappy with the lower end of it.
- Be confident when asked the question and have reasons to back up why you think you are worth a certain amount.
Every employer wants to find the best person for the job and most of the time they have to do this within salary frameworks that ensure consistency and fairness across the company. At the same time, you as candidates need to make sure you are being paid an amount that supports your lifestyle and is a fair measure of what you are worth as a professional and an expert in your field. A figure needs to be agreed upon that suits both sides.
So once again, our advice is; Anticipate the question. Have an answer. Be honest.