Wed | Nov 14, 2018

Glenford Smith | The salary question

Published:Sunday | December 10, 2017 | 12:00 AM

QUESTION: Why do interviewers always ask how much a prospective employer expects to get paid? Is it a good thing or a bad thing when you give a low figure?

- D.C.

ANSWER: The question about salary is, frankly, the most important. After all, one of the reasons you are interviewing for this job is presumably to get a decent salary, and not for charitable purposes. So you need to be skilled when answering. Answer in such a way to ensure that you are making the case for getting the best salary.

In the interview, you don't want to be the one to bring up the question of salary. And you don't want to deal with it early in the conversation. Like I always tell prospective clients, see your interview as an opportunity to sell. Negotiation is a normal mode of selling. A good salesperson sells his or her product or service before talking price. That is how you should think, too.

You should try to make yourself so desirable and compelling that the employer wants you first. Your position of bargaining will be much stronger with a motivated employer.

Suppose the employer brings up the salary question first before you've had an opportunity to build desire and motivation in the employer? Put off the question until later.


Say, for example, that: 'Salary is important to me, but it is not my main priority. Opportunity and growth are far more essential to me. What I'd rather do, if you don't mind, is to explore if I'm right for the position, and then we can talk about the money. Would that be ok with you?'

The secret is to get the employer talking about what he's willing to pay you before you reveal what you are willing to take. Make certain that you have done a good job of selling yourself to the employer. So, when it's time to discuss the salary question, try to get the employer to talk.

You could ask a question like: 'I'm sure the company has already established a salary range for this position. Could you tell me what it is?' Then, listen for the answer. Or ask: 'I want an income commensurate with my abilities and qualifications. I trust you will be fair and equitable with me. What does the position pay?'

In asking the above, you must know beforehand what it is you would accept. To know what is reasonable, research the market and this position for any relevant salary information.

With regard to your second question, it is neither good nor bad to ask for too high or too low a salary, provided you don't ask way outside the range they are willing to pay. If you're too low, you risk him wondering if you're worth so little, if you can do a good job. Go too high though, and the employer may start wondering who you think you are.

Aim for something in the middle. Follow the above guidelines, be confident and quietly assertive and you should be ok. All the best to you.

n Glenford Smith is a motivational speaker and success strategist. He is the author of 'From Problems to Power' and co-author of 'Profile of Excellence'.