Why you should never mention your salary expectation too early

April 13, 2015 3 mins read

Here I would like to offer my opinion, and make several recommendations, regarding the question of discussing your salary during an interview. I think that you should avoid talking about your salary during the interview, but, after the interview is over, and it if is clear that the company wants you, now it’s an appropriate time to talk about your salary!

The problem is, however, that it is difficult to know at which moment the interview is actually over. The interviewer might say: “We want this person!”, but it might just be the end of the first round of interviews (however it might also be the last). It might also be nothing more than the end of just one in a series of interviews. Often you need to be interviewed separately by different personnel from the same company, or it might be just one single interview in front of a panel.

Assuming that things turn in your favour, no matter if it is the first, the second, the third, or the fourth interview, if you like the company and the company likes you, and both parties sign the offer of employment, this is the time when any boss will confront the issue head on, and ask him or herself:  “How much will I have to pay to keep this person?”  The question going through your head, however, would be: “How much will this company pay me?”

If the employer brings up this issue early, for example at the start of the interview, casually asking: “How much do you expect to get paid?” you better have these three answers prepared:

Answer 1: If the chief interviewer seems to be an honest and straightforward person, the best and the wisest reply is: “I think it is premature to discuss my salary before you have formally offered me the job or I have agreed to work on one of your tasks or projects”.

This answer will work in a great number of cases, but, in case it does not, then use the following:

Answer 2: You might encounter an interviewer who, two minutes into the interview, will need to know how much you want to be paid. This is not a good thing, especially after 2008, when many companies got very picky, working on the assumption that the workforce market is full of suitable candidates, and all they have to do is pick one. You need to have a ready answer for this one, for example: “I have no problem answering this question, but, first, could you clarify something for me, what exactly would my work description be?”

Under most circumstances, this answer should work, but what if it does not? Then you can turn to this one:

Answer 3: “Come on, come on, we are not playing games here. I need to know how much you expect to get paid!” If the interviewer raises his voice and gives you no alternative with this question, then you have to tackle it head on. Keep in mind, though, that you don’t need to give an exact amount, a ball-park figure would do. You can, for example, say: “I expect to get paid between 35 and 45 thousand a year”.

Out of the two equally qualified applicants, the one who agrees to work for less will always win. That’s just how things are!

To sum things up: If the interview went very well, if you really shone, and the company decided on the spot that it is you that they want, they may actually give you a better salary, higher than what they originally had in mind at the start of the interview.

Marlon Mai's picture
Managing Director, Greater China