How to Handle the Job Search Salary Dance

How to Handle the Job Search Salary Dance

What’s the best way to deal with the “salary dance” when interviewing for a job? A client recently asked me a series of questions: When I ask what a job pays, and I usually get a vague answer that includes a wide range of numbers. Then the interviewer asks what my salary requirements are, and I don’t know what to say. I don’t want to say too high of a number because I’m afraid they’ll write me off immediately, but I also don’t want to leave money on the table. 

Oh, the dreaded money dance. Let’s help you make it less dreaded and more advantageous. There are two main scenarios: One where they are asking for your current salary AND your ‘required’ salary. Two, where you want to ask them money-based questions.

Scenario #1: They are asking you about money. Bottom line: you need to answer your recent income question honestly and clearly. They can find out or ask you for W-2s later, so there is no point in dancing. If you received a bonus in your prior position, then you can separate base and bonus and give a range of your bonus potential.  Example:  “My base was $60,000 but my bonus could range from 20% to 60% based on performance.” Now, when they ask you what your expected income is, you take the prior answer and justify some growth.  One way is in percentages. “In this position, I would be increasing my scope of responsibility so I would value a 10-20% increase from my prior earnings.” 

However, if you are concerned about saying anything at all (out-pricing yourself), you can say “Ms. Jones, I am confident that your financial offer will be market competitive and thank you for asking.” Smile and stop talking.

A great way to deflect is to add “I do have a question for you; what are the top 3 metrics of success for this position?”

Scenario #2:  You want to ask them about money. This one is simple. Never, ever, ever, ever, ever raise money when you are interviewing. There is little goodness that can come out of it, often the interviewer doesn’t know, and it can turn off an interviewers. Get the offer in hand! Then you can negotiate and choose if this is an offer you want to accept. Don’t ask about benefits, allowances, bonuses, anything compensation-related.

Job-seekers, regardless if you are interviewing within your own company or externally, put your burning money questions off to the side. Focus more on positioning yourself as the best candidate for them. It’s not about you!