Small Interview Mistakes That Can Cost You Thousands of Dollars

The Salary Question

You are near the end of your interview and you are asked the dreaded question “What kind of salary are you looking for?” or “What are you making now?” So what do you say? Are you the type to give a number or provide a range and cross your fingers and hope that was the right answer.

Well I’m here to tell you that it’s not about having the right answer. It all depends on how and when you give out that information. Not being confident and giving it away too early in the interview process can cost you thousands of dollars.

Some recruiters ask the salary question very early in the interview process such as during a phone screen. This is called short listing applicants and usually means the company is trying to screen you out. The idea is to make the company love you before they know how much money you want so try to hold back until the end of a face to face interview.

How To Answer The Question

You should be ready and know how much you want. As usual I’m here to remind you to do your homework. You should have an idea of the typical salary range for someone with your experience within your field. If you don’t then you will need to do some research.


Most people hate the salary question because they don’t like or know how to negotiate. Whether you need to negotiate or not really depends on where you are applying.

If you are applying for an administrative role in a huge company there may not be any point in negotiating because huge companies often have strict salary structures. If you are applying for a sales job where negotiation is a skill you will need then by all means negotiate your heart out. Either way the key is to stress your experience. The more experience you have should entitle you to a better compensation package.

When and What To Say

So what do you do if you are asked for your salary expectation during the initial phone screen or on an application form? It is still your choice whether to answer it or not. Remember the company already likes your resume and will still consider you as a candidate even if you don’t at first answer the question.

When answering the question in a face to face interview the most important thing is to be comfortable and exude confidence. The best way to achieve this is to prepare your response in advance. Once you have a great response that you feel comfortable saying practice saying it over and over again. This might sound weird but you don’t want look like a deer caught in the headlights.

I have witnessed many candidates look away, play with whatever they have in their hands and generally look very uncomfortable when asked this question. This tells me that they have no idea what they are worth. I can probably offer a lower amount than what they ask for and they will still take the offer.

I can promise you if you are not confident, fidget, feel overwhelmed or uncomfortable with this question it can cost you thousands of dollars. It may feel silly but be prepared and practice your response.


Here are some examples that you can use and manipulate to make it your own. It is important that you create a response that you feel comfortable saying. You need to be able to respond without stumbling all over your words. Practice! Practice! Practice!

“I realize you need to be sure my salary expectation is consistent with the salary range for this position. To make sure we’re both on the same page please tell me your range for this position.” (What recruiters are willing to pay is top secret so this response rarely works. You never know you may be interviewed by a sloppy or not experienced recruiter who might let it slip out so it’s worth a try)

“I am really interested in this position and I’ll be happy to discuss salary if I am offered the job.”

“The actual figure will depend on a number of different factors but for this position I would be looking in the range of $xxxx.” (For example $50,000 to $65,000 per year or $15.00 to $19.00 per hour)

Don’t Forget

Your resume has already proven that the company is interested in talking to you. I have never heard and experienced myself that a candidate was eliminated from the recruitment process because they did not answering the question at first. So don’t worry and hold off until you have made yourself look like a star.

The more time you’re able to convince them that you are awesome will also increase your odds for getting the salary you want.

Most companies want to pay you the lowest rate as a new hire. To be offered a hire rate you need to stress your years of experience. The more years you clock the more you should get payed. If the company cannot budge on salary try to increase your vacation time or ask for a better benefit package.

Some companies have different benefits for the different levels of employees i.e. Administrative, Coordinators, Managers, and Directors. It is possible to be a hired as a Coordinator and have Manager level benefits. You just need to negotiate.

Last but not least, get everything you asked for in writing. You don’t want to be caught in a he said, she said battle.

Photo by: zzzack

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