Salary requirements: How do you answer this tricky question?

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Question: "Every admin job I apply for asks me about my salary requirements and how much I made at my last position. I guess I still haven’t figured out the right response to this—whether to be perfectly honest, undervalue myself to get a better chance at being hired, or shoot for the moon. Which answer really gets the best results?” – Sam, High School Secretary

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{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

Cathy May 30, 2013 at 7:17 pm

It’s good to wait to discuss salary until the interview gets to the point where you are for sure being considered for the position. With this in mind, when the question is posed (which is before I believe the company may offer me the position) I respond by saying that salary is not the most important thing to me, as I really want to make sure the position is a good match for both of us. I also like what Susan said, to turn the question back on the interviewer. I’ve also asked what the salary range is during phone interviews, so as not to waste anyone’s time if the range is too low.

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Patricia W May 30, 2013 at 4:33 pm

I know this sounds weird but my salary requirements are on my cover letter. As an executive assistant, it weeds out jobs that are lower level…ie, I don’t want to waste time interviewing for a position that stated it is for an executive assistant, but they really need an admin. for a group of managers. I’ve always managed to obtain higher paying positions w/ C-level executives, my salary requirements have not been a deterent.

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Lauren May 28, 2013 at 8:57 am

I agree that research is the key. There are so many websites that will offer you pay ranges based on your position and experience. As a one time employer I preffered to hear what you feel your skills are experience are worth based on your own research. I actually did take a position that paid less than what I was being paid and since I was honest about it on my resume/app it was easily talked about in my interview where I could explain that the other benefits of the position made it worth it for me to take a lower salary.

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Madeline Case May 25, 2013 at 7:48 pm

What I usually do is go on ONET.ONE (I do believe that is the sight) to research the type of position and the city I will be working on. Based on that, no only will the H.R. person and the prospective department manager knows I have skills in using the internet and be a possible good fit for the company.

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Lynn May 23, 2013 at 5:44 pm

If they ask what you made at your last job, be honest. Many companies do a reference check. If you lied about your salary, they will find out and your chances of getting the position go out the window. When asked what your salary requirements are, give them a range to work with. Decide what your bottom line is and don’t go below that or you will not be happy in the position. Remember to figure in the benefits including commute, parking, and job flexibility.

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Karen May 23, 2013 at 5:07 pm

Good answers so far. If the question is on the application, I’d either put “negotiable” or “will discuss at interview”. If the question is brought up at the interview, do as Susan said and turn the question back on the interviewer, asking if there is a set range for the position. Do not ask for less than you deserve unless you’re in dire straits or the job is your dream job.

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Cindy Jennings May 23, 2013 at 5:03 pm

Sam, I would advise that you answer the question honestly. A skilled interviewer asks every question with a purpose, and sometimes it may be to determine something other than the answer. If you lie, they can determine that with references and could eliminate you then and there. If you evade the question, they might infer that you have something to hide. Be direct and be honest. Deflection, dishonesty and desperate behaviors are not traits most companies desire!! Good luck to you in your search to enhance your career!!

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Anita May 23, 2013 at 4:56 pm

I would research the pay scale on websites such as payscale.com and monster.com to see what is a realistic range might be, so I would not seem too desperate, too overconfident or too unprepared. There should be a range you walk into an interview, for which you are confident asking. Remember that there may be perks making a smaller salary worth the sacrifice – such as health benefits;vacation time; sick time; skills you really want to learn; paid college tuition, for example.

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Pauline May 23, 2013 at 4:46 pm

I would say, “What is the salary range for this position?” Then I would respond with a number half way between the midpoint and the end. Hopefully this would secure the position without placing me out of the running.

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Anne May 23, 2013 at 4:32 pm

I would respond that I am making a bit more than I actually was in my current position. That would hopefully give you some wiggle room for salary negotiations.

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Susan May 23, 2013 at 4:15 pm

I was taught to turn that question back on the interviewer. As in: “How much do you believe the position is worth?” or, make certain you know the salary range for your industry and place yourself where your skills place you. However, if you really want the job, just through the old “negotiable” response back.

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