How to Answer One of the Toughest Job Interview Questions


Salary questions are among the most important during an interview process, and can therefore be the most difficult to answer.

Megan Prosser, senior executive at recruiting specialist Robert Walters, says it’s important candidates recognize they have a say in what they want to earn.

In conversation with Cap speakProsser noted that the work environment is different from what it was before the Covid pandemic, changing the needs and demands of both employer and employee.

“I think there’s a perception when people interview that the employer owns all the cars, and we’re sort of cattle or pawns in that process, but that’s not the case,” said Prose.

South Africa is unique in that it does not follow the global trend of the “great resignation”; However, with high unemployment, South Africans often don’t have the luxury of resigning, Prosser said.

Candidates shouldn’t be shy about negotiating for more time and flexibility, especially when employed full-time, Prosser said.

Asked how potential employees should negotiate their salaries, Prosser and Labor Excel senior partner Silke Rathbone agreed that candidates should avoid email as a means of communication.

Prosser said the emails are prone to misunderstanding and gauge tone. It’s best to call or meet in person with the employer, HR department, or your recruiter if you want to negotiate salary expectations or need to discuss a move.

Rathbone said it’s fair to ask an employee what their salary expectations are. However, she stressed that employers should consider salary based on the candidate’s experience and the role they intend to fill.

Job seekers should only have the conversation at the end of the process, Rathbone said.

Be Confident and Do Research

Being brave enough to negotiate well can show the employer what skills you can bring to the organization, notes the recruiting firm Michael Page.

He said salary negotiation at the interview stage requires a lot of research. You will need to decide on your minimum and maximum salary requirements, consider the following:

  • What are other organizations offering for similar roles?
  • Salary surveys give up-to-date industry averages, you can base your proposal on these
  • Job postings often include a salary, take a look at the ones that match your location and level of experience
  • Speak to your Michael Page recruitment consultant, they are industry experts and can provide you with an accurate picture of what you are worth
  • Do you have friends/colleagues in the industry who could enlighten you?

The research will show the employer that you know your worth and won’t be misled, said Michael Page.

“Obviously you need enough money to live on, so don’t undersell yourself. Showcase your talents and experience, without being pushy. Using your research as a starting point, consider your personal needs and determine a reasonable salary range to negotiate with.

“Start your negotiations at the top of your salary range, this gives you leeway to discuss your needs with the employer. Make sure you know exactly what number you won’t go below, there’s no point waste your time or theirs.

The recruiting specialist said that if your potential employer isn’t budging on the salary but you still think you’re worth more than they’re offering, think about what other benefits you’d accept in lieu of the extra pay.

“Some organizations may offer additional training or flexible hours instead of focusing on salary negotiation at the interview stage. You also need to know whether or not there is room for promotion or opportunities to review the salary after the probationary period, so consider all the alternatives.

Nine tips for salary negotiation

job search site Glass door with Josh Doody, author of “Fearless Salary Negotiation,” gives the following nine tips when negotiating salaries:

1. “Currently,” as in “I am currently doing…”

The most common question recruiters will ask a candidate is something like, “So where are you currently in terms of salary, and what are you looking for if you make that choice?” ” Do not fall into the trap.

“I call it the dreaded salary question and it’s tricky because it usually comes up early in the interview process, and most candidates don’t consider it part of a salary negotiation even though it’s the case,” says Doody. “Answering this question by disclosing numbers can make it very difficult to negotiate effectively later, as it can lock in the candidate.

Once they disclose the current or desired salary, the offers they receive are very likely to be tied to those numbers. This can be very expensive if the company offered them a much higher salary than what they disclosed.

2. “Desired”, as in “My desired salary is…”

Do not disclose your current or desired salary! “Recovering from this mistake can be tricky and each situation is unique. But one way to break away from those initial numbers is to review the benefit package for the gaps,” says Doody. “If the health insurance offer, vacation pay, target bonus, or other aspects of the benefits package are disappointing, the candidate may use these as reasons for asking for a higher salary to compensate.”

Instead, try something like:

  • I am not comfortable splitting my current salary.
  • I would rather focus on the value I can add to this business rather than what I’m getting paid in my current job.
  • I don’t have a hard number in mind for a desired salary, and you know better than I what value my skills and experience could bring to your company.
  • I want this move to be a big step forward for me in terms of responsibility and compensation.

3. “Sorry”

According to Doody, “negotiation is uncomfortable and our natural tendency is to try to smooth the edges of a difficult conversation. Apologizing could signal to the recruiter or hiring manager that you might be ready to back down, which could be expensive. Don’t apologize for negotiating.

4. “No” and other negative words

“You want to continually improve your situation throughout the negotiation and you do this by avoiding negative language and focusing on positive language. Instead of “No, it doesn’t work for me.” (two negative words) you can say, “I would be more comfortable with…” (positive words). Negative words slow things down and can build walls that make collaboration difficult. Using only positive words is difficult at first, but you’ll get better with practice.

5. “Yes”

While that might seem like the exact word to use when talking to a recruiter, Doody insists it should be used with caution. “You will often receive a job offer that seems really attractive, and it may be much more than you expected. Your instinct, in this case, might be to simply accept the offer because it’s so good.

“You may have underestimated your worth in this situation. Instead of “Yes”, make a counter offer to see how much you can improve it. The negotiation should end when the company says “Yes” to you. Once they’ve said ‘Yes’ to you, or you have nothing more to ask for, you’re done negotiating.”

6. “Later”, as in “I can deal with it after I start”.

Procrastinators, this one’s for you. “Sometimes it’s easier to avoid the uncomfortable parts of a negotiation by postponing those parts of the conversation until after you’re hired. This can be a very costly mistake as you won’t have the same leeway to negotiate and improve your position once at the door. Overcome the discomfort and get the best possible result now,” advises Doody.

7. Try, as in “Can we try…?”

“Trying is a passive word that leaves a lot of wiggle room, and you don’t want that,” Doody insists. “It’s easy for someone to say – honestly or not – ‘We’re going to try…’ and respond with ‘We tried and it just didn’t work. Don’t ask them to “try” to do something. Instead, use more positive language like “I’d be more comfortable with it.”

8. More, as in “I want more…”

Although this word seems counterintuitive because you are negotiating to get more, it is too general a word for successful negotiation. Instead of asking for “more” pay or “more” vacation, now is the time to be specific.

“Don’t leave things to the imagination once you negotiate. Instead of “Could you move on the salary?” say, “I’d be more comfortable with a base salary of $105,000.” » »

9. Want

Finally, the word “want” can cause negotiations to fail.

Using it can undermine the whole premise of your argument that you deserve to be paid more and that you deserve a more competitive salary. Enter a negotiation with facts and figures, presenting a convincing argument.

“You could talk about whatever you want, which just isn’t that important. Or you can talk about what the business wants, which isn’t as powerful as talking about what the business needs, which is the most important thing,” adds Doody. “Focus on the needs of the business and how you can help meet those needs so they can easily see your value and work to compensate you.

Find the full article on Glassdoor, here

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