Never Answer This Job Interview Question

“What are your salary requirements?”

That’s the question you never answer. It isn’t your responsibility. The hiring manager knows exactly what the salary range is for the position you are seeking. It’s in the department’s budget.

Why, then, does the hiring manager ask this question? The polite answer is the hiring manager has confused the cost of hiring you—or bringing you onboard—with the return on investment (ROI) that you offer. The more likely answer is that the organization is trying to exploit you. Or, perhaps, they are trying to minimize their investment. (Note: If a recruiter asks this question, this is a different scenario—they want to intercede for you—and make a proposal to the hiring manager to, at least, try to get you greater compensation based on your value).

How, then, do you answer this question? You tell the hiring manager the truth. I’m not a fan of memorizing pat answers to interview questions, but I would suggest something like this: “Of course, compensation is important; however, that’s not my primary concern. Right now, I want to be sure that I’m a good match for you—and your organization is a good match for me. Once we both know that, I promise we’ll return to the question of compensation.”

And that answer is the truth. For example, if I offered you $400,000 a year to take a job that required you to work 80 hours a week forever, would you take it? I suspect you wouldn’t. Just imagine yourself running on a treadmill at the YMCA 24/7, year after year …

Finally, when they speak about salary, you always respond with the word “compensation.” I advise my clients to characterize the company’s first offer as a good starting point.