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The Best Way to Handle Discussing Salary in an Interview

You’ve spent a lot of time and energy devoted to your job search, and it’s paid off: the interview is going fantastic and you feel great. But then comes the dreaded question of salary.

Discussing salary in an interview typically centers around what you’ve made in prior positions and/or what you’re looking to earn in this potential position, but discussing these potentially sensitive topics doesn’t come naturally to all. Here are some tips on how to handle discussing salary during your next interview.

First, keep in mind that while a salary discussion is different from a salary negotiation, it can lay the right foundation for a future negotiation. Check out this career advice article if you’re looking for tips on negotiating salary and benefits.  

While discussing salary may make you uncomfortable during an interview, keep in mind that employers ask salary questions simply to see if a close match exists between the salary they’ll be offering and your expectations. A close match to the salary range can indicate that it’s more likely you’ll accept an offer.

Before going into a job interview, be prepared to discuss your salary history. If your past salary is significantly different (either higher or lower) than what you currently expect, be prepared to address and explain the differences, but keep in mind that a total compensation package should include benefits and not just salary.

If you’re unsure of your salary expectations, before your interview or even before you start your job search, take some time to do research and determine the salary ranges for someone with your experience and skills, in the industry you’re interviewing in as well as the geographical area. A salary in a small town in Ohio can be vastly different than San Francisco due to the cost of living.

The hiring manager may also skip over discussing past salary and instead just ask what your salary expectations for this position are. This is different than discussing your specific past salary, so there is more latitude in the salary discussion. In general, at this stage of the interviewing process, it’s appropriate to use a range rather than a specific figure.

Keep in mind that during a job interview, discussing salary is simply a discussion and not a negotiation. Answer the hiring manager’s interview honestly and you’ll lay the foundation for negotiating a great salary later in the process.

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Write your resume like a pro.

TopResume's resume worksheet is just like the one our pros use. Download it now for free and start getting more interviews!