How to answer “What do we have to pay you?”

Never…ever suggest they don’t have to pay you.  What they pay for, they’ll value.  What they get for free, they’ll take for granted, and then demand as a right.  Hold them up for all the market will bear.  (Lois Bujold)

” How much less than $55,000 will you take as a base salary?”

You probably won’t be asked that particular question. It is brutally bad.

Employers hate to ask any money question.  It isn’t polite.  But, you and the employer need to be in the same salary ballpark. Wouldn’t you feel upset if after 3 interviews over a period of a month you were offered a salary of half of what you are willing to take?

What makes the money question worse is that you cannot give a solid answer and win.  If you give a number too high, they may refuse to continue the interviews.  If you give a number too low, they’ll pay that low number and not a higher one you could have gotten.

There is only one way to answer the question.  Start out with a compliment. Let them know where you are now.  Finally, tell them you want to hear their best offer.  Here’s an example:

“How much do we have to pay you?”

“I like this company.  The opportunity is just what I am looking forward to.  The team is a real winner too.  I currently earn a $63,000 base plus a bonus of $2500 last year.  I certainly wouldn’t want to earn less.  What I would like is to be able to entertain your best offer.”

This answer gives them information to work with.  It is not a refusal.  The heartfelt compliments at the start make them feel good.  You tell them what your baseline for comparison is.  Finally you give them a chance to be generous.

One final note: Don’t bring up money, benefits, vacation or “what’s in it for me” in the first interview.  Even the second interview is often the wrong place.  After they have decided to hire you is the best time to discuss money.  At that point they will feel a real loss if you decide their offer is too low.

Something To Do Today

Most people cannot clearly state what they earn.  I don’t know why.  Before you go on an interview write down the clearest way you can state your current earnings.  Then practice answering “the money question”.

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