Want a Bigger Salary? Just Ask!

Bob Goldman on

You're in a job interview and you're killing it. You aced the dreaded "Tell me about yourself" question" with a riveting narrative that ties your obsession with success to the humiliation you felt after your second-place finish in the third-grade spelling bee. You brought the interviewer to tears with your answer to the always challenging "What's your greatest weakness?"

(Yes, "working too hard" and "caring too much" are terrific weaknesses. Just don't forget, "being too modest.")

But now you face the question that strikes fear in the hearts of even the most confident job seekers.

"What are your salary expectations?"

This is not a question for which "a whole lot more money than I'm worth" is an acceptable answer. Respond with a number that's too low and you could end up working for bupkis. Give a number that's too high and the interviewer could look at your resume and start laughing.

Most of all, you don't want to be considered a babbling idiot as you ramble on incomprehensibly about money being an important factor, but not the most important factor, since the personal satisfaction factor is also an important factor, and, by the way, does the company offer free kombucha in the employee lounge?


All of which makes it essential that you read Amy Gallo's recent piece in the Harvard Business Review, "How to Answer 'What Are Your Salary Expectations?'"

Yes, Harvard graduates find salary negotiations challenging, almost as challenging as getting a potential employer to start every working day with a company-wide sing-along of "10,000 Men of Harvard," the college's rousing fight song. So, you shouldn't feel ashamed if you quiver and quake at the thought of asking for a few pennies in exchange for being chained to a desk for 30 years of hard labor.

As career strategist John Lees explains, "You're not in a position to negotiate well because you're still in unknown territory. The time to discuss salary is after they've fallen in love with you."

If experience both inside and outside the job market make you suspect that you're not the sort of person who generates love at first sight, you probably shouldn't expect an initial interview to end with a dozen red roses, a Whitman's Sampler and a stratospheric salary offer. But if the interviewer does pop the question, these pro tips could help:


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