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:

No. 1: "Turn the question around and ask about their budget."

Use interview jiu-jitsu to put you in the driver's seat. Let the interviewer fumble and mumble. Whatever dollar figure you are eventually presented, look off into the distance and pretend to think it over -- 15 minutes is about right -- before you respond, "Is that in American currency, or are we talking about Uzbekistani soms?"

This will embarrass the interviewer, who will definitely offer top dollar. Unless, of course, you are negotiating for a job in Uzbekistan, in which case, shut up. You've hit the jackpot.


No. 2: "Move past the question and go back to your qualifications."

Experts say you can duck the question with a response, like "That's not something I'm comfortable answering, but I'm happy to talk about my qualifications for this role." Experts also say that answering in this way "may be uncomfortable for you and the interviewers."

Even worse, it suggests that you may be one of those honest people with tons of integrity, who is not afraid to speak their mind to management. If this is what the interviewer suspects, you'll never get the job.

No. 3: "Do in-depth salary research before the interview."

Why do a lot of work in order to get a job that will be a lot of work? Instead, pick a number out of the air. Before the interview, take a stroll through the company parking lot, noting the types of vehicles you see. This is your multiplier. For example:

More than 25 Teslas -- double the number.

More than 25 bicycles -- cut the number in half.

More than three high-power, high-testosterone trucks like the Hennessey Chevrolet Silverado Goliath, or the Shelby Ford F-150 Super Snake or even one Humvee, even if it's pink -- you don't want to work here for any amount of money. Jump on your skateboard and head for the hills.

In the final analysis, the salary you're offered is never going to be the salary you want, but if you work hard enough, for long enough, you may eventually get the paycheck you deserve. In the meantime, don't forget the free kombucha.

You're worth it.


Bob Goldman was an advertising executive at a Fortune 500 company. He offers a virtual shoulder to cry on at To find out more about Bob Goldman and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at

Copyright 2023 Creators Syndicate, Inc.




The Argyle Sweater Caption It Cathy Dinette Set David Fitzsimmons BC