The money question
The money question always comes up in job interviews. If you are a candidate looking at a new position, you can safely assume the person on the other side of the desk will ask some form of the money question. Your answer is difference between moving forward and being eliminated.
In an interview, the employer has four basic questions in mind. However they dress them up, whatever creative spin they put on them, employers really want to know four things:
1. Who are you?
2. Why are you here?
3. What can you do for me?
4. How much will it cost?
That final question can make or break the situation. If you answer it wrong, you're done. The correct answer is non - numerical. A number, whether too high or too low, is ALWAYS wrong.
The employer will invariably ask something like, "How much money do you need to consider for this position?" Or else, "What will it take for you to come to work for our company?"
If you want to be considered for the position do NOT, under any circumstances, give a numerical answer. The correct answer is something on the order of, "I'm here to discuss the position and assess my fit with your organization. I want to make sure my talents are a good match for the duties you're outlining. You're probably thinking along the same lines. I am sure, if we get to that place, we can reach an accommodation."
Why answer that way? Because it's the truth.
The demand - interest barometer tells us that, for a candidate, as demands go up, interest goes down. And as interest goes up, demands go down. If you as a candidate articulate a number too early in the process, you're drawing a line in the sand and creating an impression that you're more about reward than effort, more about price than value.
A number which is either too high or too low is wrong for several reasons.
The interviewer will eliminate you from consideration if you articulate a number that's too high. Whether they can afford the amount you say or whether you're worth that amount is immaterial. If you as the candidate create the impression that you overvalue your skills (in other words say any number above the range they've calculated), they are concerned you will never "settle" for the amount they're offering. So they will remove you from the process.
Conversely, if you say a number that's too low, you might inadvertently wind up accepting compensation less than the amount the company budgeted because that's what you said. You reduced your ability to negotiate because you have too little information.
Over the years, in coaching people on successful interviewing techniques, the money question is the one where people stumble most often. Many times people will tell me, "I just wasn't prepared for the question ... the number just popped out of my mouth." Or else they will say, "I told her $X because I think I'm worth it."
Bottom line, it doesn't matter what YOU think you're worth. The magic number is always somewhere in the range between what they want to pay and what you think you should get. I've been in career coaching and recruiting for 20 years. This has been my experience.
When the employer asks, "How much ... ? " the right answer is, "We'll know when we get there." If they ask again, insisting on an answer, defer diplomatically a second time. Something on the order of, "I appreciate you want a number. I'm a little uncomfortable making anything which could be perceived as a demand at this early stage. I'm interested in the position and would like to learn more."
And if they ask a third time, the correct answer is, "My year to date compensation is $Z."
But why give a number that way? Simple. It's a statement of fact, not an estimate of self-esteem. You compensation is verifiable. An employer can ask for and receive verification of income. You pay taxes. Your income is a public record. In the real world, your current or most recent employer valued you at an identified level. That's the number to share.
So ... don't get caught by the money question. Role play with a friend or practice in the mirror. Be prepared for this inevitable question. Your ability to answer the money question with an non-answer can get you the job or get you more money for the job you really want.