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Recruiters never skip the opportunity to ask that hideous open-ended question about your salary expectations. It’s no wonder this tricky subject strikes horror in the guts of seasoned experts, they go in cold and instantly turn the thermostat up to 40˚. It’s nothing short of off-putting and frankly when you have applied for a position with salary information already at hand, there’s the answer. Without the information in the advert; the answer is that you want all the money, obviously. Who wants to work for less? With that in mind, this is the ultimate answer to the salary question – because you’ll have to answer it at some point anyway.

A Matter of Practicality

The reason employers and recruiters need to get down to the Rands and cents is first and foremost for practical reasons. Every business has a budget and they want to know whether you fit within that budget. Secondly, they want to know how you see yourself; whether you undervalue your skills and ability or if you have an inflated opinion of yourself. Of course, the questions prior to and following the salary question will further elucidate and give context to your answer.

What are You Making Now?

‘What are you making now?’ follows shortly behind, ‘what salary are you looking for?’. Another test to see whether your current employer values you and whether you are getting a competitive salary now. The trouble here is that we all want to earn more than our current salary but the lower it is the more room they have to negotiate with you. As unethical as it may sound, most often employers are looking for bargains. The ones who see your value beyond that do still however exist.

Don’t Take the Bait

Ideally, you want to avoid talking exact numbers too soon, if they aren’t sold on you yet, you run the risk of souring the deal early on. Rather hold out until you are able to negotiate better. They might want to know whether you fit within their budget right from the start but sometimes with a bit of negotiating both parties can find common ground. If you are pushed for an answer rather offer them a salary range.

Room for Negotiation

If you wait until the right moment to furnish their salary questions with the specifics, you will have time to bolster your answer with your concerns about the broader perspective of the position. If you discuss finding the right fit and earning a competitive salary while drawing attention to your skillset and experience, you are more likely to get a positive response.

Don’t Lose the Offer Altogether

If you bungle the question you can lose the offer altogether. Such topics need to be handled with care and tact. If you start the discussion too early and go in too high you will actually look like an egotistical chop. It’s better to leave the topic for as long as possible so that you can accurately gauge how interested they are in you. Most importantly you need to prepare yourself for the question and prepare your answer in advance because you can’t be sure when it will come.

The most important thing to remember over and above all of the topics above is that if you sell yourself short you risk suffering the repercussions to your career for an indefinite amount of time. If the company is great but the offer is underwhelming you need to figure out whether you are asking too much or whether to walk away. After all, how happy will you be when you can’t pay your bills?