We all have different motivations for going to work but for the majority, it’s the usual reason, ‘to pay the bills’, so when the recruiter asks you what the lowest salary is that you’ll accept you may be forgiven for being a little stumped as well as fearful that you are about to blow your chances of being paid the figure that was in the recruiter’s mind which may be higher than the one you have just said. Here is some guidance on how to ensure you land a good deal.

How much salary you are looking for is becoming a more frequent question but it tends to be from recruiters rather than hiring managers because it’s the recruiting agents job to match you with the most suitable job available and that not only means for your skill set and experience but also for the pay on offer. It’s very rare therefore that you’ll be in an interview with the prospective employer and for them to ask you this question, as the recruiter should already have passed this information on. This may not be the case if it’s a small business or for those businesses that have handled the advertising and sourcing of candidates themselves, however.

Prepare your answer:  The first thing to do therefore is to prepare your answer and you need to consider carefully the job on offer, your experience and skills and how this matches the job that is being advertised. If you are extremely close to what they are looking for then you can expect to ask for the stated salary but if the job is a step up for you then you may need to factor that in to what is on offer. Remember that you do need to state an actual amount because they have asked the question because they are looking for an actual figure. Give the number first and the explanation second.

Put your emotions to one side: A lot of people feel uncomfortable talking about money and pay but you need to put your emotions and manners to one side because this is a key part of the employment contract and you need to get it right, otherwise you may regret the fact that you didn’t get the salary you deserve. The recruiter is not being rude by asking you this important question they are merely ensuring they put you forward for a job that meets your salary expectations. Think of it as if you are buying a house and you only want to look at houses that are within your budget, similarly if the recruiter started to show you jobs that were either below or above your salary expectations you wouldn’t be very happy either because it is either not enough or much higher but you aren’t suitably qualified for the role. Give the recruiter a range within which you are prepared to work, with a bottom figure and a top figure attached.

Caveat your answer: You may want to caveat your answer by considering what is important to you and whether you would accept a lower salary for a job that is located either close to your home, gives you great experience or promotion opportunities, is flexible if you are working parent or is exactly the job or company you have always wanted to work in. These are all valid reasons for why you may take a salary hit for the job that works best for your personal circumstances.

Forget the risk:  Many people worry that they will ask for a salary that is lower than the recruiter or employer would have offered, whilst others worry that they will be asking for a salary that is above what is on offer. But the risk of saying nothing is the same as saying a number because if you refuse to put a figure forward the recruiter may send you for jobs that are not in line with your salary expectations or you may go through a rigorous selection process only to find out that you cannot take the job because it doesn’t pay the right amount of money or it is paid at a much higher rate but you are not suitable for the role and don’t have the right level of experience or skills to fulfil it.

Do your research: If you are being put forward for a job at a particular firm then you should do your research because you will be best equipped to answer the question about what salary you will accept if you know what the going rate is for that level of job within the firm you are interested in working for. You can also look for benchmarking data for the industry and sector you work in and scour the job advertisement websites for advertised salaries for similar jobs. This will all give you a good idea of a realistic salary range to work within.

Remember that the best way to approach an interview is to be prepared and this not only applies for the questions you might be asked about how your experience and skills fit the job on offer but also for the salary that they wish to pay, because no matter how good you are, if they can’t afford you, it’s probably better to find that out sooner rather than as far down the interview stage as a firm offer.

Author: Annie Hayes