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This question already has an answer here:

I've always read that you should not give specific "salary range" numbers during the interview, but rather -wait until the end.

However, I was recently asked in a phone interview just that . i.e what is my salary range. I really felt awkward and after I gave the "waiting til an offer" story, my interviewer was clearly peeved.

It's a big corporation and they have somewhat low entry-salaries. I guess they want to weed out anybody with unrealistically high expectations?

What is a diplomatic way to avoid giving any numbers?

marked as duplicate by jcmeloni, jmac, bytebuster, IDrinkandIKnowThings, CincinnatiProgrammer Jun 21 '13 at 13:28

This question has been asked before and already has an answer. If those answers do not fully address your question, please ask a new question.

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    I don't see this as a duplicate of that question, one is "what is your current salary" and this is "what is your salary range?" which are very different. – enderland Jun 18 '13 at 16:48
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    @enderland In my experience, the range of answers to this question are going to be the same as for the linked question. The underlying question is really "do I answer this question about money when asked" (so maybe we edit one or the other and make it so, I dunno). If I were to write an answer to this question, it would be almost exactly like the accepted answer on the other question. – jcmeloni Jun 18 '13 at 16:52
  • Just remember that the low end of the salary range you provide becomes the MAX that they will pay you. Best of luck. – Bob Jarvis Apr 29 '15 at 11:52
  • My response, peeved or not... "I'd like [company] to pay me what I'm worth to you". – Matt Apr 30 '15 at 4:06
  • @Matt - what if they turnaround with "Well, what do you think you are worth?" – Adel Apr 30 '15 at 19:11
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If you must answer, something like

Well,when researching this position, glassdoor, payscale, and other sources suggest the range of pay generally is between $XX,XXX and $YY,YYY in total compensation

They almost assuredly know this information already. So all you do is tell them, "you can't low-ball me since I did research to know what my skill set is worth in comparable positions, I did research too."

Just don't use incorrect numbers...

Note this is "total compensation" not "salary" for reasons DJClayworth's answer talks about.


If you want to avoid even more and are decently assertive, try something like:

Well, it's a bit early in the process for this, I would rather first ensure a good fit before getting too much into the details of salary.

Note that if you are in an initial phone screen this might be harder to avoid because at that point you haven't convinced the HR person you are worth hiring. So whatever you say, make sure you make it clear you are not doing this because "I don't want to answer" but "I'm working with you in this process."

  • It also allows you to open the door to discussion over non-monetary compensation items. If they can't offer you a salary high enough, can you negotiate 4 or 5 wk of vacation instead of the standard 2 or whatever would make up the difference to you. – DLS3141 Feb 11 '16 at 18:47
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I would say:

"It's really hard to tell, because you haven't explained exactly what the job entails - also you haven't told me what the benefits package is like, and that makes a big difference to what salary I expect. What sort of salary range do you have in mind for this position?"

The benefits of this are:

  1. It is completely true. You shouldn't talk salary numbers until you've seen the benefits package. A 6% pension match, 4 weeks of vacation, comprehensive healthcare package, or a 20% annual bonus all make a big difference to how much salary you expect.
  2. It doesn't give a number first

Although part of the reason you were asked is the negotiation game, the other part is the interviewer wants to make sure he doesn't spend many hours giving you a second interview, filling in paperwork and doing background checks only to discover that your expectations and their ability to pay are tens of thousands of dollars apart. Try to find a way to reassure them that your expectations aren't excessive.

  • Thank You So Much! I need to remember the hidden but very important factors like the benefits package! – Adel Jun 18 '13 at 17:12
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As far as not providing your salary range I have the opinion that to not do so, places you at a disadvantage on the following grounds:

Initial offers have a stronger influence on the outcome of negotiations than subsequent counteroffers

The opportunity to set yourself at the top of the market range

  • Wikipedia - Stereotyping. This is linked to the next point...
  • By stating a salary range upfront, and one that is at the top of the range, you may cause an illusory correlation, i.e., "perceiving a relationship between variables (typically people, events, or behaviors) even when no such relationship exists". In other words, you are creating an image in the mind of the interviewer that your skill level is high, and this is being created by them making a relationship from your high salary range to what they perceive to be your skill level. By inferring your skill set is higher than average, you make yourself more desirable from an employment perspective, and therefore more worthy of a higher salary. This basically creates a positive feedback loop. Now I'm not saying your skills are illusory, just that people have the ability to make illusory correlations, and if they do, then this can be used to your advantage.

Time for the "small print"

  • Do a little reading on what you can gain, and what you can lose, by entering into proactive negotiations (my emphasis, not a term as far as I'm aware).

  • Here is a little piece on a few different hypotheses as to what prevents people from initiating negotiations: Social incentives for gender differences in the propensity to initiate negotiations: Sometimes it does hurt to ask. If you haven't read research articals before, start at the conclusion (the end), then go back to the start and read the intro, and if you wish to gain deeper understanding of what the research studied, move into the theory/empirical proof last.

  • A couple of quotes out of the above article:

    • "If the expected economic gains were large enough to outweigh the social costs, then the rational course of action would be to initiate negotiations, in spite of the social costs."
    • "If the social costs and their long-term career implications outweighed the benefits of higher compensation, then reticence would be the more prudent choice"

Caveats

  • This same information can be used against you.
  • For example, do NOT state your current salary, as you will have induced the above cognitive biases to work against you, rather than for you. To get out of answering current salary questions just simply state that:

My salary was one which was set x years ago, and isn't reflective of my current skills and experience, nor is it reflective of the current market conditions. The range of $x to $y that I'm looking for accurately and fairly represents my skills.

Arguments against some of the other advice given on this page

  • While Glassdoor, et el, can provide you a good starting place for ranges, realise that sites like this have a heavy sampling bias, i.e., "some members of the intended population are less likely to be included than others". This just means whether or not your age, gender, ethnicity, and geography are a good match with those that have answered, is open to question. Note I have only listed possible demographic factors here, other factors may be taken into account as well, e.g., job experience, and skills.

  • Another question you might ask is if you were to drill into Glassdoor results and tried to match on the demographic factors, plus job role specific factors, is the actual sample large enough from which to draw a meaningful conclusion from in the first place (in technical terms, does the the average [typically the median, and not the mean with respect to salary] and the standard deviation have any statictical significance)? In terms of the factors that matched you, and what you bring to the table, I would argue no. In the aggregate, i.e., everyone, I would assume yes, and believe so due to the law of large numbers and the central limit therom (which incedently are the two very "rules" that make me argue against specific results that come from sites such as Glassdoor, et el., because your specific situation will not have enough data to compare to). These theorems just say that when the data sample you are drawing conclusions from is large enough, your conclusions about what can be expected are stable, and vice versa.

  • Salary data is usually shown with the median, this is the middle value, i.e., line 99 people up in order of their salary, and the 50th person in line is the salary that is reported. You need to ask yourself if this is representative of you. Here is a good example of what I mean, note how much higher the mean is than the median, and how far the "top of the range" is away from the mean, let alone the median.

  • Glassdoor, et el, are salaries of the past. Do you want a job that pays according to 2008-2009 conditions?! Even if you try and limit results to exclude salaries from 2008-2009 and only show salaries from the past 12 months, for example, then again we run into the problem of possibly not having enough data from which to draw valid conclusions from.

  • Not all "superstars" put their salary information online, even in "anonymous" pools such as those suggested, and even if they did, are there enough of them in the data pool from which you intend to draw valid conclusions from? I also refer back to my initial point of anchoring, along with the skewed picture of salaries, I bet some of those salary superstars are asking for top of the range, and doing so first.

  • As far as worrying about expectations, and not upsetting people, use the filters on job sites to limit roles that have your skills and across various salary ranges. Take note of how many results turn up for each search you do. This can give you a gauge of current market conditions. Granted this suffers from all the statistical conerns I've raised so far, but if you're willing to use GLassdoor to help you find a middle-of-the-road salary, then why not use the job site filters that are readily available. Also, there are a few good little tidbits of advice on job sites, such as:

"If you are willing to play hard ball in your salary negotiations, then that should send a signal to your prospective employer that you will be equally tenacious in your dealings on their behalf."

Final words of caution

  • Wikipedia has only been used as references in answering this question to provide quick information to the topics I've raised. Wikipedia is not considered robust, and you really should carry out your own research to further your understanding of what you think is pertinent. I've aimed to provide the topics as a "seed" to allow you , and others if they wish, to seek more and not just listen to, in my opinion, that which has been disproven, i.e. to not throw out the first number.

  • My opinions are just that, opinions, but I have tried to provide some evidence to back them up (albeit some of it very basic).

Further reading

As you have inherently touched on the subject of negotiation, then a bit of extra reading to arm yourself in such encounters may help (I am in no way endorsing these, but provide them for completeness):

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    Hi iValueValue, this is an excellent first post! Welcome to The Workplace! :) – jmort253 Jun 19 '13 at 14:30
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Look, there's usually a good reason to ask the figures. Especially in "big" companies where those you interview with and even who give the offer has limited power over the content.

If there's no intersection of the ranges, going ahead with the interview is just waste of time.

And nothing forbids to provide a very wide range, stating that it is the "abstract" and it depends on very many factors, related to workplace. And at the point you can't fill the variables, but expect to get wiser on the interview.

  • I agree, thank you so much. And in re: to And nothing forbids to provide a very wide range, stating that it is the "abstract" and it depends on very many factors, related to workplace. - yes, in retrospect, I could have given a wide range and mentioned what you said. I realize now, that would have been more diplomatic. Thank You Very Much! – Adel Jun 18 '13 at 17:10

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