Tough Interview Questions: How Much Are You Looking For?

How much are you looking for?

If you try to answer this question for them without any thought, in advance, you’re shooting yourself in the foot.  That’s because of the tendency people have to shoot too high or shoot too low.  It is just human nature.  Suddenly, the perspiration starts falling on your forehead and they’re looking for it and . . . It kind of reminds me of the 1st time I ate that you on food when I was 20 years old (in case you haven’t noticed, I’m not 20 anymore).  The people in a restaurant in New York at 2 a.m. when I was in there who were listening to what the non-Asian people were ordering and gambling at how we would take them to break a sweat.

So, the HR person or the hiring manager is asking this question and is looking to see how much you sweat when you answer because they know what the right answer because that’s what they have in their budget and you don’t. So, it’s 1 of those unfair questions.  So, here is what I want to do.

Before you go to an interview, you have to have done some research as to what the market value is for what you do.  Recognize, a lot of what’s published online is way out of line and is for the perfect individual.  You know the one who works for the prestige firm in your market area or it’s for an urban area and you’re in Sioux City, Iowa and there’s no way someone is going to pay the same amount of money as what they’re paying to someone in the Bay area for example.

So, recognize these pay differences but still do some homework.  You will start to notice some patterns in the advertising that you research at some of the online sites for salary and that you may notice when you speak with friends.

So, number 1, do your homework.

Number 2, identify a bottom number, what I call, “the rock-bottom base salary,” exclusive of bonus that you would find acceptable to join the staff of a firm.   Then, go up from there and start looking at a minimally acceptable number in your market area for the work that you do.  Then, you want to identify the one that would make you happy.

So, 3 different sets of numbers – – one that would really make you happy is the top 1; the bottom one is what I call the rock-bottom base salary, exclusive of bonus that you’ll find acceptable to join the staff of the firm and still pay your bills and there’s a middle number that’s minimally acceptable in your market area.

So, the next thing you do is throw out the bottom number, the rock-bottom base salary, get rid of it and keep that in your hip pocket in case you need it.  But for this conversation, you offer the middle number and you offer the top number and just be quiet at that point.  The game plan is you listen to them.  

“That seems like a lot.  Could you be a little flexible?”

“That depends upon what I hear from here.  Obviously, if it’s a job that doesn’t suit my needs, I’m not going to be flexible at all.  You are not going to want to hire me because I’m not going to be happy.  But, at the end of the day, I can start by saying I can be a little flexible.  I don’t want to think I would go $50,000 less, right?”

Just leave it at that.  Don’t negotiate against yourself in the room.  Just say, “Let’s work with this range for now.”


Ⓒ The Big Game Hunter, Inc., Asheville, NC 2020



Jeff Altman, The Big Game HunterJeff Altman, The Big Game Hunter is a coach who worked as a recruiter for what seems like one hundred years. His work involves career coaching, all as well as executive job search coaching, job coaching, and interview coaching. He is the host of “No BS Job Search Advice Radio,” the #1 podcast in iTunes for job search with more than 1800 episodes, and is a member of The Forbes Coaches Council.

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Jeff Altman, The Big Game Hunter
Jeff Altman, The Big Game Hunter

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