Navigating Tricky Questions About Money

No different than many other areas of life, money can be a very sensitive subject to broach during a job interview. When an interviewer brings this topic to the table, just keep in mind financial compensation alone should not represent your sole ambition for employment. Naturally the rate of pay will factor into whether or not you decide to accept a potential job offer, but it’s always best to try to delay this portion of the interview until that offer has actually been made.

Employers can offer compensation and incentives beyond the base wage. For example, bonuses might be available upon achieving certain goals or benchmarks. If benefits are offered by a company, the trade-off is often ultimately worth more than a small difference in your paycheck. Finally, it’s important to keep in mind that a starting wage is often just that—an introductory rate that will increase after a certain amount of time has passed.

When questions are asked which relate to your salary expectations, seek a balanced response which shows that while you’re looking to earn fair market value, you’re not driven solely by money in your career.

Common Money-Related Questions

Job interview questions can be direct or indirect, but it’s usually fairly clear-cut when it comes to the subject of money. There are dozens of questions which might be asked in order to gauge your feelings on the subject. Consider the following examples:

  • ”What would be a comfortable starting rate if you were offered this job?”

  • “How much do you need to earn in order to be happy in life?”

  • “On a scale of one to 10, how important is money to you?”

    More often than not, this type of question will come later in your interview. An experienced interviewer is less likely to ask questions which relate to realistic employment if the applicant doesn’t appear to be viable for the position. With that being said, it’s important not to speak too early or too openly when it comes to finances.

    This is much of what makes the subject difficult to address. While ignoring or evading legitimate interview questions is never advisable, one must take a measured approach when talking about compensation. Fortunately, there are several professional approaches to the money question which can truly help you stand out as a focused candidate.

    Examples of Recommended Responses

    When faced with a question like those listed above, there are tactful ways to respond. The most important element to keep in mind is that money should never be conveyed as the exclusive or prevailing reason for your interest in the position you’re applying for. Any employer knows that one’s pay rate has a bearing on his or her decision about where to work; you won’t appear to be a pushover simply because you don’t take a hard-charging stance from the get-go.

    Seek balance when forming your response to questions about how much you would prefer to earn. Financial compensation has a good deal of influence over one’s quality of life, but so does one’s general satisfaction with their line of work. It’s a smart choice to seek out a position and company you’ll be happy working in, even if it’s not the absolute highest-paying option available to you—and an interviewer will likely be impressed to hear this as well.

    Just as it’s important to keep your answer rooted in a work-first mentality, avoid bringing the conversation to a personal place. For example, discussing particular financial needs or debts is not considered good form in a job interview. Employers base their wages on the value of employees by what they can provide to the company, not by their personal financial needs. This type of thought process can suggest that your focus is less on the job and more on what you can get out of it.

    It’s not always possible to ensure that a particular line of questioning will come up at the most opportune time for you during the interview. However, if there’s no smooth way to avoid a discussion about money, humbly approach the subject with confidence. Perform a bit of research prior to your interview to determine what your market value is according to your experience and the type of work you’re applying for. This way, you’ll enter into the discussion with the background information you need to provide an informed response.

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