How to Handle the Money Question in an Interview

Of all the issues for an automotive-quality professional to deal with in an interview, this can be the “stickiest” part of all. The ease or difficulty also depends quite heavily on if you are negotiating for yourself or if you have a recruiter doing it for you. In either case, what do you do when this question comes along:

“So, how much money will it take to get you on board?”

This is a big trap, so watch out.  The trap also gets bigger the more comfortable you feel with the hiring manager. It is a trap with no winner, and here is why:

The hiring manager sitting across the table has a specific number in mind as to what they would like to pay you. This has been running through their mind as the interview progresses: It’s a complex formula consisting of your background, interview performance, their staff’s pay range and a number with which they can safely give you some raises in the near future.

Since the number has already been formulated, your answer can only bring three potential responses:

  1. You came in low: You’ve just shot yourself in the foot. They will likely make you the low offer and put the remainder back in their pocket. You may also be perceived as weak or not confident in what you are worth.
  2. You came in high: Now, you may never even receive an offer. They may view you as cocky or arrogant. As you verbally state the number, the hiring manager is immediately visualizing begging their boss for the extra money, and you are the one making them do this.
  3. You hit the number exactly: This is what they’ll pay you, and not a cent more. Who’s to say we couldn’t have negotiated a few thousand more for you? Again, you’ve just shot yourself in the foot.

There is only one answer for the money question:  “I’m talking with you today focusing on the opportunity, not the money. However, I am interested [if, in fact, you are] and would consider your very strongest offer.”

Don’t be afraid to tell them what you are currently earning:

  1. Base salary only: Just tell them the number.
  2. Base salary plus overtime: “My compensation is [add the two amounts and give one figure] $xyz per year.” If they ask what your base and overtime figures are each, then tell them the numbers separately.
  3. Base salary plus bonus: “My compensation is [add the two numbers and give one figure] $xyz per year.” If they ask what your base and bonus figures are each, then tell them the numbers separately.

If you have a review coming up within the next five to six months, make sure to say, “I also have my review in four months. Last year, I received a (x)% raise. I have a copy of that review with me, if you’d like to see it.” Offering proof is the strongest negotiating position you can take.  What you are saying here is, ‘Hey, I got (x)% last year and earned it. We are more than halfway through this year. You really need to add this to your offer.’

It is obvious, from this point forward, how much help it is to have a professional negotiator, who does this all the time, taking care of the tough work. As contingency recruiters, the formula is simple: The more money you get; the more money we get.