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Salary Interview
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10 Questions and Answers by Rachelle Enns

Updated June 29th, 2018 | Rachelle is a job search expert, career coach, and headhunter
who helps everyone from students to fortune executives find success in their career.
Question 1 of 10
What are your salary expectations?
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How to Answer
In many states, it is now illegal for hiring authorities to ask about your current earnings. A question like this will give the interviewer a solid idea of what you are hoping to earn. When you change positions, you want to see an increase in wage. Most interviewees will typically aim for a 7-15% increase for each time they change jobs. This range offers room for negotiations with the new company. This percentage increase reflects economic inflation, unique skills you bring to the table from the last time you joined an organization, and an increase in responsibilities. The best way to discuss your salary expectations is to use your current earnings as an example if you are comfortable doing so. If this makes you uncomfortable, do give as many indicators as you can. Be open, and honest. Transparency is the best choice when salary based questions arise.

If you are newer to your career, or the area, and are unsure of what a fair ask may be, there are many reliable salary calculators available online.
10 Salary Interview Questions
Win your next job by practicing from our question bank. We have thousands of questions and answers created by interview experts.
  1. What are your salary expectations?
  2. Do you feel performance should be rewarded over experience?
  3. How do you feel about performance incentives?
  4. How would you prefer to be compensated?
  5. What is your current salary?
  6. Are you comfortable being paid on a 100% commission basis?
  7. Do you feel that you are currently paid what you are worth?
  8. Is compensation the most important factor for you when taking a new job?
  9. What is the most amount of money you have ever earned? Why did you leave that position?
  10. Will you be willing to take a salary cut?
10 Salary Answer Examples
1.
What are your salary expectations?
In many states, it is now illegal for hiring authorities to ask about your current earnings. A question like this will give the interviewer a solid idea of what you are hoping to earn. When you change positions, you want to see an increase in wage. Most interviewees will typically aim for a 7-15% increase for each time they change jobs. This range offers room for negotiations with the new company. This percentage increase reflects economic inflation, unique skills you bring to the table from the last time you joined an organization, and an increase in responsibilities. The best way to discuss your salary expectations is to use your current earnings as an example if you are comfortable doing so. If this makes you uncomfortable, do give as many indicators as you can. Be open, and honest. Transparency is the best choice when salary based questions arise.

If you are newer to your career, or the area, and are unsure of what a fair ask may be, there are many reliable salary calculators available online.

Rachelle's Answer #1
"Currently, I earn a base salary of $45,000 per year, and I would like to earn slightly higher in my next position, as I have additional certifications since my last salary negotiation took place."
Rachelle's Answer #2
"As I am new to my career and this industry, I am happy to negotiate my earnings based on your typical salary for this role. From my research, I see that the average junior administrator in the Chicago area earns an annual salary in the $45K range."
2.
Do you feel performance should be rewarded over experience?
The interviewer would like to know your thoughts on being paid based on your work performance, versus being compensated solely on your years of experience. As millennial employees continue to dominate the work scene, more and more employees are requesting compensation based on delivered results. Do you feel that you should be paid based on tenure, or results? Discuss this with the interviewer and back your answer with an example, if possible.

Rachelle's Answer #1
"I feel that employees should be paid, and rewarded, based on their performance. A new employee will find motivation in being rewarded for performance, and it encourages a healthy competition with tenured employees."
Rachelle's Answer #2
"As a high performer myself, I know it feels great to be compensated based on my performance. It's motivating and, in my opinion, a more modern approach to keeping employees happy and engaged."
Anonymous Answer
"I believe that experience should be taken into account when first starting in a position. As you transition into the job, you should be rewarded based on performance. Those who are top performers should get a larger bonus or raise."
Rachelle's Answer
You offer an insightful answer that shows the hiring authority your willingness to reward the hard work of your team.
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3.
How do you feel about performance incentives?
The interviewer would like to know if you are the type of employee to be motivated by financial incentives or rewards in the workplace. If you are not incentive-driven, you can clarify for the interviewer the other ideas in which you are best motivated. Discuss any performance incentives you may have earned in the past.

Rachelle's Answer #1
"I feel that performance incentives are a great idea. They keep an employee motivated to do a great job and ensure that they are on top of their KPI's. The majority of people are very enthused about being rewarded for their successes, myself included."
Rachelle's Answer #2
"I cannot say that I have been offered performance incentives in the past, but that sure sounds like a nice idea. I am a high-achiever, regardless of an incentive being present but it is nice to feel appreciated."
Anonymous Answer
"Overall I think performance incentives are a great tool to use as most people will be motivated by this. If people know the more they produce, the more they will push to try harder."
Rachelle's Answer
Good! Do you offer performance incentives in your current management role? It may be nice to offer up some information regarding the ways you incentivize your team currently.
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4.
How would you prefer to be compensated?
The interviewer would like to know what type of compensation structure makes you the most comfortable. Are you looking for a compensation structure based primarily on salary, commission, or a blend of both? Maybe additional perks are more critical for you, such as vacation time, flex days, a health spending account, a generous medical plan, pension, shares, RRSP matching, car allowance, cell phone allowance, expense account, and more! Discuss with the hiring manager how you would prefer to be compensated but be sure not to pigeonhole yourself. Freely ask the interviewer what they offer, if you are unsure.

Rachelle's Answer #1
"I am currently compensated primarily on a base salary with the opportunity to earn a quarterly bonus based on the company's profits. I am certainly open to hearing more about your compensation structure as I know every company is unique."
Rachelle's Answer #2
"I prefer a base salary, however, if there is a lot of overtime in this role I am certainly open to discussing options such as an hourly rate plus time and a half for any work over 44 hours. What type of compensation structure do you prefer to offer for this particular position?"
Anonymous Answer
"In my current role, I am compensated by a strong base salary with the possibility of a profit-sharing bonus depending on how the division as a whole does. I have never been in a role that has been commission based but would be open to discussing this."
Rachelle's Answer
It's great that you are open to a variety of compensation structures. This shows confidence in your work and performance.
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5.
What is your current salary?
It is important to note that this question may be illegal, depending on your geographical location. If you are in a place where it is unlawful for a hiring authority or recruiter to ask this question, you can politely decline by saying, "I am aware that this question breaches my rights as a candidate in the state of XYZ."

A potential employer will often want to base their offer on your current salary. Whenever possible, you should be transparent about your most recent earnings and be prepared to back up any salary requests in states or provinces where it is entirely legal to ask about compensation. Keep your answer simple, and to the point. It is indeed okay to ask the interviewer what they are offering in return!

Rachelle's Answer #1
"I am aware that this question breaches my rights as a candidate in the state of XYZ."
Rachelle's Answer #2
"Currently, I earn $25/hour with many overtime opportunities. I also have a competitive benefits package and three weeks' paid vacation. Could you tell me what you are offering for this role?"
6.
Are you comfortable being paid on a 100% commission basis?
The interviewer would like to know if you are happy with being paid solely on your performance. The majority of roles that will pay 100% commission are retail and sales based positions. Whether the job pays 100% commission or not, may not be the point of this question. Assure the interviewer that you are confident in your ability to be a top performer, regardless of commissions or a comfy base salary. Are you able to work hard and be paid based on your performance alone?

Rachelle's Answer #1
"I can assure you that my performance is always top notch and I am comfortable being paid based on my performance. I have earned solely on commission for many years."
Rachelle's Answer #2
"Although I have never worked in a 100% commission environment, I do know that I would perform well, and hit my sales targets, even in the absence of a base salary. I am confident in my ability to be a high performer, either way."
Anonymous Answer
"As someone who has never been in a position whose pay is based on a commission, I would say that I am now not in a place to take the risk with my current family situation."
Rachelle's Answer
And that is totally okay! You are likely past the point in your career where 100% commission is tempting. Your honesty will be imperative as the hiring company works on putting an offer together for you.
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7.
Do you feel that you are currently paid what you are worth?
The interviewer would like to know if you feel undervalued in your current role. Many employees will look for new work if they think that they are underpaid and underappreciated. Of course, this potential new employer wants to ensure that they will make you a competitive offer that will entice you to join their organization, and stay there. Talk to the interviewer about your current compensation and whether or not you feel it is fair. Be sure to have researched your answer to back you up, versus throwing out a random number and hoping it will stick.

If you think you receive what you are worth: "I feel that my current employer pays me fairly; however, I would like to see an increase in pay with an increase in responsibilities."

If you do not feel you are currently paid what you are worth: "I know that I am underpaid compared to my industry colleagues. My company is small, and they do what they can, but this is part of why I am seeking a new position."
Rachelle's Answer #1
"I feel that my current employer pays me fairly; however, I would like to see an increase in pay with an increase in responsibilities."
Rachelle's Answer #2
"I have recently asked for a raise since I have been with my current office for three years without an increase. My present manager is currently reviewing my request."
Anonymous Answer
"I believe when I first started in my role, I was paid correctly. Over time I took over all decision making for my department from my manager to the point where I no longer reported to him and reported directly to our departments' director. When this happened, there was no compensation increase, and I feel there should have been."
Rachelle's Answer
This would have been a very fair ask. As a side note, be sure that your compensation request in your next opportunity reflects the jump that you feel you should have been given when this transition took place.
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8.
Is compensation the most important factor for you when taking a new job?
The interviewer would like to know how much emphasis you put on pay when considering a new position. In addition to compensation, there are many other factors to a fulfilling career. These other factors may include:

- work/life balance
- amount of travel involved in the role
- overall medical and health benefits
- additional perks such as car allowance, cell allowance, spending account
- the industry you will be working in
- amount of vacation time
- the type of clients you would be working with
- the location of the company
- career growth opportunity
- the size of your new team
- the company's reputation
- overall workplace culture.

Talk to the interviewer about other factors that are important to you when considering a new job. If you are not sure on details for this role, you can ask!

Rachelle's Answer #1
"Salary is important to me because I know that I am skilled and well educated. With that said, I do look at the full picture which includes factors such as benefits and the amount of paid vacation time."
Rachelle's Answer #2
"Several factors are important to me when taking a job. Compensation is a driving component but so is the company mission, culture, benefits, and location. I am looking to have an easier commute than I currently experience."
Anonymous Answer
"No, for me getting into a company that will have opportunities for me to grow and provide a better home to work-life balance is just as important. I am currently driving an hour one way to work, which is causing me to be away from my family more then I would like to be."
Rachelle's Answer
That is a long commute, and completely understandable that you would be seeking change. Your answer is specific and will be helpful to the hiring authority.
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9.
What is the most amount of money you have ever earned? Why did you leave that position?
The interviewer is asking about your most lucrative position because they want to gauge if you are going to be happy with the amount of money earned in this role. Sometimes we will go backward in our career as far as compensation is concerned, and that is okay, but a considerable compensation gap will be a red flag to an interviewer. A decline in salary could be due to an economic crisis, layoffs, self-employment, or for geographical reasons. Talk to the interviewer about your most significant earnings and reinforce your current compensation ask.

Rachelle's Answer #1
"With Company ABC, I earned approximately $95K/year. Yes, I was earning a touch more than was is being offered for this role, but I chose to leave because the workweek was over 60 hours and I had no family life. The sacrifice simply wasn't worth the extra income."
Rachelle's Answer #2
"I earned a larger amount of money when I worked as a virtual assistant, but it was a freelance position, which typically pays higher. I did have to make my tax deductions and had the expense of working from home, and paying my office-related bills such as internet and long-distance calling."
Anonymous Answer
"My current salary is the most money I have earned. While I believe I work for an amazing company, I also feel that I have no more room to advance. This is a large part of why I am looking for a new opportunity."
Rachelle's Answer
Well said. You sound thankful for the opportunity while also ready to let go and grow.
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10.
Will you be willing to take a salary cut?
Hopefully, this question is being asked of you upfront, and not during your second or third interview. Depending on the interview stage, your answer may vary.

Salary negotiation is real and sometimes an intimidating topic for interviewees, primarily if you have not yet established a sense of trust and rapport with the interviewer. Are you interviewing for a position that you know pays less than what you currently earn? Maybe the selling factor is that there will be less time to commute, weekends off and more time with your family, or less responsibility and decreased stress. Sometimes these reasons mean more to you than the bottom line.

Rachelle's Answer #1
"Currently I'm making approximately $20K more per year than you are offering for this role. I would be open to negotiating salary with you; however, at this point, the gap remains too significant. I am open to creative compensation packages such as added vacation time, better health benefits, or a car allowance."
Rachelle's Answer #2
"For the right opportunity, and better hours, I am willing to discuss a few options; however, my overall compensation including benefits and perks need to make sense to my career goals before I would make a move."
Anonymous Answer
"I would be willing to take a cut in salary if needed, as this position will allow for a better home and work balance. I would love to know what solutions you have to get me as close to my current salary through signing or performance bonuses, as I know I will be able to meet and exceed your expectations."
Rachelle's Answer
Nicely positioned. You are showing a willingness to meet in the middle while also challenging the hiring company to make their best offer upfront.
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