By Khalilah Starks

Let’s be real, most of us work-to-live, not live-to-work.  Our jobs are a means of gaining access to basic and not so basic necessities, such as food, clothes, and shelter.  And, depending on how high maintenance of an individual you are, you can add fine dining, a fabulous crib, shiny wheels (that would be a high-end automobile), yearly trips to tropical destinations, spa visits…the list could go on and on. So, the first thing that comes to mind when considering a job, for most, is how much it pays.  I’ve had several friends who have received calls from prospective employers and the first question out of their mouth was, “What’s the salary?” This is a fatal flaw that all job seekers should avoid.  What job seekers don’t realize is that when you ask that question, you prematurely start salary negotiations.  And, negotiations should never take place until you’ve clearly communicated your value to the organization and have a thorough understanding of the position and what the market pays for the position.  That’s how you get the best deal!

Talking salary too early in the interviewing process can be risky business. If your salary requirements are too high, prospective employers may pass on your candidacy for the position. You haven’t proven to anybody that you’re worth the high sticker price.  If your requirements are too low, you may kick yourself later when you realize that your salary is not all that competitive with the market. The last thing that you want to be is a cheap buy.  And, guess what – once you’ve accepted that salary and join the company, you can look forward to 2-3% yearly salary increases…so, you always want to make sure that you got the best deal coming in the door.  It’s best to talk about salary once the offer is given because, at that point, the ball is in your court. You’ve successfully communicated your value…and they want you!  The company has narrowed down their decision to you, which gives you leverage and bargaining power.  Now you can say, “Show me the money!”

So, what’s the best approach for being a salary superstar?  Well, before the interview, you should conduct some basic salary research to determine how much the job, and you, are worth.  A great salary research resource is  There are several ways to answer the salary requirement question.  One approach is to say, “Salary is certainly negotiable. I look at salary as one part of the total compensation package. So, I wouldn’t want to give a number without more knowledge on the position and overall compensation package. I would, however, expect a fair and equitable package.” If they still push you for a number – and most companies will – you can give them a range based on the salary research that you conducted prior to your interview. Even though you’ve given the recruiter a range, you still have the ability to negotiate based on the fact that you have communicated your need to gain more information on the position and the total compensation package. Remember, nothing is set in stone until you say, “I accept your offer.”