A couple of years back I made one of the biggest mistakes that you can make during an interview. I had just graduated from college armed with a degree in accounting and a small firm wanted to interview me for an accounting position. I had already secured a position at another company but I was still looking for other employment opportunities.

So I am in the interview and the guy is giving me the standard questioning that people get when they are on a job interview. I was asked questions like:

  • Why do you want to work for us?

  • What are your strengths and weaknesses?

  • Why should I hire you?

  • What makes you different than the other people seeking out the job?

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In my opinion, I was doing very well answering all of his questions. However the question that he asked that severely hurt my chances of landing the job was, “What are your salary expectations?” After consulting some advisors and classmates about the interview, I realized that my response was a disaster. I told him that I was expecting to make $15 per hour. This calculates to a little over $31,000 a year. The problem with this answer was that the average starting salary for accountants coming out of college at that time was around $40,000. 

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This answer showed the interviewer that I was not prepared for the interview and did not really understand what it meant to be an accountant, which I think was a major reason why I was not hired. It also may have given the impression that I was desperate. The $15 per hour figure was based on what I was making at my other job as a retail manager. I was making about $12 to $13 per hour so $15 per hour, to me, was a big jump. But the salary range for retail managers and accountants is totally different.

After this experience, I realized that a major part of the interview process is doing your research on the position which includes finding out the salary range. The salary range is simply the spread between the highest salary and lowest salary for the position. Once you know what the salary range is for the position then you know what your base salary should be. Secondly, you know the amount that you can ask for above your base with little issue.

Example: You are interviewing for a position as a marketing manager. You find out that the highest salary for this position is $65,000 and the lowest salary is $50,000. What you know now is that the base salary for the position is $50,000. You also know that if the interviewer asks you about salary expectations, then you can ask for $60,000 with no problems because that is within the range of salaries for that position.

There are a couple of resources that you can use to find out salary ranges like:

Glassdoor.com

Salary.com

Lastly, when you are interviewing for a position make sure that you are prepared, not only for the standard questions, but, for the question about salary expectations as well. This will show the interviewer that you are prepared and not desperate. Most importantly, it will keep from being under paid. 

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