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Not Knowing What You Are Worth Can Hurt You In A Job Interview

By Edited Dec 9, 2015 5 16

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. 

Job Interview Questions
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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:



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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Dec 4, 2012 7:34am
Great article!
I've learned my lesson and know how much I'm worth.

Thumbs Up!
Dec 4, 2012 9:55am
Thanks Finally....I really felt like an idiot after finding out what I did wrong.
Dec 4, 2012 8:46am
I always carry a "drop dead" salary number in my head -- that's the lowest thing I'll take before I tell someone to drop dead after they don't meet it. By doing that, you always know where you stand. Good informational piece for people just starting out (although in this economy, they'll mostly be worrying less about salary negotiations than where, exactly, they'll get ANY job!) Thumb's up!
Dec 4, 2012 10:00am
Thanks for commenting Vic. The problem is salary research is not mentioned in HS or college. Not much at least. On the economy, I actually think there are jobs out there it is just that people are not qualified for the position. The other thing is that a lot of people do not know what options are available to them....That is why I love the show Dirty Jobs...My opinion. Once again thanks for commenting and appreciate the thumbs up.
Dec 4, 2012 12:50pm
You are definitely correct about colleges not prepping people properly for salary negotiations. The other thing I think you nailed in your comment, is that sometimes people aren 19t willing to "lower themselves" to take a lesser job just to get experience (which translates into bigger bucks later on). And "Dirty Jobs" is one of the most amazing shows on TV -- nice to find another fan (that guy -- I'm surprised he's still alive after everything he's done). Also, congrats on the feature -- this was a good one.
Dec 4, 2012 9:18am
It really pays to know what you want! As Zig Ziglar said, "If you aim at nothing, you'll hit it every time." And my experience in retail sales is that you don't get what you don't ask for.
Dec 4, 2012 10:08am
Very true...I just learned about Zig Ziglar after he passed this week. I read some of his most famous quotes and I must say that they are powerful and mind altering. One of my favorites from him is 1COther people and things can stop you temporarily. You 19re the only one who can do it permanently."

Thanks for commenting.
Dec 4, 2012 9:20am
Wow, thanks for the heads up about Salary Expectations. Until now I never really gave that question any thought. {Subscribed // Keep These Tips Rolling In} (^_^)
Dec 4, 2012 10:11am
It is crazy how these types of things are barely mentioned in high school or college yet are so important in a job interview. Thanks for commenting and subscribing.
Dec 5, 2012 6:37am
Thanks for the links to the salary listing sites. I have found that it can be very hard to find current salaries for positions I apply for. When I have specified my salary expectation, I have immediately been told how much lower than that they pay. Not knowing what you are worth can really hurt you, I see.
Dec 5, 2012 10:13am
No problem happy I was able to help...Thanks for commenting.
Dec 7, 2012 12:40am
wonderful article and artfully put together. thanks for sharing some wonderful info that everyone should know.
Dec 7, 2012 1:04am
Thank you for the kind words and appreciate you commenting.
Dec 8, 2012 3:25am
Excellent reminder...always know what you're worth!
Dec 8, 2012 3:13pm
Thank you Lauren appreciate you commenting....My lesson has been learned :).
Nov 7, 2013 11:13am
Knowing my worth helped me to get my last job. They wanted to pay me a particular wage per hour and since I'm aware of the average wage, and I have great experience in my field, I asked for two dollars above what they offered and they consented. I think my counter offer showed my moxy and initiative. Three months later I initiated a meeting for a raise and earned two dollars more per hour. It pays to know what you're worth!
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