3 trap questions in salary negotiation (and a script for answering them)

Going through the interview process was stressful enough, but now there are trap questions during salary negotiations?

Yes, yes there are. The employer’s job is to get the best candidate at the lowest cost while the new employee is trying to get the highest compensation package. 

Am I the only one who is frustrated by job advertisements that make no mention of salary? The idea of going through a process blind and not knowing what you may be offered can be extremely annoying. Advertisements are structured this way for a reason.

Employers routinely hire new people and negotiate salary packages as part of their standard operating procedures. In other words, they are the professionals, and you may be woefully unprepared for their tactics. 

Being prepared to get the highest offer

This article will introduce you to some of the trap questions employers use during negotiations to lock you into a smaller salary package than you may have hoped for.

I have written several other articles about the benefits of negotiating a benefits package, especially for women. Statistically, women accept lower offers than men because they do not negotiate their salaries as aggressively.

However, when women are armed with the correct information, they can significantly increase their salary packages with the right negotiation tactics.

Believe it or not, job seekers have more power during the recruitment process than they may realize. Preparing a hiring process is not only expensive, but it costs companies precious time. If you compete well during a process and are selected for a position, the ball is now in your court.

The employer spent a significant amount of time and money getting you to where you are, and they would rather not have to start all over and try to find another qualified candidate.

This gives you leverage, especially if you have highly sought-after skills. Finding the right employee for the job is more difficult than most people realize.

As stated earlier, many job announcements do not list a starting salary. The reason for this? The first person to throw out a number is usually the loser. 

3 trap questions in salary negotiation

Here is a list of trap questions during salary negotiations and how you can navigate them to your advantage.

1. What are your salary requirements?

In other words, what do you want to be paid for this position? The reason this is a trap question is that your answer can seriously impact your salary negotiation. If you give a number, you are immediately putting your stake in the sand. 

If the number you give is lower than the employer was prepared to pay you, you just locked yourself into a smaller package. However, if you say a too high number, you may scare off the employer from offering you any package at all. This is why offering up a number is usually a losing situation for the employee.

The best way to navigate this question is to answer the employer’s question with your own question. Instead, ask the employer, “I would be interested in hearing the salary range for this position before I commit to a figure.” This script puts the ball back in the employer’s court to make the next move. 

Employers will usually provide a range that gives you two options. You can either ask for the midpoint of the salary range or say you desire to be within the middle to the top of the salary range. 

Being prepared for this question will keep you from sabotaging your chances of getting the best possible salary package without committing to a low number.

2. How much do you make in your current position?

Again, another trap question that requires you to provide a number.

If the potential employer has budgeted $100,000 for your position, but you say your current employer pays $75,000, they will usually start with a much lower offer slightly above your current salary. This will put you at an immediate disadvantage.

To answer this question, respond politely and shift the direction. A great response would be, “I would rather not comment on my current situation because this position requires different responsibilities than my current position. After we discuss the job responsibilities for this position, I’m confident we can come up with a reasonable salary.

This answer shows you understand and respect the questions but would like to keep the two employments separate without revealing too much information.

3. We are considering offering you a salary package of $100,000. How does that sound?

In this scenario, the $100,000 can be any amount offered. If the initial price offered to you is precisely what you wanted, you can accept it. However, you can also see if you’re able to get slightly more out of them. 

For instance, you could reply with, “I appreciate the offer and would love to join your organization. However, I was hoping for an offer of around $110,000. If you can raise it just a bit, I could start in the next two weeks.” 

Using this template counters their argument with a slight push that doesn’t offend. Keep in mind, whatever number you suggest, you have to be willing to accept. Make sure your counter is what you would be satisfied with. A counter worded this way will not scare off the employer because if they can’t make your counter work, you can usually accept the first offer.

Expect to negotiate and avoid giving the first number

Most employers expect some type of salary negotiation and are prepared to leverage the negotiations in their favor.

Use these scripts and be prepared for trap questions the next time you enter into a salary negotiation with a potential employer.