What Salary Are You Seeking?

Recruiters often use salary requirements as part of the initial screening process, asking applicants to disclose their expectations in a cover letter or during a telephone interview. HR job seekers are certainly not immune from such inquiries and need to be prepared to drawn on their HR expertise when responding, experts say.

“Salary negotiation is more an art than a science,” says Gail Aldrich, SPHR, an executive coach in Genoa, Nev., and former chief membership officer for the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM). But she says interviewers are going to expect HR people to know how to handle this type of question.

Dodging the question entirely is not recommended, according to Jim Kennedy, president of Management Team Consultants Inc., an interview training company in San Rafael, Calif. “My advice would be to share what they have in mind as an expected range and not just dance around the issue,” he says.

Sometimes the best response is to ask “Can you tell me what you have in mind for this particular position?” says Lin Blair, SPHR, HR project leader for Arkansas Blue Cross and Blue Shield in Little Rock, Ark. Candidates should know their own bottom line, she says, but be very careful not to undersell themselves.

Blair, who is also a career planning instructor at Webster University, suggests HR candidates use this question as an opportunity to distance themselves from the competition by describing any additional experience, advanced degrees or HR-related certifications they possess. “Recap your skills and experience and give a range,” she says, that is based on research into comparable pay for similar sized organizations in the same industry.

Candidates should take their time responding, however. “Don’t throw out a number first if you can avoid it,” says Laura M. Labovich, president, A & E Consulting LLC, a Washington, D.C., area career coaching and HR consulting service. “If you do, you’ll either undersell your value or overbid yourself out of the position.”

Instead, Labovich suggests recapping the position requirements and stating “I’m open to hearing what this position’s market value is.”

Rebecca R. Hastings, SPHR, is online writer/editor for SHRM.