Money, money, money

Talking about money is always awkward- but getting more of it is often a reason to be at an interview in the first place. Be prepared to talk money- but also be prepared to keep specific details close to your chest.

Alternative and related questions:

Why aren’t you earning more at your age?
Do you think you are being paid enough?

The meaning behind the question:

This is a two-pronged attack.  The interviewer is putting you under stress with what is obviously a rather awkward and aggressive question and, secondly, they’re looking to see how you justify yourself and the career path you have taken.

Your answer:

As with other ‘tough’ questions, it’s important to remain calm and not to become defensive.

The best approach is to justify the career decisions you have taken because they have led you to where you are today and put you in a position where, indeed, you do now expect to earn more than you have done previously.

Turn the question round on them.  Go from a question which implies a weakness to an answer which demonstrates your strengths.

Example:

Rather than focus on short-term earnings, I have been more focussed during my career to date on gaining a broad variety of marketable skills and experience.  I’ve been focussed on developing within my line of work and have consequently deliberately chosen certain jobs, not because of the financial package but because of what I would learn from them.  I’ve certainly never changed jobs just because of financial incentives.  Training and development opportunities have, to date, always been more important to me.  However, I’m not saying that I’m not now very keen to realise my worth.  I fully recognise my current market value and achieving a respectable market value has been my long-term goal.  This is why I have taken the career path I have.

Word of warning:

Without being overly defensive, you should definitely justify your career decisions.  Don’t let the interviewer trick you into admitting you’ve made mistakes along the way.

Alternative and related questions:

What salary package are you expecting for this role?

The meaning behind the question:

This question is very similar to a question we previously covered in Chapter 3, “What salary package are you expecting for this role?”  But it’s not the same.  The interviewer isn’t directly asking for you to start quoting figures (although you can expect that they’re probably just about to); they’re asking you to give a statement as to what you feel you’re worth and why.

Your answer:

This is an excellent opportunity to make a powerful sales pitch to support your case. They’ve handed you the chance to do this so you need to make the most of it.  This sort of question wouldn’t normally crop up until towards the end of an interview so you should have had plenty of time to get a better handle on what it is that they are looking for and precisely how you can not only meet but surpass their requirements.

It’s make or break time.  Use this question to outline succinctly yet compellingly how it is that you could be of significant worth to their organisation.

Example:

I feel I have significant worth to a prospective employer – and to your organisation in particular.  My broad range of experience has enabled me to develop the precise skills you are looking for and I’m a perfect match for the job description you’ve outlined.  While you listed a knowledge of German as ‘desirable’, my German is fluent and, having worked for a few months in Germany, I also have a good understanding of German culture and the way German business operates.  As you’re intending to start exporting to German – clearly a major potential market – I believe I could be a very valuable asset to your organisation.  While the salary package on offer won’t necessarily be the deciding factor in my choice, I am aware of my value and am naturally keen to be remunerated in a manner which best reflects my worth.

Word of warning:

If you work in sales or some other highly money-driven and largely commission-based role then this question is more important than ever.  As it’s a precursor to discussing precise figures you really do need to make a very strong case.

Alternative and related questions:

How important is money to you?
If you won the lottery, would you stop working?

The meaning behind the question:

No, this question doesn’t mean the interviewer is about to make you a derisory salary offer!  Although it might not be immediately apparent, this question is actually a close cousin of a question we covered a few pages back, “If you won the lottery what would you do?”  The interviewer is looking into what your values are, what motivates and drives you.

Your answer:

Money is of course important to pretty much all of us – but is it what’s most important?  Whatever your opinion on the subject it’s important not to give the impression that it’s all that matters to you.  That won’t impress the interviewer.  Instead, shift the focus onto more ‘desirable’ motivations for you to turn up for work each day instead of staying at home and sitting on the sofa watching TV.  And try to make your answer relevant to your current application if at all possible.

Example:

I think money probably matters to me about as much as it does to anyone.  It’s obviously vital and necessary for us to live and prosper but, at the same time, it’s not my single most important driving force.  I see money very much as a means to an end, not an end in itself.  While being appropriately and fairly rewarded for the work I do and for what I achieve for an organisation is naturally something that I take seriously, there are many other factors which motivate, drive and inspire me, in particular the desire to learn and to develop, both professionally and personally.  I wouldn’t, for example, decide to change jobs purely for financial reasons.  There would have to be a number of other positive reasons for me to make such a decision, as indeed there are in the case of the job for which I am now being interviewed.  You’re offering an interesting and compelling new challenge in a well-regarded organisation with considerable scope for me to progress significantly in my chosen career path.

Word of warning:

As with the previous question, if you work in sales or some other highly money-driven and largely commission-based role then this question takes on a particular importance.  The example given above probably won’t cut the mustard.  They’ll most likely be looking for more of a killer instinct!

Alternative and related questions:

Would you still be interested in this job if your current employer offered a promotion?
What will you do if your current employer makes you a counter-offer?

The meaning behind the question:

The interviewer is testing again to see how serious you are about wanting to move jobs and what your precise motivations are in wishing to do so.  Is it all just a question of money?  Are you potentially wasting their time and likely to subsequently turn down any job offer?  Or are you really committed to this new opportunity?  Maybe you’re just on a fishing trip, trying to get a better idea of your market value or, worse, just getting in some interview practice!  Questions like this can easily catch out such candidates.

Your answer:

Your employer may well try to encourage you to stay with them so you need to be prepared to face the possibility that they might offer you an improvement to the salary package they currently offer.

You might well be very tempted to accept such an offer so it is important to remember your specific reasons for wanting to resign in the first place.  Was money really your main motivator?

While I’m not saying you shouldn’t give serious consideration to counter-offers – and in some cases accept them – I would say that you should proceed with caution.  Be warned that research shows that people who accept such counter-offers normally move on within less than a year anyway.  Money is rarely the only motivator.

Moving back to this question, the answer has to be to tell the interviewer that you would indeed remain interested in this job – and why.

Example:

I would most definitely still be interested in this job, even if my current employer did offer me a pay rise.  Money is not my only motivator.  While I would obviously have to give their offer some consideration, I would remind myself of my specific reasons for wanting to move on to a new job in the first place – and it’s more than just a question of money.  I’m looking for a new challenge.  I’m looking for new opportunities to develop and progress.  In short, I’m looking for just the kind of role you are currently offering.

Word of warning:

Besides a pay rise, your current employer may even offer you a promotion or a move to a different branch or department.  This sort of counter-offer will take more serious thought on your part.  How does the new job they are offering compare to the one you are planning to go to?

And be prepared for the interviewer to follow up the question we’ve just covered with one covering the above-mentioned scenario.

Alternative and related questions:

Have you ever had your pay reduced as an alternative to being made redundant?
Would you take a pay cut to keep your job?
Have you ever left a job because you refused to take a pay cut?

The meaning behind the question:

With so much economic turmoil over the past few years, an increasing number of people have indeed taken pay cuts in order to keep their jobs.  The interviewer wants to know if this has happened to you and, if so, what the circumstances were and why you accepted.  It will tell them a lot about your ability to weigh up options and take tough but necessary decisions for the benefit of long-term goals.

Your answer:

If the answer to the question is ‘No’ then simply say so.  There’s nothing worth adding.

If, however, the answer is ‘Yes’ then admit this freely.  I say above that the interviewer wants to know if this “has happened to” you.  Of course, it’s not something that ‘happens’ to anyone; it’s something that someone consciously decides.  You have a choice.  You either take the pay cut and keep your job or you refuse and you move on.  Explain why you chose the former path, taking care to underline your commitment and loyalty to your employer.

Example:

As my company entered the last recession, it was particularly badly hit financially.  It was clear that they couldn’t – at least in the short-term – continue as they had been. They considered redundancies and, after consulting with the staff, we reached agreement that we would all take a 25% pay cut so as to stave off any redundancies, on condition of receiving a degree of equity in the company.  I agreed to this because I could see that it was just a short-term situation, I had confidence in my employers and I felt that it was more important to concentrate on the long-term benefits.  Staying with the company during the recession taught me a great deal about cost management and how to remain competitive in business even when under significant financial strain.  I gained excellent experience as a result and also ended up with shares in the company which have now increased significantly in value.

Alternative and related questions:

Have you ever been refused a pay rise?

The meaning behind the question:

If the interviewer manages to extract a ‘Yes’ from you then you’d better have a good explanation because, otherwise, they’ll seize the opportunity to pigeonhole you as someone who might over-estimate their worth and who could therefore be problematic.

Your answer:

If you’ve never been refused a pay rise then this is a very straightforward question but, if you have, then the trickiest aspect of this question is probably deciding whether to tell the truth or not!  Far from me to encourage you to lie but, unless you can make a good case which makes your actions appear entirely reasonable, then it may be best just to play it safe and say this has never happened to you, assuming of course that there’s no way the interviewer could reasonably discover the truth!

‘No’ remains, in most cases, the best answer to this question.  However, I’m going to assume you’re an eminently honest person and that you do indeed have a reasonable justification for this having happened to you and I’ll give you an example answer accordingly.

Example:

Yes, I have.  In asking for a pay rise, I outlined the progress I had made since I started the role, demonstrating to the HR manager the value I added to the organisation which, in my opinion, warranted a higher level of remuneration.  I gave precise examples to back up and support my claims and I felt I had demonstrated what I was really worth.  However, the management decided to decline my request, citing financial problems in the company, and, given that I had already been offered another job at that salary level and with good potential for further professional development, I decided it was necessary for me to move on.  Sometimes you just have to move on in order to move upwards.  I would have been quite happy to stay but, with children to support, I had to take the decision to leave.  Having accepted the other offer, my employers did then make a counter-offer but, having committed to the new opportunity, I felt that I had to honour that commitment.