Don’t Talk Money, Part 2

Apr 29, 2020 | Negotiating

“It’s a well-known proposition that you know who’s going to win a negotiation; it’s he who pauses the longest.” Robert Court

“Explain the value and justify the cost – People don’t mind paying; they just don’t like to overpay.” Chris Murray (from Selling with EASE: The Four Step Sales Cycle Found in Every Successful Business Transaction)

Don’t Talk Money During Interviews. 

Repeat, Don’t Talk Money During Interviews.

Last week’s article discussed WHY you should never talk about money during interviews. We noted that it is now or soon will be illegal for employers to ask about compensation history in several cities and states around the US. In this article, we’ll review HOW to deflect or defer any money conversation until the appropriate moment.

The advantage lies with the potential employer when you talk money prior to receiving an offer. You not only risk pricing your self too high, but leaving money on the table. Simply put, spilling the beans too early will limit your negotiating power. 

He or she who speaks first in a negotiation loses.

Keep in mind that you CANNOT be forced to answer a question or give out information; it may feel torturous, but they cannot make you answer. Don’t feel intimidated. Be polite and open, but under no obligation to reveal personal secrets. 

So the interviewer asks you: “How much are you looking for” or “how much did you make at your last position?”

The Top Five Strategies to avoid talking money:

The Take-Away, Deflection, Deferral, and Ballpark – with industry research or past earnings.

1. The Take-away:  Hit the ball back into the interviewer’s court, answer the question with a question. 


“That’s a fair question. Actually, I was planning to ask you exactly the same thing. What has your firm set as the range for this position? What do you folks have in mind?” [When the other person answers you respond with] “That’s great. That’s almost exactly the range I have in mind. We should keep talking.”

2. Deflection: Turn the focus to your non-monetary goals; discuss overarching qualities you seek in the company. 


“This next move is not primarily about money. Not to say that money isn’t important, but I’m really focused on finding a good, stable company with strong growth potential. Where I can be challenged and do what I do best. So far, your organization seems like a great possible fit. How about we focus on that for now. We can come back to the compensation question later.”

3. Deferral: Turn the focus to initial exploratory questions, subjects like team dynamics, leadership styles, company culture, etc. 


“That’s a fair question, but I really think it’s premature to talk money at this point. After all, you’re just getting to know me and what I can do for you; and I’m still learning about what your needs and goals are. Let’s get better acquainted and see if the fit here is as good I suspect it might be. If we reach a meeting of the minds on that, I’m sure we’ll reach a consensus about what it’s worth.”

4. Ballpark it with industry research: Estimate a range for the position using credible sources like, Indeed, or Glassdoor. 


“I anticipated that you’d ask that question. I did some preliminary research on [,, GLASSDOOR, etc.] and discovered the average range for this role to be between $XX and $2XX. Does that match what you have in mind?” [When the other person answers, you respond with]

“That’s great. That’s almost exactly the range I am aiming for, we should definitely keep talking.”

5. Ballpark it with past earnings: Use your own history as a baseline.  


“That’s a common question. It’s hard to give a direct comparison to my past positions and earnings, and the roles and responsibilities will likely differ. In the past five years, my total compensation has ranged from [$100K] to over [$350K]. Of course, I did well by producing big results. I’m curious is this about the ballpark of your range?”

When the other person answers, you respond with:

“That’s great. That’s almost exactly the range I have in mind. We should definitely keep talking.”

Generally, tactics 4 & 5 are best utilized AFTER earlier strategies failed to navigate off the topic of money, or when withholding an answer ISN’T an option.

Additional strategies for determining a ballpark salary range:

  • Predetermine your range prior to the interview. 
  • Determine a reasonable price range; guessing too high or low will have negative results. 
  • Don’t use too broad of a range like “anywhere from $100,000 to $1,000,000”, aim for 10-30% between the high and low numbers.

Remember that the goals of interview is to reach common ground, and get an offer. This is not the time to negotiate. Interviews are about smart people brainstorming together to see if their needs and abilities match well. Money is NOT the issue at the early stages. 

You can win during a negotiation, but your approach is key. Deploying these steps in a strategic way will get you off to a great start. Negotiate when you have an offer in hand, not before!

Final Conclusion: 


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