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''What are your salary expectations?''
This question often puzzles job applicants who try to balance their financial ambition with what the employer is willing to pay.
''Instead of inflating the past salary to get more, point out that you weren't happy with the compensation in the past and that you are looking for a better package.''
This balance is easily disturbed, and the result is quick exclusion from a company's list of prospective employees or getting a salary well below what is expected.
To avoid the pitfalls, job applicants should take the question — and the answer — seriously. If caught off-guard, they should ask for time to think about it. If given time, they should do some serious research and balance the offer with what they are willing to accept.
In all cases, they should avoid these mistakes:
* Not answering
One strategy many candidates follow is to avoid the question altogether by not providing an answer, hoping it will just go away. If an employer has explicitly asked for salary expectations, taking this approach will probably indicate that either you didn't read the job post thoroughly or you are just sloppy. In all cases, expect the hiring manager to bring up the topic soon... if you are not already excluded for not answering the question.
If you continue to not answer, the employer may view this as a sign of disrespect. Employers don't want to waste their time if money can be a deal-breaker. If you sincerely don't care and you are lucky enough to find an employer who will proceed, then be willing to accept whatever salary is offered at the end.
* Bidding too high
Remember employers ask for salary expectations... not fantasy. While it may be acceptable that you go slightly higher than what a typical profile may offer, going completely off the charts may be viewed as a sign of market ignorance.
Bidding too high may not be dangerous if the employer is willing to get back and say that the range offered is lower. But many employers won't do so and simply toss the resume aside. In addition, even if you still hear back, the unrealistic expectations may nag at the employer who will think that you won't be happy with the job or continue searching for one that pays significantly more.
* Bidding too low
So you want to get a job and willing to cut the competition by bidding low. While this strategy may work, it can still lead to some backlash from employers. The first issue is giving the employer a sense of your desperation. Second, you may run the risk of looking disconnected from realty, or unfit or unworthy of a proper salary. These issues may hinder the opportunity getting a job.
Although bidding slightly lower than the market average may not hurt, bidding too low isn't smart. Plus, think long term. Will you be happy with the salary? If the answer is ''No'', reconsider and try to narrow the range to a more acceptable range.
* Lying about your previous salary
It is often hard for employers to know exactly how much you made in a previous job. If you decide to lie about it, you may run the risk of being caught. Instead of inflating the past salary to get more, point out that you weren't happy with the compensation in the past and that you are looking for a better package.
Another problem about lying is that it can jeopardise your application. Similar to any other lie, this one can come back to haunt you. And to put things into perspective, it doesn't really help you get a better package.
Quick tips for effective negotiations
• Be honest and reasonable.
• Don't evade the question.
• Do research on similar jobs with similar employers.
• Consider what you really are willing to accept.
Source: Rania Oteify, Special to gulfnews.com
The writer, a former Gulf News Business Features Editor, works as an editor in Seattle