Get To Work: With Suzy Welch

Suzy Welch: What to say when an interviewer asks, 'What are your salary requirements?'

It can be a tricky subject to navigate, but when you walk into a job interview, you should always be prepared to answer the question, "What are your salary requirements?"

Bestselling management author and CNBC contributor Suzy Welch says that it's understandable that this common interview question causes many candidates to "panic" — your answer requires strategy, subtlety and confidence.

But challenging though it may be, it's essential that you get this one right. If you undersell yourself when answering this question, Welch tells CNBC Make It, you run the risk of being "underpaid and undervalued from day one." On the other hand, if you oversell yourself, "you could price yourself right out of a job offer."

Below, Welch shares a helpful three-step process to follow when preparing your answer:

CNBC Contributor Suzy Welch
CNBC Contributor Suzy Welch

1. Do your research

In order to confidently discuss your salary requirements, Welch says you have to "understand the answer to this question is not about what you want, your experience level or your previous salary." Instead, she says, "It's about what the employer wants to pay you."

That's why doing your research is crucial. "There's so much compensation data out here today," she says, "and it's all discoverable on sites like LinkedIn Salary."

Additionally, Welch says you should talk to people who have similar jobs in the same field. "Be sure to take into account the company's location, industry and financial condition," she adds. "Get a grip on the reality of what the company expects to pay."

2. Figure out how much leverage you have

After doing your research, Welch says the next thing you want to do is "assess how much leverage you have."

Look at any information available through the site where you applied regarding how many candidates have applied to the position and how long the position has been open. The longer the job has been open, the more eager the company may be to fill the role, and the more leverage you may have.

However, she warns, "When you make this calculation, err on the side of caution. Job-seekers are always the seller."

3. Come up with a salary range

The last thing to do when preparing to discuss your salary requirements is to come up with two figures. One of those figures, Welch says, should be "a bit above the lowest number you'd be comfortable accepting." The other figure should be "the highest number you think the company would be comfortable paying."

For example, if the lowest salary you'd be willing to accept is $55,000, consider making your lower figure $58,000. If, based on your research, you believe the highest salary the company would be willing to offer you is $65,000, make that your second figure.

The range anchored by these two figures is the answer you should give about your salary requirements. "If your salary offer is somewhere in the middle," Welch says, "that's a good start for both parties."

You should never be surprised when you're asked about your salary requirements — it's essential, Welch says, that you be prepared to deliver a carefully crafted answer.

"Don't blurt out what you think you're worth, or what you think they want to hear," says Welch. "Instead, show your diligence and maturity — it's as easy as one, two, three."

Suzy Welch is the co-founder of the Jack Welch Management Institute and a noted business journalist, TV commentator and public speaker. Think you need Suzy to fix your career? Email her at gettowork@cnbc.com.

Video by Beatriz Bajuelos Castillo

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