Whatever you were thinking when you read the title of this blog post, stop it.  Clear your mind and take a deep breath.

It’s time to talk about compensation.

You might be thinking, “When is a good time to bring up the issue of compensation during the interview?”  The answer is you should never initiate this question.

If the interviewer wants to hire you, they’ll tell you all about the reasons to work there, including salary, bonuses, benefits, and vacation policy.  Actually, it’s in your best interests to delay a discussion about compensation until the end of the interview.  Hopefully, by then, you’ve created a strong desire in the interviewer to hire you—what better time to discuss money?

However, it’s just not that easy.  Many times, the interviewer will attempt to discuss compensation before the end of the interview.  In these cases, remember this catch phrase: “Don’t take the bait, it’s better to wait.”  Below is a strategy (in script form) that will help you accomplish this.

If the interviewer asks about your salary expectations early in the interview, say this:

“Based upon my skills and your needs, I am sure that you can make an offer that’s attractive, if I’m the right person for the position.”

If the interviewer is still persistent after you say that, try this:

“What is most important to me is having a challenging position and being part of the right team.  I spoke with the recruiter about my compensation history and was under the impression that they would be handling those discussions on my behalf.”

If the interviewer pursues this yet again, give them your previous compensation by starting with the highest number:

“My W-2 last year was $xx,xxx, of which my base was $xx,xxx and my bonus/overtime was $xx,xxx.  My increase the past two years was x% per year, and I am expecting another increase of the same percent this year.”

There is NO correct way to tell them what you’re expecting for an offer, and there is about a 1% chance you will name the correct number, so do NOT answer that.  Excessive salary demands are one of the main causes of offers not being extended.

However, if you are absolutely pressed and there is no way out of the question, you could say this:

“I feel my skills would probably bring $$ in today’s market.”

This wording implies some flexibility, and when it comes to the dreaded “c-word,” flexibility is a good thing.

(For more information about successfully preparing for YOUR next interview, download a copy of Dan Simmons’s e-Book, Put Your Best You Forward: Simple Steps to a Successful Interview.)