Recent Grads: Are You Prepared to Talk Money? by Jerry Rizzo


Over the last few weeks I’ve been posting tips and prep strategies for recent grads in landing their first gig in the “real world”.  So what happens when you get the call up to the big leagues for an interview?

I’m sure at this point many of you  have a well rehearsed arsenal of responses for almost every interview question a recruiter can rifle at you.  Describe yourself, strengths and weaknesses, yatta, yatta, yatta.  Got anymore brain busters? Actually yes. What are your salary expectations?


This question is loaded and should be one all recent grads are prepared to answer in order to (1) increase your employment chances and (2) receive a fair starting salary.

You just graduated, how are you supposed to know what you are worth? Most recent grads just want to be able afford a decent apartment downtown, groceries, gas and a few brews on Friday night.

Your best strategy is to fend off this question as elegantly as possible and have the interviewer be the first to issue a figure in the conversation.  More times than not the person who gives the first number creates the floor. If you are the first to give a figure, you have already lost.

Your objective is to have the interviewer expose the salary range they are able to offer, so stand your ground.

Here are a few question and response scenarios that should help give you an idea on what to expect when the topic arises during an actual interview.

What salary range are you looking for?
“Let’s talk about the job requirements and expectations first, so I can get a sense of what you need.” That’s a soft answer to a soft way to ask the question.

(The following scenarios were featured in an article by Penelope Trunk at

What did you make at your last job?
“This position is not exactly the same as my last job. So let’s discuss what my responsibilities would be here and then determine a fair salary for this job.” It’s hard to argue with words like “fair” and “responsibilities”—you’re earning respect with this one.

What are you expecting to make in terms of salary?
“I am interested in finding a job that is a good fit for me. I’m sure whatever salary you’re paying is consistent with the rest of the market.” In other words, I respect myself and I want to think I can respect this company.

I need to know what salary you want in order to make you an offer. Can you tell me a range?
“I’d appreciate it if you could make me an offer based on whatever you have budgeted for this position and we can go from there.” This is a pretty direct response, so using words like “appreciate” focuses on drawing out the interviewer’s better qualities instead of her tougher side.

Why don’t you want to give your salary requirements?
“I think you have a good idea of what this position is worth to your company, and that’s important information for me to know.” Enough dancing–this is one last attempt to force you to give the number first. Hold your line here and you win.

I hope you feel a little more prepared in fielding questions regarding salary as a recent grad.  It’s also a definite highlight for interviewers if you can answer this question like a pro.

All the best!