A job seeker asks us how to answer the most dreaded interview question:

I have read so much conflicting advice about how to answer the most dreaded interview question – “What salary are you looking for?” Some people suggest avoid saying anything at all until the interviewer says a number first but that seems quite difficult to do in most situations. What’s the best way to answer this without unintentionally low-balling myself?

Refusing to name your salary expectations before an employer gives a number is a fairly naïve way to look at it. In reality, you should try to avoid bringing up salary until the employer does, preferably at the offer stage as this is when you have the most leverage. However, if it’s brought up earlier, the most important thing to remember when the salary question comes up is to offer a RANGE.

This range shouldn’t be based on personal factors like your mortgage or the car you want to buy. It should be based on the current market value for that position, in that field. Google for salary guides and have a look on Glassdoor for an idea of your market rate. Remember you are comparing to CURRENT market rates. Sometimes that means lower than a few years ago before the financial downturn.

When it comes to salary ranges, candidates always hear the higher end and employers hear the lower end. So pick a range that is reasonable for the experience you possess and gives you some room for negotiation.

It’s also helpful to identify personally your ‘walk away’ point. For example, if they offer me $42,000 I am willing to let this opportunity pass. However, if I can negotiate to $45,000, I’ll accept. Knowing exactly what you’ll say yes and no to in your mind will help define your salary range for negotiations.