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The hardest question in an interview….How much.....

‘What salary do you expect us to take home?’ This probably the hardest question you get in an interview and which I hope you don’t get in the vent that you have not done enough research. It is not probably asked for those joining a company at entry level because I know at this stage each company believes they offer the best. For management trainees, most employers believe they are the best paying because they try as much as possible to match their entry salary to the market or offer slightly above it. This is in line with a lot of companies’ policy of making sure that they get the crème de la crème of the graduates. This throws them into a competition which the audit firms end up winning anyway even beating competitions like, Unilever, EABL, Bamburi for engineers and other technical specialized talents.
When asked about this question whether you are coming in as a new entrant or as an experienced hire, I ask you to really be careful. This question can easily be used by interviewers in two ways to see your greediness or your lack of ambition and meanness to yourself. The first thing you need to do when asked this question is to calm and show a pose of thought. Don’t show like you were expecting it by answering it in seconds before even an interviewer finishes asking it. Be very vague and even try leaning backwards with eyes strayed or shake your head slightly to show some thinking is going into the answer to that question. Also be very careful with the choice of words in answering it. The adverbs should be pleasing and soothing to listen to. Just try to put in convincing verbs and avoid the noun ‘I’ in these sentences. If you can be a little bit general the better for you.

There are many methods of answering this question. We are going to give you around six and if you come across any in other human resource materials, then use them. The general rule is though vagueness and not showing desperateness in the response. Be careful not to display arrogance at the same time showing your meekness not desperation. The approaches you can give this question depends on your situation and we advise that you use any that fits you.
They are:
1.   Research and understanding the employer: This is the safest one because you tend to have exact figures and thus in negotiating the salary you have facts which enable you to raise your stake or cede ground where you feel you are not justified to receive such figures. This method requires god research and probably knowing a source inside the employer or a past experience. If you have either worked for a competitor or the employer before, you are at the best position and trust me you will get the best figure possible.   
2.   Understanding who you are and knowing your capabilities: This method is utilized if the employer who is trying to hire you requires your specific talent or technical skill in order to do specific assignments. At this level you know yourself and what you are capable of doing and once you know it, then you can negotiate your salary while recognizing your abilities, strengths and short comings. This kind of method requires people who have specialized in some specific courses or have some talents that are not available in the larger pool of job seeking Kenyans in the employment market.
3.   The market trends and industry: You need to understand the general trends of the industry and the market. This involves knowing where the salary ceilings have come from and a careful analysis of where they are headed. Look at human resource surveys done by us and other companies like PwC and compare industries. Normally the surveys will mention the floor figures and ceilings. Understand people in the same grade in the whole industry like insurance, banking, auditing, NGOs and other industries earn and then compare with what you want. Although when suggesting figures, be careful to stick to the two extremes.
4.   Give a range:  This seems to me as the safest method especially if you have not done your research properly. Just be careful when giving the range of figures that you expect that you do good estimates. This method has advantages like it will not show the two characteristics of a bad employee; greediness and meanness. The range presents an argument and once there is one you will reach at a conclusion after settling down at a figure that is comfortable to both parties.
5.   Gross up calculation: This is a tricky method but you can resort to it once you do not have any other option or when a panel insists on a definite figure. All you need to do is to have general monthly costs at the back of your head and calculate your salary on these grounds only to gross up at the end on the figure called ‘take home’ or ‘net pay’ It is a good method but gives advantage to the applicant because in calculating costs absolute figures are not taken but estimates. I will not advise you to go for this if you are applying for a job at the entry or at lower levels but can be good for managerial positions, it is ok.

As we always advise that you make an interview a conversation, this question will be a lot easier if it was a conversation because the negotiation will go smooth. When answering any question on money matters put a little smile and be charming. Explain and justify the figures you give while showing your technical competence. Lastly, be confident.

We at HCC wish you all the best in your job search.

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