How to answer that one question that makes everyone uncomfortable

Knowing how to handle the salary question can help you avoid any misinterpretations during the interview (

This question can turn even the most perfect interview into all sorts of awkward.

When you’re interviewing for a new job, it’s inevitable that at some point during the job interview you’ll be asked how much you’re paid. Not only can discussing your salary trigger a level of anxiety, but awkwardness aside, the salary discussion may be a bit tricky for a few other reasons.

First, perhaps you earn more than what the company has in their budget, they may think that they cannot afford to have you in the company. Or alternatively, it may be a case of assuming that you’re not willing to take a pay cut.

Second, maybe the company was going to offer you a larger amount than you currently earn. But after hearing that you make much less, they may decide to cut down the initial offer.

Third, if you make much less than the average rate, the hiring manager might think you’re not valuable to the company. On the other hand, if you make way above the average person, they may think you’re too qualified for the position they're hiring for.

Either way, whether you like it or not, there’s a good chance that this question will be pop up in any interview setting, and knowing how to handle it will help you avoid any misinterpretations.

Know your worth

Before you go to the interview, do your research. Find out adequate information about average salaries in your market and the salary ranges for similar positions in your area and industry. Careers24 has an easy-to-use calculator that allows you to view how much you should be earning, depending on your title. Other websites in which you can gain salary comparison information from include Payscale and Glassdoor.

Another strategy may be to talk to people you know who work in the company you’re interviewing for beforehand.

Turn the question on its head

In this instance it’s often a case of who’ll blink first. But it’s always a good idea to use a great deal of diplomacy. You can emphasise that your interest in the position itself and what it will mean for your growth potential, are first prize and that the money factor comes after. Replying in a diplomatic manner will also work in your favour should the question be asked during the early stages of the interview. You can tell the hiring manager that you’d like to have an understanding of what will be expected of you and see how well you will be able to meet the job requirements.

Read: Interview tips you should know before the interview

Tell the truth

Should the hiring manager stand firm in his or her question, you should just answer truthfully. As soon as you come out with how much you make, go back to reiterating your interest in the position rather than the salary package. Don’t be afraid to ask for the salary range and telling the hiring manager that you’re open to discussing the pay.

Also read: Are your salary expectations reasonable?

Emphasise your passion for the job

By emphasising your passion for the job and commitment to the company, you may catch the hiring manager’s attention and increase your ability to bargain a better deal.

When interviewing for a new job your goal is easy: getting hired. Even if you can’t come to an agreement on a salary, you can negotiate other benefits such as medical aid, retirement fund and telecommuting. If what’s placed on the table doesn’t work for you, Careers24 has thousands of jobs for you to choose from.