How to Answer the Salary Question in a Product Manager Interview

By far one of the most common questions we get at Product Gym is how do I answer the salary question. It can be a very awkward question, so take comfort in knowing that you are not the only who feels that way.

Problem

The main challenge is if you try for a number too low, you end up shooting yourself in the foot accepting less than what you need. Let’s be honest, part of the reason you are looking for a new job is more money. There are also other factors to consider, such as maybe you are underpaid at your current company and are looking for something significantly higher.

The other challenge is if you try for a number that’s way too high, you completely price yourself out of the market and the position. You might even scare the hiring manager off and they politely tell you that you are out of their budget, and you never hear from them again.

Solution

There are three parts to navigating the salary question successfully during a Product Management interview.

1) Understand who is asking the question

This question is almost always going to come from a recruiter. This may be an internal recruiter who works for the company you are interviewing with, or an external recruiter who works at a staffing agency (more commonly known as “headhunters”). You have to understand why they want to know the answer to the salary question on their end. Each will have different motivations.

Internal Recruiters (aka HR Managers or Talent Acquisition Specialists) want to lock you down at a rate that is within their budget. Go to any career page of your favorite companies and even the smaller ones have multiple roles that need to be filled. It is the responsibility of the internal recruiter to maintain the budget that is allocated for all the roles. One more point to add is an Internal Recruiter looks better when they save the company money.

External Recruiters (aka Technical Headhunter or Technical Recruiters) earn a commission or a percentage of your first-year annual salary. Therefore, these people are EXTREMELY incentivized to get you more money. In essence, the more money they make you the more money they make.

It would be rare for anybody else to be asking you the salary question.

2) When are they asking the question?

You’re almost always going to be asked this question in two separate situations:

  1. At the first round phone screen, or the first time the company ever speaks to you.
  2. At the post-final round interview—towards the end of the hiring process after you’re done interviewing with all the relevant stakeholders—when they are getting ready to make you an offer.

First Round Phone Screen

Do not talk about salary during the First Round Phone Screen. This is because you haven’t even talked to the hiring manager, any of their engineers, designers, project managers, or any of the stakeholders you would be working with.

The objective of the first round phone screen is all about getting into the next round of interviews. No matter who is asking you this question or when they’re asking you this question, your objective is to always get to the next round of interviews until there are no more interviews.

Until you are done interviewing; there is always an opportunity for you to impress people so you can get more money. Budgets change for hiring all the time based on how much the interviewers like you. These are the people that you will be working with on a weekly basis, not the recruiter.

There are simply too many factors to consider; for example, it may be a position you are comfortable taking a pay cut for because you are simply such a big fan of what they are doing. You might also consider the benefits package and other perks they offer.

If you absolutely have to answer, give a range of what you are comfortable with instead of tying yourself to a single number. Do research on Product Manager salaries in your location and give a salary range within $10,000 (i.e. “$110,000 to $120,000” or “140,000 to $150,000,” etc.).

Post-Final Round Interview

After the Final Round Interview, it might do you some good to consider if this opportunity is the right one for you. There are many critical factors to consider due to everyone’s unique situation. We encourage you to reach out to us for a second opinion.

Please schedule a call today or RSVP for our next event to see how Product Gym can help you land your next Product Manager job.

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