Tough Interview Question - How much money do you need to make to be happy?

How much money do you need to make to be happy?

Similar interview questions:
Is your salary a motivator for you?
What is your minimum you need to earn to pay your bills?
Do you know what you need to net to meet all of your monthly expenses?
Does money make you happy?

Why the interviewer is asking this question:
There are two different reasons the interviewer may be asking this question: 1) to understand your motivations around money related to happiness and/or satisfaction; or 2) to gauge your bottom line lowest acceptable offer. In most cases, it is the latter. So the question is phrased in such a way to try to understand your baseline for paying your bills. On the positive side, if the employer is not paying you a living wage (i.e. where you are able to pay all of your bills), you won’t be happy. On the negative side, there is technically no correlation between your value to the employer and your lifestyle and budget. You should be paid based on value, not based on your budget. Yet the employer knows that many job seekers start with how much is minimally needed to pay the bills, so the question is designed to find out what that amount may be for you.

The best approach to answering this question:
Decouple the money question from happiness (and/or paying your bills) and tie it back to value for the role. You can do this by essentially ignoring the context of the original question and reframing it into a better and more positive context.

An example of how to best answer this question for experienced candidates:
"I’m looking to earn based on my value to you as the employer. I am committed to doing my very best in my role and, over time, would expect that value to increase. Can you provide me with an expected range for this role both for starting and in the two- to three-year timeframe?"

An example of how to best answer this question for entry level candidates:
"I’m seeking to maximize my value to you as my employer. Ideally it will be a positive relationship where my earnings are tied to my value and my increasing value over time. Can you tell me what the expected range is for this role over the first several years?"

An example of how you should not answer this question:
"Lots of money. I want to do the minimum amount of work to earn the maximum amount of money."

Remember to answer each interview question behaviorally, whether it is a behavioral question or not. The easiest way to do this is to use an example from your background and experience. Then use the S-T-A-R approach to make the answer a STAR: talk about a Situation or Task (S-T), the Action you took (A) and the Results achieved (R). This is what makes your interview answer uniquely yours and will make your answer a star!

Further review: know the answers to these Fifty Standard Interview Questions to be fully prepared for your interview!

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