Ah, the dreaded “what is your desired salary” question.
Of course you want to earn more than you are currently earning. However, you don’t want to price yourself out of being considered.
What to do? What to do?
Do your research before an interview to get a good idea of the fair market value of the position you are applying for. Do some comparisons and searches so you have a good idea of the range you should expect.
Here are several tips and suggestions on how to answer “What is your desired salary” so you position yourself for prime negotiating power.
How to Answer “What is your desired salary?” early in the process
#1. Don’t Answer It
We are not suggesting that you ignore it all together, but rather tactfully avoid giving an exact number or even a range. The topic of salary and benefits should not come up in the interview process until an offer is actually made.
They don’t know you yet, so they can’t decide if you are worth negotiating their budget to meet your salary requirements if it is higher than they want to pay. Also, you don’t know enough about this job yet to state a salary. What if it turns out to be a lot more work or responsibility than you thought? Don’t lowball yourself. This will make it a lot harder to negotiate later.
If the interviewer asks up front or too soon, here are some ways to deal with:
Online or Paper Applications
When filling out a form it is best to put “open for discussion” in this field. If it is an online form that requires numbers you can put 000 or 999.
If there is a section for notes it is good practice to include something like:
“In regards to desired salary, I am confident your company offers competitive salaries and we can discuss this in the interview.”
NOTE: There are so many different kinds of online applications out there. You may have to get creative in how you respond to the desired salary field. If you aren’t able to leave it blank, try something that will indicate that this is not your real answer.
In an Interview
The best way to respond to the “desired salary” inquiry in the actual interview is to also avoid giving a number. Instead, you want to convey that you are focused on finding the right position for your career. When done the right way, this will hopefully allow the interview to move on to other aspects of discovering if this is a good fit for both of you.
TIP: Don’t share your desired salary until you are fairly certain they are going to make you an offer.
TIP: If you are really pressed to give a number it is always better to give a range rather than a number.
Discussing Your Current Salary
If you feel that you were highly or fairly paid in your current or most recent position, than it could be ok to share this information.
This way, you are providing information so they can decide if they can at least afford to pay you as much as your last role. However, you aren’t telling them the exact number you’re targeting for this position. Make sense?
“I currently make $50,000, however, I don’t have a specific salary in mind for this next position. I will definitely consider an offer that you feel is fair.”
TIP: If you don’t feel like your most recent salary was fair you can also take this approach without stating an amount. “I will definitely consider an offer that you feel is fair.”
“I’m currently focused on finding a position that is a good fit for my experience and career. Once I’ve determined that, I will consider an offer that is fair for the role and this industry.”
Hopefully they won’t push any further. If they do, you can politely say, “I really don’t have a number in mind yet, but I am sure it will be fair.”
“How much do you have budgeted for this position?”
Redirecting the question back to the interviewer takes the pressure off of you and may provide you will some good intel if they are forthcoming with an answer. You can combine the previous example in this way:
“I’m currently focused on finding a position that is a good fit for my experience and career. I don’t have a specific number in mind. How much do you have budgeted for this position?”
How to Answer Later in the Process
If you have made it to a 2nd or 3rd interview (congratulations!) you have to be a bit more strategic. Avoiding the questions won’t work at this point.
If you are pretty sure you they are going to make you an offer, your answer could be something like:
“I typically reserve talking about salary until I know I am being offered the job. Can we discuss the position further to determine if it is a good fit first? Once we agree on that, I’d be happy to talk about salary compensation.”
If you aren’t sure you are going to be made an offer:
“I typically reserve talking about salary until I know I am being offered the job. Are you making me an offer?
“YES.” Time to negotiate.
“NO.” Try this:
“Can we discuss the position further to determine if it is a good fit first? Once we agree on that, I’d be happy to talk about salary and compensation. What else can I provide about my experience and skills to help you determine if the job is a good fit?”
The Wrap Up
It is always best to avoid giving a number on an application and early on in the interview process. Regardless, you should already have a good range in mind for the industry and type of job you are applying for. Try to get the employer to give you a number first, or reveal what they have budgeted for the position to optimize your negotiating position.
Good Luck! We are here for you!
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