Salary Requirements: Don’t be tricked by this job application question

Have you ever been asked to provide your salary requirements?

Were you tempted to write down $1 Million? Wouldn’t that be nice?

Even though a ridiculous question begs for an unrealistic answer, there are better and more professional ways to respond.

Or better yet, don’t answer it. But don’t ignore it either.

You are not obligated to provide your salary requirements or historysalary requirements

Read that again. Now remember it.

Just because a job application asks you a question does not mean that you won’t get the job if you leave some fields empty. In fact, not filling it out at all and using a completely different route to get in the door (like a personal referral) is really your best bet on securing a job. More on that later.

If you feel like you have to fill out the job application, here are some things to consider:

  • It is an easy way for recruiters or hiring managers to filter out candidates.
  • If your requirements are too high OR too low it could knock you out of the running.
  • Providing salary requirements or salary history gives the employer an edge on job offer negotiations. You want them to provide the first number.
  • Providing your personal financial history should not be a requirement for landing an interview. If it is than this is not the right job for you.
  • Practice some professional and tactful ways to nicely avoid providing the information in pursuit of furthering the relationship.

Here are some suggestions on how to get around it:

Early on in the job search processsalary requirements

If you are in the early stages of applying for a job, such as an initial phone interview, first interview, or online application, an appropriate response could be:

“I would feel more comfortable answering that question once I know about what the job requires.”

But don’t stop there. Follow up with asking specific questions about the job such as:

  • What type of special skills are you looking for?
  • Does the position have any educational requirements?

After they provide and answer, graciously explain how you meet those needs or requirements.

During the 1st or 2nd Interview

In order to prepare properly for an interview, you should do some market research into similar positions at other companies and get a feel for how much they pay. Come prepared to negotiate, but again, work at getting them to say a number first.

You can research salaries at the following websites:

When asked what you would like to make, provide an answer the reflects salary expectations (not requirements) which will also indicate that you have done your research and that you are flexible and willing to negotiate.

“I’ve done some research and I am aware of the pay range of similar positions. If we both decide that I am a good fit for this position I am sure we can agree on a fair salary.”

In this scenario you still haven’t given them a number, but have shown you know what a fair offer would be.

“What is your current salary?”

This one can be a bit trickier to avoid since obviously you know the answer. However, it is in your best interest to steer the conversation away from it because, let’s be honest–what you currently make has NOTHING to do with your ability to do the job you are applying for. Many, many people are grossly under (or over) paid to do what they do, am I right?

It is however, appropriate to give a ball park figure accompanied with an indication that you are much more interested in the job itself, the challenges, opportunities, etc. than you are about the price tag. Also add what you really like about the opportunity.

“I earn in the mid (insert number) but I am really interested in X, Y, Z at this position and excited about 1, 2, 3.”

See, you can avoid giving a hard and fast number and still come across as professional while positioning yourself to negotiate.

Good luck!!

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