How to Answer “What Is Your Desired Salary?”


What Is Your Desired Salary?

When considering a particular job opening, you take many factors into account. You pay attention to the job responsibilities, corporate culture, company’s values and mission, and, of course, pay. The latter is a major consideration, yet most openings won’t share their salaries straightaway. Which brings you to the need to negotiate that pay, and that’s what often confuses even the top-tier professionals.

The question about your desired salary will inevitably arise during the interview, or sometimes at the resume screening stage. The employer’s motivation for asking this question is pretty clear. They want to hire a candidate who would accept their budgeted salary. And obviously, an employer expects to negotiate a lower salary and save the company money.

Professional resume writers recommend that you don’t answer the salary question at the early stages. Continue reading to learn how to address it in your resume and during the interview to negotiate a fair pay successfully.

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Understand what you got on mind before you start negotiating

Before you start the negotiation process, do research to understand the salary range you can realistically expect. As a rule, your pay depends on two factors. On the one hand, it’s predetermined by the industry and area you live in. For example, if the average pay for a Marketing Manager in Austin is $96,000, you can expect to earn something near this amount.

On the other hand, the final pay will also depend on your educational level, additional qualifications such as certifications, years on the job, and skills. If you are fluent in Spanish and know the basics of programming, you can expect to make a slightly bigger salary than the industry average.

In any case, researching the average salary will help you negotiate effectively, as you’ll be able to provide arguments for requesting a particular pay. You can use services like PayScale and Glassdoor as a starting point. PayScale allows you to compare your current pay with that of other professionals in your sphere and calculate the pay of your target position. Glassdoor is the well-known resource for researching salaries in a particular company.

According to the statistic, only 39% of workers tried to negotiate the higher salary during their last job offer. So, don’t be afraid to come across as pushy – use the tips below to negotiate a better pay successfully.

How to mention the desired salary on a resume?

Don’t specify the salary unless you are asked  

Sharing the exact amount always works against you. If you write the low amount, you’ll have a hard time negotiating a better pay. And if you write that you expect the high salary, the employer may decline your application without giving it a consideration. With this in mind, avoid specifying your desired salary on a resume or application form if the employer doesn’t specifically ask for it. Otherwise, you may be discriminated against at the application stage!

Say that the salary if negotiable

The best strategy is to write ‘negotiable’ when asked about desired salary. Thus, you kill two birds with one stone. You let the employer know that your demands are flexible based on what they have to offer. And you save yourself room for manoeuver when negotiating salary during the interview.

Answer with a range

When writing ‘negotiable’ is not an option (for example, an online form won’t accept letters instead of figures), reply with a range. Returning to the above Marketing Manager example, you may write $80,000-90,000 as a desired salary. In this case, you’ll feel comfortable to negotiate a salary within that range further. This recommendation works at all career levels, from young professionals wondering how to find job after graduation to managers.

As we’ve mentioned above, your expectations need to be realistic. Base your desired salary on such criteria as industry average, location, your previous pay, education and skills.

Negotiating the salary during the interview

Interviewing is when the real salary negotiation takes place. The key strategy here is to stay empathic yet firm when it comes to negotiating the desired pay.

Learn everything possible about the positon first

The same job title might involve varying responsibilities in two different companies. For example, some companies will hire a marketing manager to direct online marketing and advertising activities from inception to completion. And others will additionally require you to determine product pricing strategy, build relationships with media influencers, and handle PR as well.

Obviously, it makes perfect sense to ask for a higher salary in the latter case. However, to realize the workload, you need to learn everything about the position before discussing the salary. If the interviewer brings up this issue early, say “I’d like to find out the key responsibilities and the KPIs of this role so that I could determine a reasonable pay for myself”. For a Marketing Manager role, you might ask what specific product or service you’ll need to promote, and which channels to use (social media, paid ads, offline advertising, or PR).  

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Reserve this question for the end of the interview (or the last interview in a series)

Continuing the previous point, as you’re interested in learning as much about the position as possible, the best strategy is to talk figures at the end of the interview. If the interviewer brings up this matter earlier, say “At this point of my career, I’m interested in finding the right position for my skills and abilities. If you consider me as a suitable candidate, I’m willing to talk figures.” 

Note that you’re not refusing to give them a number. You communicate the need to learn more about the position before you can come up with the fair amount. If the interviewer continues to push you for a number, you can reiterate your point. If they are overly pushy, you can give a response using one of the strategies below. On the flip side, if the interviewer’s style is too aggressive, it’s the right moment to question their corporate culture and think whether you’ll feel comfortable working there.

Respond with the range

Now, you’ve got an idea of what the job entails and you’re armed with the knowledge of what people typically earn in such roles. The ideal case scenario for you as a candidate is when the interviewer says the number first. You become the one who agrees or offers other terms of cooperation

Yet, in most cases, you’ll be asked to say the number first. Always respond with the range, for example, $90,000-100,000. Telling a broad range allows you to negotiate the salary you’ll be comfortable with. If you say the amount that’s too low, the interviewer may stick with that amount and you’ll find it hard to ask for more. And, if they think you ask too much, they won’t consider you.

If your current or most recent role paid you lucrative salary, use this fact to turn the conversation in your favor. Say, “Well, while working as a Marketing Manager who directed marketing activities for a cosmetics company and oversaw three junior marketers, I was paid $95,000”. The interviewer won’t be comfortable offering you $80,000 then! This fact serves as a leverage for negotiating your terms.

Know your non-negotiable minimal salary (let’s say, you are used to earning above $70,000) and never agree to be paid below that amount. This will mean the deterioration in your lifestyle, which won’t help your productivity.

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Give arguments for claiming your desired salary

So, you’ve decided to ask for $90,000-100,000 for a Marketing Manager role. Yet, simply verbalizing the amount isn’t the best strategy. You need to justify your requirements and prove your professional worth.  

Say: “My research and analysis has shown that the average salary of a Marketing Manager in Austin is $96,000. I have two years of experience with an advertising agency only, but I’ve recently completed the HubSpot Inbound Certification. I also have strong copywriting skills and can create website copy, press releases and more. So, I’d be comfortable earning $90,000-100,000 per year”.

By constructing the response like this, you show that you know your market value. Moreover, such a response gives you an opportunity to reiterate your professional strengths once more. By the way, once you’re hired, you’ll get curious about how to get along well with co-workers – check out our guide on the subject.

Consider benefits and perks as well

When negotiating the salary, don’t consider the actual pay only. Take benefits and perks into account as well. If often happens that the company offers the pay near the bottom line of your range, but offers generous benefits that compensate for a lower pay. Among the benefits you should inquire about are the stock options, pension plan, health insurance, education reimbursement and maternity/paternity leaves.

Ask about performance reviews, pay increase and options for career growth. Again, the company may offer a low starting salary with that grows annually or bi-annually, and lucrative bonuses. And if they offer clear opportunities to move through the ranks, you can significantly grow in salary if you stick with them for a few years.

How to discuss the desired salary question?

A hiring process consists of several steps beginning from resume screening to the job offer. We do not recommend you to mention the desired current salary in a cover letter or a job application. Firstly, you need to prove your value to the future employer,

As a rule, the hiring manager is the first one who gives salary information. It is a crucial issue, and both parties must negotiate it.

How much?

There is an unspoken rule for job seekers searching for a new job: mention the sum that is 20% higher than your current earnings. When discussing salary you will be probably offered a lower sum — up to 15%. Yet it all depends. The most important thing is that you deserve a fair salary in accordance with your professional level.

How to argue salary expectations?

Your salary discussions must be based on strong facts. Here are some examples that you can use in conversation with your potential employer during a job interview:

  • your efficiency and statistics (a number that'll suit the company’s goals);
  • the situation in the job market (the lowest acceptable salary, the number of job applications for one position, average salaries in your professional field);
  • the level of complexity and responsibility that your position entails (a more advanced position deserves a higher salary);
  • prove that you are a prospective employer (demonstrate enthusiasm, your desire to develop professional skills and push the business forward to new achievements).

A worthy salary is fair compensation for your hard work, intellectual effort, skills, and time. If you do not like the offered salary figure, you can ask about further consideration. For this purpose, prepare good argumentation proving your salary requirements.

Some other facts influencing a salary range:

  • the geographical location (economically developed countries are ready to pay high salaries);
  • the economic and political situation (for instance, it is crucial for reserve salary discussion);
  • remote or in-house team (on the one hand, remote specialists do not use the office of the company and, thus, can get additional compensations for the home workspace; and on the other hand, remote employees get less important job tasks, so their salaries are not very high in comparison with in-house experts).

When asking about the desired salary employers want to hear adequate reasonable figures. Do not lose a job opportunity because of your unduly overvalued salary rates.

How to prepare for the salary discussion: Short guidance

  • Study requirements of available job descriptions (job postings).
  • Research average salaries in your professional area and find out the minimum salary.
  • Make a list of your strengths and achievements (think about what you will offer to your potential employers).
  • Consider your desired salary range (set borders for your minimal targeted salary and maximum expected salary).

What else to consider when you discuss salary

Think about the following moments when you answer desired salary questions:

  • a base salary (the minimal sum of money that you can always get);
  • an annual salary;
  • the real monetary value of your income (apart from the salary, you might also receive some goods and services for free);
  • the desired compensation package (i.e. discuss compensation expectations for sick leave; one can request compensation for insurance).

Choose a neutral polite tone during the interview process and salary discussions.

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Talking numbers during the interview: Key takeaways

• Don’t write your desired salary in a resume unless the employer specifically asked you to do so.

• Always respond with a range rather than a fixed number. It gives you room for maneuver while negotiating.

• Justify your requirements. List your skills and experience that qualify you for a higher pay.

• Ask about benefits as well. Sometimes they may have high monetary value that will compensate for a lower salary.

• Know your non-negotiable minimum and stick to it. Don’t take a job that pays below what you are used to, as it will mean lower quality of life for you.

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