What is Your Desired Salary? – How to Answer the Dreaded Question

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You have prepared for the interview night and day. You have well-designed responses to any questions thrown at you. Your outfit is pressed and laid out. There’s nothing that can take you off track. Right? Well, plenty tend to forget the dreaded question, “What is your desired salary?”.

Nothing can throw a candidate off more than asking for their personal worth. But, it’s necessary for most job interviews. Companies want to get a sense of what you’re going to cost. At the end of the day, it’s a business negotiation for you both.

Therefore, salary desires are synonymous with anxiety. If you ask for too much, you may not get the offer. If you ask for too little, you may be leaving money on the table. What’s the middle ground? Here are a few strategies to consider before your next job interview.

What is Your Desired Salary? Why?

First, it’s important to know why companies ask you this question during the hiring process. After all, it is more than just knowing what you want from them. It’s a negotiation. A fine dance, if you will. So, let’s tango.

Are You Overqualified?

A hiring manager may want to know your desired salary to gauge where you are in your career. More likely than not, they will come to the table with an offer that’s based on the market value for that exact position. If you are asking for a sizable amount over that, you may be overqualified for the job.

There’s nothing wrong with being overqualified. Look at you, superstar. They may have a position that’s more applicable to your background. Regardless, you don’t want to get stuck being underpaid for your work.

Are You Confident?

Asking you your worth is a bit of a test in some circumstances. How much do you bring to the table? How knowledgeable are you about your worth and the average salary for your position? And most importantly, how confident are you?

Having a strong sense of worth is, well, having a strong sense of worth. You will look both experienced and confident if you know exactly what you deserve. 

Research Your Desired Salary

The simplest tip is just that; know what you are talking about. Knowing what the average salary is for a job is before you apply is pivotal. Why apply for a gig if you don’t know what it makes? As a candidate, you should be researching a lot about the job itself, so take the time to research the salary, too.

Secondly, know what you should make. If the job is entry-level, that’s a simple process. Go off of the average salary online. Make sure to keep in mind your location, too. Salary estimates are not one-size-fits-all for the entire country.

If you are experienced in your industry, things can be tough. How much did you make at your previous job? Are you leveling up or making a lateral move? You can research the role’s salary before making your estimations. Feel free to reach out to people within your network, too. Sure, it feels weird to ask other workers about salaries, but it could be helpful (if you’re not currently working with them, of course). Just be diplomatic. Ask what a person in your situation should make. People within your industry are the best sources of knowledge.

What do you need to make?

Don’t forget about your actual expenses. A salary amount may sound nice in a lump sum, but how does it break down? What do you actually need to continue your quality of life or even improve it? It can be difficult to ask or look for more money, especially if you’re entry-level. Remember how special you are (yes, you). You deserve to make what you are worth.

Overall, the goal is to have an estimated salary before applying for a job, even if just a range. You can use websites like Salary.com to try and help you calculate what exactly you’re looking for.

Range or No Range? – Everyone Loves Wiggle Room

The key to winning a great job is confidence. This goes for every step of the job application process. When it comes to salary, this discussion divides into two schools of thought. Should you have an exact number you’re looking for, or should you provide a range?

Having an exact number does exude confidence. It proves that you are both assertive and sure of your worth as an employee. Meanwhile, providing a salary range may not be as domineering, but does leave for more negotiation room which, as a result, may lead to a higher chance of getting the gig.

Confused? Yeah, we all are. Some believe you should slam your hand on the table and demand a specific amount down to the decimal. Consequently, some believe you should play mystique, asking the employer what they think you’re worth.

Okay, these were exaggerations, but you get my point.

Have a Confident Range

What if there was a way to combine both strategies? Have a confident number and provide for a negotiation range? Well, there is. It all comes down to the step above. Do your research before applying for the job. Make your salary range both confident and flexible. Place the bottom of your salary range at around the median point of the average salary for the position. Put your cap at what you would be elated to make.

For example, if you are looking for $75,000 to $90,000 and you believe the company is looking to spend $70,000 to $85,000, say that for the job and your experience, you are looking for a salary between $80,000 and $95,000. This way, if you are lowballed, you will still be above the lowest salary you were looking for. If you are given the high-end, you are above the highest salary you were looking for. In the end, you’re going to fall within the range you desire.

Basically, your bottom should never actually be the lowest amount you’re willing to take. Your top should never actually be the highest number you’re looking for. Give yourself some cushion.

Turn the Tables – Your Desired Salary or Theirs?

If a potential employer asks you what your expected salary is in the first phone interview or during the vetting process, you can turn the question around. You may not have a concrete idea of what the salary should be yet. You may need more time to decide on more information from the interview process. If you are unsure what the target should be at the time, it is okay to let them know.

As always, there’s a diplomatic and successful way to do this. If the hiring manager asks you what salary you’re looking for off the bat, state that you would like to learn more about the job first and then politely ask them what range they are looking for for the position. This does two things. First, it shows that you are interested in the job, not just the salary. You want to know about the company and your responsibilities. Second, it may give you a better idea of what number to strike with when the actual negotiation process begins.

Asking what range an employer is looking to pay is not as chance-crippling as you may believe. As long as you ask the question confidently and purposefully, you can exit the conversation still looking sure of your work ethic.

This may also be helpful if the job is either extremely niche or a bit outside of your normal work territory. There may not have been enough information about average salaries online for the exact job. Asking can give you a sense of where to aim. They may be looking to pay even more than what you were going to say in your salary range.

Settle On a Number

You have to decide on a desired salary number eventually. It’s as simple as that. Do not forget your worth. Do not forget how much you need to live comfortably. Do not forget your research.

Yes, you can provide a range during the beginning of the negotiation process, but after you have heard more about the job and what they’re looking to pay, have a concrete number ready. This becomes a process of compiling all of the former information, how they reacted to the numbers you suggested, and how much responsibility the job truly is.

Ultimately, it can be stressful to pick a number. As stated, it can be too high or too low. At this point, you should have enough information to make a well-educated offer. Remember all that you have learned to this point. You know their range, you know the job and you know your worth.

Furthermore, it always comes down to confidence. Be positive and sure of yourself, but have a bit of humility in your back pocket. It is critical to know what you want out of your salary, but remember that it may not always be a possibility yet. Keep an open mind and keep optimistic.