How to respond to the question, “What are your salary requirements?”

Posted by Amanda Augustine

October 23, 2012 @ 09:58 PM

Research the going rate for your target job now so you're prepared to answer salary requirement questions during the interview. [TWEET]

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Q: When asked about my salary requirements, I never know what to say. If I say a low figure, they have no reason to offer more money. If I give a figure that’s too high, they may disregard me as a candidate. What’s the right response? – Deb H.

A: The first rule of salary negotiation is to avoid discussing numbers until the company has extended an offer. This is when you have the most power to negotiate. But as any job seeker will tell you, this is no simple feat. Recruiters typically try to pull this information out of you as early as the initial phone screen, if they didn’t already request your salary requirements as part of the application process.

Here are a couple phrases you can use (courtesy of Jack Chapman, author of the book How to Make $1000 a Minute) to deflect questions about your salary requirements:

  • “I’m sure we can come to a good salary agreement if I’m the right person for the job, so let’s first agree on whether I am.”

  • “I have some idea of the market, but for a moment let’s start with your range. What do you have budgeted for the position?”

You can try to deflect the questions upfront once, maybe twice, but if the recruiter is insistent, you’ll need to be prepared with some figures.

First things first, do your research. Visit sites such as Salary.com and PayScale.com to discover the going rate for your targeted job with respect to your relevant years of experience and educational background; and the industry, company size and location of the jobs you’re targeting.

You can start by looking up how your current role compares to the market rate, and then also change some of the variables to match those of the companies you’re applying to. If the roles you are targeting are in different industries or locations, or the size of the company is very different, this could have an impact on what salary you can expect to make.

Once you’ve done the research, come up with three numbers:

  • What’s the ideal dollar amount you want (and still have the recruiter take you seriously)?

  • What dollar amount (given the going rate) is reasonable and would still make you happy?

  • What is the lowest dollar amount you’d accept?

These three numbers make up the compensation range that is in alignment with the going rate for your targeted role, and that would make you happy. If you’re forced to state your salary requirements upfront, use the researched number you found to be the fair market value (the same goes for an online application that demands a numeric response).

Remember, your value to a prospective employer does not go down just because times are tough. Good employees are even more important to the success of an organization in a challenging economic environment. You just need to be able to explain why you’re worth what you’re asking for based on your research of the market and the value you can bring to the table.

Again, the most important thing you can do is delay the compensation conversation as long as humanly possible so you have time to build a rapport with your interviewers; monetize what you can do, and how you can personally affect the bottom line at the company; and move them from what Chapman describes as the “budget” state of mind (How much is this person going to cost us?) to the “judge it” mindset (We need this person! She’d be such a great asset to the company – how can we get her to join us?).

Click on the following link to access TheLadders’ Salary Q&A Series with Jack Chapman.

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AmandaAugustine_JobSearchExpert_TheLadders_1Amanda Augustine is the Job Search Expert for TheLadders. She provides job search and career guidance for professionals looking to make their next career move. Have a question for Amanda? Submit your question here for a chance to have it answered in her weekly column, and be sure to follow her at @JobSearchAmanda on Twitter and “Like” her on Facebook for up-to-the-minute job-search advice.

Topics: Ask Amanda, Interview, Salary