Desired salary question: The do's and don'ts and negotiating tips

Published Dec. 21, 2020

The question “What is your desired salary?” may cast you off base, but it shouldn’t. Having a response backed by data and a pinch of confidence will help you to sound professional. Our mentors at MentorCruise can help you find effective ways to answer desired salary questions.

Desired salary question: The do's and don'ts and negotiating tips

Your desired salary is a discussion you have at the end of the interview process in an ideal world. But what do you say when your interviewer presses for answers or when your job application demands it?

The short answer will be to put negotiable or leave the desired salary field blank. But what if the application demands numbers?

In this article, you’ll learn:

  • Understanding what your interviewers want when they ask for your salary expectations.
  • Tips on how to answer salary interview questions.
  • What to put on the desired salary field on your job application.
  • Sample responses to salary interview questions.

Understanding what your interviewer wants when they ask for your salary expectations

A hiring manager may ask any of the following questions when they desire to know about your salary expectations:

  • What are your salary expectations?
  • What salary would you anticipate to earn if we were to employ you for this position?
  • We are currently offering a salary range of $35,000 and $40,000, based on your experience. Does this satisfy your needs?

These questions can come up at any stage of the job application process, so you’ll want to prepare for them. But you’ll also need to understand what your interviewer wants to answer better. Here are the following reasons:

  • Firstly, your answer to this question will help the interviewer learn more regarding how much you esteem your experience. They understand that qualified workers have a deep sense of worth comparable to the current market. They further recognize that people who have illogically high salary expectations are less likely to have done proper research.
  • Your salary expectations will also help your employer to determine whether to proceed with an interview or not. For example, if an employer has put $30,000 for a position and you believe you’re worth $50,000, they may decide not to hire you because they cannot raise the amount.

Knowing what your interviewer wants, how will you provide the ideal answer to avoid putting yourself at a disadvantage. We put together the following tips on how to answer salary interview questions for you.

Tips on how to answer salary interview questions

The best answers for “what is your desired salary” in an interview will assure your interviewer that you do not have a specific salary in mind but are focused on getting the best-fitting role for your career. This will stop your interviewer from continuing to ask you for a desired salary.

Once you recognize they want to give you the role, then you’ll get some negotiating advantage. But before then, don’t share your desired salary. Below are a few tips you can use to answer salary interview questions effectively:

Do your research on the position

You can present an informed response to a salary interview question by setting your expectation based on that position’s current market value.

Before going for an interview, make sure to research the salaries people in your job and industry earn. This way, you’ll get a better idea of what the employer may hold in their budget for that position. This will help you figure out a reasonable amount.

Also, remember to consider your experience when researching salaries. More experienced applicants could have the edge over other job applicants when discussing salary, while less experienced applicants may go for a lower or entry-level salary. Location is an additional factor you should examine as every city has its own unique job market.

To do this research, you can employ the salary calculator or use sites such as Paysa, Indeed, or Glassdoor to research people’s average salaries in your particular industry, location, and position.

Create a salary range

Giving your interviewer a specific desired salary, like $50,000 per year, may feel very uncomfortable. What if they budgeted for a smaller amount? What if they expected you to suggest a lower amount?

At MentorCruise, our professionals advise that you don’t share your desired salary until you earn the role. But If you think you must give a value to continue to the next phase of the hiring process, or if pressed, it’s better to state the desired range than a fixed amount.

This way, you’ll minimize the chances of ruling yourself out and getting rejected by going too high and or limiting your job offer by going too low. You’ll also be informing your interviewer that your desired salary is opened for negotiations.

Therefore before going on your interview, be ready to state your desired range. Then, quickly shift the discussion back to the skills and value you will bring to the position.

Talk about benefits

Some corporations grant benefits in addition to a salary package. For example, you could be eligible to secure a healthcare package or work from home.

You could communicate to your interviewer that you seek a salary within a specific range and are willing to talk about benefits as part of the package.

While a recruiter’s budget may not be enough to hire you, they can offer benefits as supplements for some of your expected salary.

Justify your worth

Before going into an interview, you need to think about why you believe you’re worth your desired salary. Maybe you have a set of rare skills? Or you’ve got a broad experience using technology and processes utilized at the company?

Considering this beforehand means if you feel relaxed doing so, you can discuss in your interview how you arrived at your salary range by breaking it down. This will enable your interviewer to understand your motivations and helps them estimate your sense of worth.

But if an amount does not instantly come to mind, then you need to assess your average market value to get a reliable answer. You can get mentoring advice if you still have a hard time figuring out what you’re worth or the salary information you’re lawfully entitled to.

Still, you can do so by these three steps.

How to determine your desired salary

Step #1 Compare your prevailing job to a benchmark job

A benchmark job is any position with constant salary expectations and obligations across organizations and industries.

By comparing your benchmark job to your role, you can resolve if your current pay range is fair or not.

The goal here is to find the right benchmark job. It will help if you base your comparisons on job descriptions and skills and not on the job’s title.

Once you find a benchmark job that matches yours in both the job title and description, you can move forward to step two.

Step #2 Analyze company factors that determine pay

The company size, type of industry, and location will directly control the salary range.

A smaller company will often grant you more access to executives, upper management, and a better professional experience. A bigger company will normally pay more than a smaller one.

For the industry, you’ll find that discussing salary negotiations with recruiters of a booming industry is easier than with those of a declining one.

Finally, your location is pivotal. Possibilities are, a tech job in California will pay you higher than the same post in Florida merely because the cost of living is higher.

Step #3 Calculate your worth

After studying the company factors and job benchmarks, you also need to assess your job performance and skill set.

If you’re an entry-level employee with a base salary, you wouldn’t be worth as much as an experienced employee even if you hold the same title. You need to be honest about your experience and performances to get a genuine idea of the amount you should earn.

Now that you understand what an average salary for your role looks like, let’s discuss what to put for the desired salary on job applications that request it.

The do’s and don’ts of answering “desired salary” question on job applications

You need to understand that hiring managers and recruiters have a budget to consider when they hire.

The basis is to get through the application and into the interview process. Once you arrive at a job interview, you have the opportunity to address your desired salary in depth. Below is how you can land there.

The do’s

  • If you can, leave the salary range area blank. This enables you to discuss your salary later in the interview with zero constraints.
  • If you can’t leave the desired salary field blank, put down a practical range that’s comparable with your experience, performance, and your position’s market rate.

The don’ts

  • Don’t set a base salary range that you’d like to advance. While it appears safe, it bars you into a lower number. Employers will often try to propose a lower salary than the number they’re willing to pay, so do not restrict yourself.
  • Don’t tie yourself into a specific number.
  • Never provide your salary history. Demanding salary history is forbidden in some states, so don’t feel like you must provide the information. If a hiring manager asks for your salary history, tell them you would rather present it in person.

Recap of the best options

The best way to fill out the desired salary field on a job application form is to leave it blank or write ‘negotiable instead of providing a figure.

If the application doesn’t accept non-numerical text, enter “000” Then, check out if there’s any notes section in the job application form and write, “Concerning the salary expectations, this is negotiable and can be addressed at the interview.”

Sample Responses to Salary Interview Questions

Based on our discussions above, we put together the following sample answers to help you to provide answers to your salary interview questions.

Sample 1

“At this point in my job hunt, I’m focused on getting the best-fitting role for my career, and I do not have a definite figure in mind yet. What range did you budget for the job?”

Sample 2

“I am looking forward to earning between $65,000 and $75,000. I reached this amount by viewing the fair market salary for people in this role. Regarding my unique skill set and broad experience, I believe this range is fair.”

Sample 3

“Thank you for asking. I am quite flexible on the decisive number. Still, I think that a salary range of $55,000 and $60,000 is reasonable, provided that this is the fair salary given to people in this industry with a comparable level of experience.”

Sample 4.

“Thanks for asking. I anticipate earning $32,000 for this position. I consider that my experience utilizing tools like Salesforce CRM, which you stated is crucial to the job, and my soft skills range supports this number. Would this work for you?”

Sample 5

“This sounds like a unique position, and I really acknowledge being considered for an interview. I look forward to earning a salary of between $38,000 and $43,000 yearly. I think this is reasonable given my wide range of hard and soft skills and subject matter knowledge in this industry. Notwithstanding, if the right benefits were extended, I think I could be even more flexible on my salary expectations.”

Sample 6

“I look to earn between $90,000 and $95,000 for this job. I consider that my experience in the paper industry and my expertise in managing large teams put me well for this position. Nonetheless, I am flexible and would like to hear more regarding your budget for this job and the number you had in mind.”

Get a career mentor with MentorCruise

To conclude, it is not uncommon for recruiters to ask you to include your cover letter’s salary expectations. Still, try to stay as vague as possible.

Setting a high among could scare them off instantly, while setting an amount too low could paralyze your ability to negotiate later.

The goal is to save all salary discussions until you’re sure they want to offer you the position. You may want to talk with a career mentor to better guide you.