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Desired Salary Question: Top 5 Salary Negotiating Tips

Desired salary questions are awkward. Do you lowball or highball? What should you do? Well, you negotiate, and if you do it right, you could get a higher salary.

What's your desired salary? $40,000, $60,000, $100,000+? We all have a number in mind, but very few of us ever achieve it. It's not necessarily because of our industry experience but more to do with our negotiating skills.

Although it may not seem important, effectively negotiating your salary can make a significant difference. We're talking about a potential 5, 10, or even 20 percent more than the original offer.

At MentorCruise, our mentors understand the importance of negotiation, not just for salaries but in life in general. It's a critical skill to have, and those who excel in this area often lead very successful lives.

Because of its importance, we'll be discussing the desired salary question to help you get more from your employer. In this post, we'll discuss:

  • The ins and outs of salary negotiations.
  • Tips on how to answer salary interview questions.
  • How to determine your desired salary.
  • The dos and don'ts of negotiating your desired salary.

What Are Salary Negotiations?

A salary negotiation is where you discuss your wages or commissions with a company, usually someone who represents the employer.

Examples of Salary Negotiations

Example 1

Salary negotiations normally occur during late-stage interviews (e.g., in the third round). However, negotiations aren’t always instigated by the employee.

For example, if you have multiple job offers at the moment, a company can choose to up your expected salary to encourage you to accept their offer.

Example 2

Alternatively, if you’ve received a job offer but the pay is lower than expected, you can ask your potential employer if they’re open to increasing your salary.

However, if done in the wrong way, you could give the impression that you’re only there for money and not the company or job role.

Example 3

Employees already working for a company can also partake in salary negotiations. For instance, another company tries to scout you for a higher salary than your current one. 

Since other companies are willing to pay you more for your skillset, you feel you deserve a raise from your current employer. However, you risk upsetting your boss if you bring up outside offers.

Tips on How to Answer Salary Interview Questions

1. Do your research on the role

You can present an informed response to a salary interview question by setting your expectations 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.

For instance, if you’re applying for a job on Amazon, you can expect the recruiter to ask for your desired salary or salary expectations during the screening interview as part of the Amazon hiring process.

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.

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.

2. 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?

Worse, you may get the salary you ask for even if the company has more budget for the position. Take the case of a recruiter who offered an $85,000 salary even though the job had a budget of $130,000.

When considering your desired salary range, it’s important to be realistic. If you ask for too much, you may risk losing the opportunity altogether. However, if you ask for too little, you may not be able to get the salary you truly deserve.

3. 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.

4. 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? Do you have 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 help 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.

5. Timing Matters

Lastly, and probably the most important, you need to be careful with timing.

At MentorCruise, our mentors suggest that you shouldn't negotiate until you've got to the "final" rounds of the hiring process. But in the final rounds, we mean that they're interested in hiring you.

This puts the ball in your corner. The employer already wants you, so they have an interest in getting you on board. Because of this, you can use this to your advantage and negotiate the salary a lot better.

How to Determine Your Desired Salary

Step #1: Compare your current 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 whether your current pay range is fair or not.

The goal here is to find the right benchmark job. It will help to base your comparisons on job descriptions and skills, not 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 performance 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.

Sample Responses to Salary Interview Questions

Based on our discussions above, we put together the following sample answers to help you 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.”

Changing Salary Expectations After Interview

Salary negotiations can take place across multiple interviews. After negotiating your salary expectations in one interview, you can continue making your case for a higher salary in your next round of negotiations.

Ask for more time to think about the offer.

Sometimes, it's wise to ponder an offer, particularly if it falls short of expectations. Let the employer know you're considering their proposal and will respond in due course.

Employers typically allow up to a week to decide. If urgency is required, a day or two is a common expectation.

Should the offer significantly undervalue your minimum acceptable salary, promptly declining allows you to continue your job search without delay and focus on advancing your career.

Respectfully decline the offer outright.

If the salary offer is too low and non-negotiable, it's reasonable to decline respectfully. It's crucial to maintain professionalism since the company has invested time in the hiring process.

Negotiate and make a counteroffer.

It’s essential to approach salary negotiations with a strategy. Before engaging, research the average salary for the position to establish a reasonable baseline.

When discussing salary, be ready to justify your request with market data and emphasize the value you bring to the role.

Aim for a mutually beneficial outcome and be open to compromise to reach an agreement that satisfies both you and the employer.

The Do’s and Dont's of Answering “Desired Salary” Questions

The do’s

  • Leave the salary range blank if possible, to retain negotiation flexibility later in the interview process.
  • If required to provide a range, offer a realistic one that reflects your experience and the market rate for your position.

The don’ts

  • Avoid setting a specific salary range. It may limit your negotiation potential as employers often propose lower than they're willing to pay.
  • Refrain from locking yourself into one number.
  • Don't suggest a range that would disappoint you at the lower end.
  • Do not disclose your salary history. In some places, it's illegal for employers to ask, so you're not obliged to provide this information.

FAQs on Desired Salary Questions

What should be put for the Desired Salary on the Application?

The best way to respond to queries about your desired salary is to be as vague as possible. For example, leave the field blank or give a salary range. 

If you decide to put a range, use a platform like GlassDoor. The company has a huge database of average salaries and even showcases graphs that have low, mid, and high salary rates for a specific role. You can use these rates as a guide.

Can you Put ‘Negotiable’ for Salary Requirements?

Yes, it’s generally acceptable to write ‘negotiable’ as your salary expectation. However, some forms only accept numeric values, so it’s not always possible.

What Is the Minimum Acceptable Salary on Applications?

If you have to input a salary range on your job application, research average salaries for the occupation you’re applying for.

When deciding on the minimum desired salary, make sure it’s a number you’ll be happy to receive. For instance, consider your minimum desired salary and go slightly above that.

Do Companies Offer More Than Expected Salary?

With the right negotiation techniques, you can get companies to offer you a higher salary than you stated as your minimum desired salary in your application. Just make sure you have a justification for your demands.

For example, you can say that during the interview, you learned things about the role you didn’t previously know about. Due to the more complex nature of the role, you believe a higher salary is required.

Alternatively, you can point to new data you’ve found about their competitors’ salaries. Perhaps they’re aiming for a higher salary than your expected one, and you were only recently made aware of this fact through market research.

Why do companies make lowball salary offers?

Companies may present lower offers for several reasons:

  • Market Tactics: Employers may test the waters with low offers, assuming candidates will negotiate.
  • Cost Reduction: Companies might offer less to save on expenses, especially in tough financial times.
  • Negotiation Space: Initial low offers are common as they provide flexibility for adjustments during negotiations.
  • Recruiter Strategies: Some recruiters aim to keep costs down for companies, sometimes offering less than the allocated budget.

What should you do if the offered salary is lower than desired?

If you receive an offer that doesn't meet your salary expectations:

  1. Expect Low Offers: Initial offers may be lower than you hope for.
  2. Negotiate: It's standard to negotiate, which might improve the offer.
  3. Prove Your Value: Use your qualifications and market data to argue for a higher salary.
  4. Look Beyond Salary: Assess all compensation aspects, including benefits and growth chances.
  5. Get Advice: For guidance, consider a career mentor.

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 amount 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.

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