As you’re filling out your latest job application, you come to the question that you wished they’d skipped: “What is your desired salary?” or some variation thereof. After heaving a long sigh, you think about how you should answer this. Do you have to? What if it’s a drop-down box and you can’t skip it? What number do you put that gets you within your desired range but that doesn’t either undercut you or make it look like you want too much? How do you answer this question “correctly”?

  • Understand why they ask the question. They ask this to make sure your expectations align with theirs; if you give either a much higher or a much lower range, you probably won’t receive consideration. Some employers also use your response to gauge how seriously you take both the position and yourself — your answer will give them some indication of how you feel about your own worth. So take time to answer the question. Also understand you’re taking a calculated risk when answering, “Negotiable” or “To be discussed during interview”; some employers want hard numbers as a starting point.
  • Give a real answer. First of all, research the average salary for someone in that industry within your part of the country, and ask a little higher than that. This way, you hit the median between asking for too much and too little, and seem competitive. Also, look at your current salary and then select one that’s 10 percent – 15 percent higher than your “walk-away” number. Not answering (when it’s not part of a drop-down menu) can raise a red flag for an employer — some won’t even consider you if you don’t answer.
  • Whenever possible, stick with a range. Again, do your homework and make sure the low end is one you can live. Use your cover letter or the interview to go into further detail about why you feel you have earned the higher end, focusing on your skills and the average salary for someone in your position. But a range gives you flexibility to negotiate and a higher likelihood to get a number you want.

Discussing salary can get complicated, but if you do your homework and stick to a range, you can make it a discussion rather than a proclamation by the employer. For advice on how to talk salary, reach out to the experienced recruiters at PrideStaff Thousand Oaks and PrideStaff Ventura County today.

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