Desired Salary Question

When you apply for a job, sooner or later, you will be confronted with the “desired salary” question. This question can be a part of the online job application form, or the recruiter will ask this question during the interview.

If you answer the desired salary question in the wrong way, you can lose a job offer. But don’t worry, like with everything in life, if you get properly prepared, you get positive results. So, we will help you prepare for answering this question. Let’s get started.

Why does a company ask you about the desired salary?

A company wants to compare your salary requirements with the other candidates to be sure they make the best hiring decision. Company recruiters want to know if your expectations are aligned with their budget before they invest time and resources in the hiring process.

Another possible reason is that they want to know how much you value your work. When you understand why companies ask the salary question, you can think about how to answer it.

Researching salary standards for your position

You should get yourself familiar with general salary information from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) and other resources such as payscale.com, indeed.com, etc.

Make sure you are researching your state and geographical location. You must know a salary range based on standard industry practices. You will need this information soon enough.

Online job application

The general advice regarding salary is to avoid answering this question.
While this advice aligns with the best practices of negotiations, it might not always be a valid option.

Here are a few situations where you should be aware of this.

  • If the instructions say that you should answer a salary question and you skip it, the employer might think you’re bad at following directions
  • You might not be able to submit your application without providing information about the desired salary because the “submit” button will not be active
  • The desired salary question has a pre-selected answer with drop-down items

In this situation, the best way is to choose a range that’s close to the researched salaries. If the online system allows you to choose a “negotiable” option, you can select that as well. An employment background check is a standard part of the hiring process.

Desired salary question during the job interview

If everything goes well with submitting your resume, you will be invited to the job interview. This interview might in-person, by phone, or it might be a video call. Either way, the desired salary question will be asked again.

If so, follow these tips.

  • Try to avoid being the first person to mention money. The idea here is that you, inadvertently, may ‘low ball’ yourself with the effect that you may be settling for a salary that’s less than what the company had in mind.
  • If you are asked what kind of salary you’re looking to get, just answer that you are thinking of a specific range but that your actual acceptable wage also depends on other aspects of the entire package, such as fringe benefits.
  •  If they push you on the salary subject, be sure to come up with a range with as bottom what you need to have, and at the top some 15% above what you think is appropriate. Something like ‘My range is in the $32,000-$38,000 area’. Your range should be based on industry standards.
  • When you’re asked about your current pay, always tell them the truth. But when you are in for a raise anytime soon, do not forget to say that as well.

Listen to understand

Well-developed listening skills are crucial if you want to understand what exactly the needs are of the hiring company and the person who does the hiring. This will help you ace the job interview.

Giving answers at the interview in a way that your interviewer or prospective supervisor will feel that you are the right person to solve their problems, is a great way to try to make them pay you top dollar.

Listening well implies that you do not interrupt the interviewer and allow him to finish their way of thinking.

Consider also to include part of what he said in your answer to make clear that what he said was heard. You should also include basic communication skills like establishing proper eye contact and nodding when the interviewer makes a statement to indicate that you did listen to it.

This sort of technique is telling the interviewer: ‘I’ve heard you and I understand the things you’re saying.’

Some specific skills and considerations may help you a lot at the job interview when discussing the issue of salary.

Desired salary negotiations process

Though salary negotiations usually start after your interview, they already begin for you at the time of the initial meeting. What you are telling the company representative about you as a person, about your accomplishments, and what you can contribute to them, is essential and will increase your value when they offer you a job.

At the interview, make use of ‘active’ words to describe your accomplishments.

I mean, use words as I created, I initiated, I contributed to, I oversaw, I took charge of, I developed, and so on. Your ability to deal with multiple projects simultaneously, to recognize and handle details, or your excellent time-efficiency management, or some other skills, are definitely contributing to your value.

The process of negotiation is not just saying, ‘I need to have more money.’ You are required to have an answer to specific questions before you can negotiate your salary. You must know whether there may even be the slightest chance to get more.

Now suppose you know the answers to the questions above, you will probably be confronted with some objections against your request for higher compensation. Mostly you will hear things like:

  1. you are not experienced enough
  2. other employees are not making more money
  3. the company’s budget is not permitting it, and, of course, the old song of
  4. this is what we pay new employees

Just give it a thought in what way you could respond to the above-listed objections in such a way that the discussion will continue on a positive note, but without cornering yourself. Keep in mind that you are asking a question, you’re not there to deliver an ultimatum, also when you might have to contact the possible employer with questions regarding why, for example, your background check is taking longer than usual.

To give you an example: as to the objection ‘other employees are not making more money’, you may react by saying something like: ‘I see… (pause a little here) What exactly is the compensation range for the position? And what would be necessary to reach to a higher level within that specific range?’

Keep in mind that you want to reach a standard agreement, and in many cases, you will need to ask a couple of questions to find out if there is room for a compromise. In most cases, particularly at this level, the individual who offers you the job has specific instructions and little room to move, so you’ve got to give him a darn good reason for going back, asking for more financial negotiating room.

Desired salary and job offer

  • If you are given an offer and if you are interested in the position, you may point out that you’re highly interested and very excited about the given opportunity, and that they can expect your reaction in 24 hours. In general, 24 hours will do to reflect upon the offer, to find out what else you want to know or to buy a little more negotiating room. If you have already made some other interviewing appointments, you may consider asking for some more time to get back to them.
  • By the time the talking about your base salary is done, but before you will accept the job and the offer, ask about some other crucial fringe benefits that you may be entitled to. These may be:
    • health insurance compensation
    • vacation time extensions and pay
    • salary review yearly
    • pension savings plan
    • bonus plans
    • college tuition reimbursements
    • stock options plans
  • Try to avoid negotiations by phone, only call to accept an offer, and always politely request the offer in writing.

How to get the desired salary after a job offer

Take a look at a few examples of how your salary discussion may go when you are trying to negotiate for higher pay when the offer is made, or after you’ve been considering the job for a day.

One thing always works in salary negotiations, and that is that asking for higher pay (in a question style) is better than demanding it, as this is avoiding the risk of sounding arrogant and in these difficult times, getting a good position is all of a sudden quite different and much harder than just a short time age.

Company representative: We are offering you an annual salary of $28,000.

Answer option 1: I’m very thrilled that you wish to hire me, and I would love to have the position. Based on my vast experience, and also due to all sorts of expenses I will have after graduation, I need for example to pay off my college loan and will need a car; I really would like to make around $36,000. How do you feel about that?

Answer option 2: I really do like this opportunity, and I’m sure I can make a significant contribution, but there are a few other opportunities for me as well that all are in the range of $36,000 (never say this unless it’s really true). Is there any way to work this out?

Answer option 3: I’ve graduated now, and I’m on my own, and I really need a salary in the $36,000 range. Would there be any way we could work that out? I really love the opportunity, and I very much would like to work here, but I need that number. What your opinion?

  1. If you are not getting the salary you like, but want the job anyway, it is wise to ask if they can review your request again in three or six months rather than a year.
  2. As all options above are indicating, you should try to make positive or reinforcing statements about how much you like the company or the position before you ask for other things. Your words should make clear to them that you appreciate their offer, that you’re almost ready to join the company, and that this one final thing could make it perfect.

If you receive an offer from a company you really like, or when you feel there’s sufficient upward potential but the pay is slightly less than you wished, keep in mind that accepting the offer may be worthwhile, particularly if it is a company where you have the chance to learn a lot so you may qualify for job advancement over time.

The negotiating process includes, however, critical skills which, if you learn it early on, may result in quite nice dividends during your career, not just in a financial sense, but also to enhance your self-esteem. In summary, keep in mind that you are likely to spend the next four or five decades working and that it is crucial that you land a job that suits you and for which you have the right qualifications, so make sure your career choice and the desired salary meet your expectations.

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