Job Interview Question: What Are Your Salary Requirements?

The salary topic is one that usually arises later in the interview process, such as when the employer has decided to offer a candidate the job. Sometimes, however, employers may ask that you provide salary information in an application or during a phone interview. Whatever the case, the proper protocol is to let the recruiter or hiring manager bring up the topic first — don’t initiate this conversation as a job seeker.

For many people, the conversation about salary can be an awkward one. But with some proper preparation, you can communicate your salary requirements in a well-informed and confident manner. Below are a few suggestions on how to deal with questions about your salary requirements.

Do Your Homework

Before you even apply to the position, research what the job market is paying for someone with your background, in your location, and in your targeted industry. There are plenty of online resources to help you identify market salaries: payscale.com, salary.com and Simply Hired’s salary tool. Additionally, if you have access to recruiters or hiring managers, ask them for insight on salaries for roles similar to yours. Then, when you’re asked about your salary requirements, cite the numbers and sources from your research.

Tell the Truth

Hiring managers may ask what your salary was at your most recent company as a way to gauge how much they should offer you. While it may be tempting to respond with a number higher than what you were actually paid, don’t do it. The potential employer may discover your true salary and view you as dishonest, likely leading to no job offer. So respond truthfully about your salary history.

If you feel you deserve a higher income, provide the actual salary history and then explain why you believe you should make more. Example: “I earned $60,000 at my last job, but I believe I deserve $65,000 based on the additional technical experience I acquired creating web pages” or “I earned $60,000, but the company was struggling and paid employees below-market salaries.”

Negotiate

To a certain extent, most salaries are negotiable. If you think you can confidently do so, try negotiating for the salary you want. Do this cautiously — especially if you badly need the job and don’t have other job offers — because negotiations can backfire.

You’ll know to begin the negotiation when you’re asked about your salary requirements. Start by telling the potential employer that you’re “open to negotiation.” The potential employer will either communicate the number they have in mind or press you for an answer. If the stated salary isn’t high enough or you’re forced to provide an answer, offer a range based on your market research, e.g., “According to the Simply Hired salary calculator, the market value for someone with my skills is between $60,000 and $80,000. Is this consistent with your range?” Also, point out any additional skills you bring to the table that could save the company money or add extra value.

If the potential employer offers a lower salary or expresses uncertainty about your desired range, state that you’d like to think it over. It’s always a good idea to take time to contemplate big decisions like whether you’re okay with a salary decrease. Plus, if the potential employer really wants to hire you, they might get nervous about you needing time to think things over. This could possibly work in your favor, with the company agreeing to pay your desired salary.

At the end of the day, your job search is driven by one thing: to land a job. Hopefully that job is one you actually like and that allows you a comfortable living. There are many tactics for answering salary questions, and the same tactic might not work for everyone or in every situation. When it comes to salary negotiation, it’s important to do what works best for you and what you’re comfortable with.