Your desired salary is something that you often discuss in job interviews or write down on a job application. It’s important to know how to answer this question. Providing a salary in the right range will help you get a job that can compensate you appropriately for your skills and experience.
In this blog, we discuss how to determine your desired salary and how to share this information with a prospective employer.
What does desired salary mean?
Desired salary is the compensation that you would like to receive for a new job. It’s common to be unsure what to put for the desired salary as you are completing job applications and attending interviews. If you select a number that’s too low, your employer may eagerly accept the suggestion and pay you less than you’re worth. If you quote a desired salary that’s too high, you could risk losing the job opportunity.
It’s important to have a smart strategy for approaching the matter of your desired salary so you can quote a number that’s likely to get you fair compensation for the job.
How to determine your desired salary
Follow these steps to figure out the best salary request for your desired job:
1. Research average salaries for your occupation
Perform online research to see what others are making with this job title. You will probably find a broad range depending on location, experience and education. This gives you a very loose basis of what you can list as your desired salary.
2. Consider your cost of living
The average salary for a job varies by location. If you are relocating for your new position, it’s important to understand how much it will cost for you to maintain the same standard of living in a new city. In some places, housing, gas, groceries and utilities are significantly cheaper. If this is the case, you may accept a salary that’s lower than your previous job.
In other cases, you may find that the cost of living is notably higher in your new location. In this case, you will want to request a higher salary simply to maintain the same lifestyle. If you want to increase the funds that are available after your standard living expenses, you need to request an even higher salary.
3. Factor in experience and education
Experience and education are two of the biggest determining factors when considering salary. If you are seeking an above-average salary, you should also have above-average skills and expertise. If you have a long history of working in a particular field, you can ask for a higher salary than if you are an entry-level employee.
How to answer “What is your desired salary?”
If a job application asks for your desired salary, you may have to provide this information before the interview. Follow these steps to handle a request for your desired salary within the application process:
1. Follow the hiring company’s directions closely
Don’t provide your desired salary in your cover letter or on your resume unless specifically asked to do so. It’s best to withhold this information until you get a starting offer from the company so you don’t price yourself too low.
If the job posting asks that you include desired salary on your resume, you can satisfy the requirement without giving a concrete number by including a note that says, “Salary is negotiable and can be discussed during the interview.” If you’re filling out an online application that you cannot submit without filling in this box, continue with the following steps.
2. Select an appropriate range
Use the strategy outlined above to determine what an appropriate salary range is for your field, taking the local cost of living and your personal experience and knowledge into consideration.
3. Indicate that your salary is negotiable when possible
Some online application forms include a checkbox that allows you to indicate whether your salary is negotiable. Check this if you’re given the option. If not, you may be able to state that the salary is negotiable at the end of the application if there’s a place for notes. This could help you get further consideration from employers.
How to answer “What is your desired salary?” in interviews
Potential employers will often ask what your desired salary is in an interview. This is the best place to approach this question because you have the flexibility to discuss the topic fully in person. Follow these steps to address this query:
1. Wait until you’re ready
If the hiring manager asks about your desired salary before you have a full grasp of the position, you can delay your response. You may say, “I’d like to learn more about what this position involves before I discuss my desired salary.“
2. Support your answer with research and evidence
Research the industry before your interview so you can provide an answer that’s backed by evidence. If you want a salary of $90,000, you should have a solid argument for why you are worth that amount. Know what the average salary is for your occupation, the industry and the local area.
3. Indicate when negotiation is acceptable
Let your employer know if you are willing to negotiate your salary. It’s usually best to open the discussion to negotiations. However, if you have stated your lowest acceptable salary, you should confidently stand by it.
4. Consider the full benefits package
If the hiring manager counters with a lower salary, inquire about the benefits. Your health insurance, stock options, pension and other benefits add real monetary value to the position.
5. Decline unacceptable offers
Know the lowest salary you can accept and be prepared to respectfully decline the offer if the employer cannot meet your needs. It’s better to keep looking for the right fit than to take a job that doesn’t pay you enough to comfortably maintain your lifestyle.
There are many ways to answer the question of your desired salary. Consider some of these responses.
Responding with a request for a pay increase
“My current salary is $60,000, which is the maximum compensation that my employer allows for this position. I have recently completed an MBA which gives me the skill and expertise necessary to take on the more advanced position that I am now applying for. As this job has a greater number of responsibilities, I’m seeking a 10% increase in my salary and asking for $70,000.”
Responding with a desired salary based on relocation
“Based on my research, the average salary for an RN in the Chicago area is $65,000 to $85,000. I have 10 years of experience as an RN and recently obtained Certified Additions Registered Nurse-Advanced Practice certification. I believe this qualifies me for a higher salary within this range, and request compensation of $80,000 to $85,000.”
Responding when you’re unsure of your desired salary
“I don’t have a specific number in mind yet. I’m focused on finding a position that’s a good fit for my skills and career goals. Once I’ve done that, I’m willing to consider the salary offer that you feel is fair.”
Responding in a cover letter to your desired salary in an online application
“On the application, I selected a salary range of $40,000 to $50,000. I believe this is appropriate for my skills and experience level. I am open to negotiation regarding the salary and benefits for this position and look forward to discussing this with you further.”
Tips for discussing your desired salary
These tips can help you comfortably discuss your salary:
Stay confident. If you seem unsure, the hiring manager may see this as an opportunity to negotiate a much lower salary. Present a confident attitude that conveys the fact that you know what your work is worth.
Use a broad range. Providing a salary range with your targeted salary near the bottom gives both parties room for negotiation.
Counter with your own questions. If you are asked about your salary range in an interview, you can counter with questions of your own. You may state, “I don’t usually discuss compensation until I have a job offer. Is that the case here?” You may also respond with a question about bonuses, commissions or other types of compensation.
Quote a worthy salary. If the prospective employer can’t meet your desired salary, the job probably isn’t a good fit for you. Stay with a range that you are comfortable with.