What Are Your Salary Expectations?

When you sit down to talk to a hiring manager, what are your most dreaded questions? For a lot of people, the question “What are your salary expectations?” tops the list, not the least because it is almost a guarantee that you will be asked it. Salary is something that needs to be discussed for each and every job offer, and there is no getting around having the conversation at some point before you sign your employment paperwork. When the hiring manager asks you that question, though, you may feel like it is unfair, because they, and not you, ultimately will make the determination.

There are two reasons that hiring managers tend to ask this question

The first, as you might guess, is to find out if you are aiming for a salary that is totally out of their range. If so, they will decide based on your response whether or not they want to consider hiring you. If you name a number they are not prepared to match, you will be kicked out the door, even if you would have accepted less. Secondly, if you are someone the employer really does want, they will find out what they need to offer to entice you.

If you give a number that is out of range, obviously you are going to be passed over.

If however you give a number that is lower than you would like to work for and the employer would have accepted a higher one, all you will do is sell yourself short. You might get the position, but end up slaving away at a wage far below what you deserve. How do you steer around both of these pitfalls?

If you are asked this question on a job application, look up the median wage for the job in question in the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) database. Think about your skill and experience level, and whether that would put you at the upper or lower end of the range. Put the best estimate you can come up with given this data. If you are allowed to list a range instead of a number, definitely take the opportunity. But make sure the entire range is acceptable to you, as the employer may choose the bottom end.

If you are asked the same question during an interview, start out by trying to avoid it.

You can for example try to get more information about the position and job duties first, and a really great question is to ask about the compensation package. Remember that many jobs include benefits packages, and you do not want to list a salary range that does not account for this.

When you do name a range, mention that your range is based on your understanding of similar positions and salary research. There is a good chance the employer will try to get you to name a specific number. Do your best to stay flexible, but confidently aim for a number that is fair for you based on your skills and the opportunities you could find elsewhere. Do not get demanding or offensive, but do continue to draw the employer’s attention toward your many assets.

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