One of the hardest questions on a job application or interview is “what are your salary expectations?”. So what’s the strategy for getting it right?

Defining Salary Expectations

One of the hardest questions on a job application or interview is “what are your salary expectations?”. So what’s the strategy for getting it right?

One of the hardest questions on a job application or interview is “what are your salary expectations?” Ask for too much and you risk not getting the job; ask for too little and you risk being underpaid and undervalued. So what’s the strategy for getting it right?

Unfortunately, there is no magic answer for what you should make, unless you know people in HR within the company where you are applying. Even then, they can only offer a range, but what is a candidate to do when he or she knows nothing about the salary scale?

  1. The first step is research. There are plenty of sites that will give you an average salary for your field within your country, your town, even your level of expertise. It is strongly recommend you utilize at least three of these, though, because there are random factors that can affect these ranges. Once you have an average among sites, though, you have a starting point and you can begin thinking about additional factors specific to your circumstances.

  2. Secondly, what are you currently making or were you making in your last position? While this is not always a clear factor in determining salary, it’s still going to play a role. Career changers or those moving levels will find this is tougher, but it’s still a good base. If you are making $40K, but the new role would be at least twice as much work, $50K isn’t a reasonable estimate. At the same time, if you were making $220K and you are making a significant career change to an entry level role, you need to realize you are starting over. Employers will also consider this in offering you a salary. If you are well above their salary range, they may be wary about hiring you, thinking you are going to leave as soon as you find something that pays more. If you are open about knowing that it’s a significant pay cut, you save everyone the time of wondering if you are expecting more from the position.

  3. Now, the third thing is to try to monetize your value. Taking into consideration your recent salary and responsibilities, how does this new opportunity look in comparison? Again, if you were working a standard 40-hour workweek but held minimal responsibility, taking on a position where you are now accountable for a team of 10 and are looking at 50-60 hours of work a week should come with an increase in pay.

  4. Take into consideration benefits, too. A $60K salary with health insurance covered 100% by the employer, a matched 401(k), and four weeks of vacation may, in many ways, be better than $100K with two weeks of vacation and basic insurance. Just as you are monetizing your time and responsibilities, monetize things like company culture, benefits, job security, commuting or travel time, etc. The number on the paper may sound perfect, but there are other factors at work.

  5. Finally, when you are ready, create a scale. Based on what you think you should earn, find a number below and above your ideal. If you want $80K, asking for $70K-$90K is a good start for negotiations. Your lower number should be the lowest you will be satisfied taking (not necessarily the lowest you can take, but the lowest you will take without being disappointed), while the top number should be a little hopeful but still realistic. This way, you have room for negotiation. If you say $70K-$90K and they offer $80K, perfect. If they offer $70K, you may be able to negotiate additional benefits, a bonus option, a raise in six months, etc. At the end, though, you are still in a place where you are satisfied and it’s ideally matching what they were hoping you would say was your expectation.

Content sourced from Talent Inc.
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