Updated 26 May 2020
This is the one question that many candidates really hate to answer. But let’s face it: at some point in the process of applying for a job, you may well be asked what your salary expectations are.
When you are faced with a question such as this, or a blank box on an application form, it’s difficult to put a value on your expertise, skills and experience. Striking a balance between how much you want the job with your value as an employee can be a daunting prospect for many candidates. Deciding how to approach this question requires thought and a little planning.
If you have applied for your ideal job, it may be tempting to just state the lowest figure you’d accept, to increase the likelihood of securing the position. This is not always a smart move though. Your expected salary can also be an indicator to your employer of how much value you believe you can add to the company.
Negotiate this question well, and it could mean extra money in your back pocket.
This question may arise in the recruitment process when applying for a job, but more often it’s asked during the interview - so be prepared for it, as you don’t want to be coming up with a spontaneous response.
The good news is often it’s a good indicator that salary is being discussed, since it may signal that the recruiter is interested in you working for them. However, a poorly prepared response at this stage could still undo all your good work.
Providing a response to this question requires both tact and diplomacy. No one likes addressing the salary expectations request, but these three tactics are worth considering if you are asked:
If you really don’t want to commit to a figure, you could say that you want to understand the role in more detail before you consider what salary you feel would be acceptable. While this is an OK answer, it isn’t the best tactic. Many employers want to know what your salary expectations are from the outset, so sometimes there may be no avoiding the question, particularly when it comes to filling out an online form. Unfortunately many applications will not let you proceed to the next stage until you have completed this section.
Before applying, carry out some research to explore the typical salary ranges for the job and the sector. That way you can give the employer a range, with the lowest still being a figure that you would be comfortable accepting.
If the recruiter is pushing for a specific figure, then choosing a number that suits you can be beneficial. Remember that this figure won’t be set in stone and you can negotiate further once you receive an offer. Negotiating for a salary that is a little higher may even go in your favour, as employers will see that you have faith in yourself and have carried out enough research to understand the true value of what you can bring to the role.
Many recruitment experts would recommend that you delay answering the salary expectations question for as long as you possibly can. There are several strategies that you can use in this regard.
With this response, you are communicating that you know the qualities that you can bring to the role and you are confident of your capabilities. At the same time, you are creating an opportunity to earn respect by being tactful and setting expectations that you would like the salary to reflect your worth. This answer also allows you to let the recruiter know that you are willing to negotiate.
If the recruiter persists and asks you to provide a specific figure then you can respond with something such as:
As mentioned previously, make sure that the lower figure you quote is one you would be happy to accept.
Sometimes the recruiter may ask your current salary, on the basis that if they offer you a salary which is at least 10% higher, you will be likely to accept. However, there are several reasons why this question may prove problematic for many applicants.
Many candidates are underpaid in their current post - hence why they are leaving. As such, they fear that revealing a low salary figure may lead to an unattractive offer, or remove them from being a contender for the post. Others may be making a career change or are presently self-employed; in either case, the comparison isn’t particularly relevant.
If you are earning an above-average wage for your position, the recruiter may think that they cannot afford to match or better your current salary, or that you are overqualified for the role. There are many reasons why people may search and apply for jobs that are lower paid than their current position, such as flexible working, improved benefits, the location or opportunities that the role presents.
If your situation fits into any of these scenarios, say as much. A good response might be that you’d like to learn more about the responsibilities involved, so you can work together to determine a fair salary for the position.
You’ve been through the gruelling application and interview process, and now you have been offered the job. Congrats! Unfortunately, the salary offered is a lot less than what you were expecting.
Always remember that when you are offered the job, it is simply that: an offer. There is always room to negotiate. Sometimes an offer will be put on the table as a test. The strategy you use to respond to the offer can change everything, and good negotiation at this stage is crucial. Keep in mind these four points as you negotiate:
It’s always a contentious subject talking about money, but it has to be done. As a general rule there are some basic principles that you should follow and some things that you certainly shouldn’t do, such as these:
Salary negotiations are always going to be difficult. If you approach them in the right way, though, there is no reason why you can’t secure the job that you have applied for and negotiate a salary that reflects your worth.
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