What Is a Desired Salary?
Desired salary is the pay that you are happy to receive from your employer. This can also include employer benefits as part of a compensation package.
How Might the Question Come Up?
You could be asked to state your desired salary on an application form, in a covering letter or even in an interview.
What Are the Different Ways It May Be Worded?
The desired salary question can be worded in different ways, depending on the employer. When completing an application form many employers ask you to detail exactly what your desired salary is.
Some application forms allow you to specify a desired salary range.
While answering the desired salary question on an application form may feel a little uncomfortable, if you opt to leave this field blank you run the risk of:
- Looking like you want to avoid the desired salary question
- Looking like you have not considered what your desired salary will be and hence may not have done your research on the position you are applying for
- Having your application screened out if applications are being auto-screened
How to Determine Your Desired Salary
While you may initially have a figure in mind, it is always good to use additional resources when deciding on your desired salary.
Research Averages and Trends
Research averages and trends for the type of role you are applying for or the profession you are in. Look at the salary ranges of similar roles to see what the market rate is.
Take a look at online job sites. Many job vacancies posted on these sites will state at the very least a starting salary. Some state the salary range that employers are offering for similar positions.
Check the Professional Body or Qualification Institute for Your Field
Many professional bodies or external research organizations often conduct yearly salary surveys.
The most current salary survey information will then be available on the website for you to review. Use this as a source of information to base your desired salary expectations on.
Take Into Account Your Education and Experience
When deciding on your salary range consider:
- The level of education you have
- The amount of experience you have gained (as relevant to the role)
- The amount of knowledge you have gained working in the industry (if applying for a role in the same industry)
Then decide on a realistic desired salary range based on this.
Use Your Network
Do not underestimate the value that your network can bring when it comes to researching salary ranges.
While they may not be willing to share the salary they are on if in a similar role, ask their views on what they think would be a suitable salary range for someone with your level of skill and experience.
Consult Membership Sites in Your Area of Expertise
Membership sites are a great source of information if the field you are in isn’t governed by a professional body or institute.
These sites will often share information on what they deem to be suitable salary ranges for the roles in their field, often by level of experience or years in role.
Take Living Expenses Into Account
Knowing what your committed expenses are can guide you when deciding on a realistic salary range.
Get Details on the Full Compensation Package
Ask for details on the full compensation package, including scheduled raises and bonuses.
Many employers offer employee benefits and pension contributions. Some also offer yearly pay rises based on performance and quarterly or yearly scheduled bonuses.
When determining your desired salary, it is useful to bear in mind what your current compensation package includes.
What if the Salary Offered Is Lower Than Your Desired Salary?
In this situation, there are different options that you can consider.
Enquire About Other Benefits
Many employers offer an overall compensation package of which salary is a part. If the salary offered is lower than your desired salary, ask if there are any benefits included. Sometimes the benefits included in a package can be traded as cash, which will increase your monthly salary.
Asking about other benefits allows you to weigh up whether the package being offered is comparable to the package you are on, even if the salary offered is lower than your desired salary.
When negotiating, it is important to use your research to support your conversations. Share what the market salary range for similar positions is. Highlight the skills and experience you can bring to the role.
Outline politely why, based on this, you merit the desired salary you are asking for.
Decline the Job
Even if you are offered a position, you do not have to accept.
Consider the career prospects in this role, the type of employer and the values of the employer. Decide whether you are willing to accept lower than your desired salary based on this.
If there is no room for negotiation and based on all of your considerations you believe this role isn’t for you, then politely decline.
When declining, state the reasons why but always thank the employer for their time so you are keeping on good terms.
How to Communicate Your Desired Salary in a Job Interview
Interviews can be nerve-wracking situations. The possibility that you are going to get asked your desired salary can often make you feel even more nervous.
You don’t want to give a figure that is too low. But you don’t want to price yourself out of the market by stating a figure that is too high.
As with all interviews, it is important to think about ways you can tackle the question of what your desired salary is should you get asked.
Sidestep or Turn This Question Around and Find Out What Their Salary Range Is
If you haven't yet discussed the role in detail you could say:
“Would it be possible to hear more about the role, how the team is structured and your ideal candidate for the position? Can I ask if you have a desired salary in mind for this role?”
This response shows that you are interested in the role and want to find out more about who you would be working with.
It will give you information on what the employer deems their ideal candidate to be (which is information you can use if there is a follow-up interview).
It also puts the ball in the interviewers’ court to see if they are able or willing to share what salary range they are considering for the role.
Ask to Discuss Desired Salary When Offered the Job
You can defer answering the question until after you have been made a job offer.
An example could be:
“I’m really focused on finding a role with an employer that I can continue my career with. I’d be happy to discuss the desired salary when we get to offer stage.”
Provide a Salary/Salary Range
If you are happy to discuss salary at interview stage then try to provide a desired salary range. Base this range on the research that you have done and the market data that you have gained.
If pushed to share a specific number, always state that your desired salary is negotiable.
You could say:
“Based on my research of similar roles and market data I’d consider a range of X to Y. But my desired salary is negotiable as I am focused on finding the right position so that I can continue my career with the right employer.”
Responding this way shows that you are open to negotiation but are also focused on the role and not just the salary alone.
How to Communicate Your Desired Salary When Offered the Job
If desired salary has not been asked through the application or selection process, it will arise at the job offer stage.
The employer may ask you what your desired salary is before making an offer. Or, the salary offered may not be within your desired salary range. If so, you will need to negotiate with the employer.
When stating your desired salary, it is important to use your research to support the salary you are asking for and to do so with confidence.
You may want to start off your negotiation conversations by thanking the employer for their job offer. Let them know that you think the role and the employer is exactly what you are looking for. Then let them know that based on your research, the salary that you feel is fair is X.
You might want to say:
“Thank you for your job offer. The role sounds like a great opportunity. I would very much like to start my career with X as you sound like an organization that I can bring a lot to. Based on my research of similar roles and my current experience, I believe a salary range of X to Y is fair.”
This shows that you are not just focused on the salary but have considered the role responsibilities and long-term prospects of the role. It also shows the employer that you are aware of what the market rate of the role pays.
How to Communicate Your Desired Salary When Looking for a Promotion
When communicating your desired salary for a promoted position, it is important to be clear on all the experience you have as relevant to the role.
As always, use your research to inform your salary discussions. Take into account salary surveys and market data based on level of experience in a role. Match this to the role to show why your desired salary is reasonable.
An example response could be:
“Thank you for your salary offer. The role that you are offering is a role that I can bring my experience to as well as continue to develop in. Based on my research of similar roles and my current experience, the salary being offered is below my desired salary range. I would be looking for a salary of between X and Y for this role, given the increase in role responsibilities. Can we discuss the salary and package further, to see if we can come to a mutually acceptable salary and package?”
Be confident when communicating your desired salary. This shows you believe that you have the experience to merit the salary you are asking for, even if the role is a promotion.
Key Tips to Remember When Communicating Desired Salary
Don’t Give a Desired Salary Unless Asked For
The selection process is for you to showcase your skills and experience as relevant to the role. If you ask about salary during the selection process some employers may interpret this as you being solely focused on money and not the role.
Avoid Giving a Desired Salary Until You Are Offered the Job
During the selection process keep the focus on you and what you can bring to the role. Show the employer that you have all of the skills and experience they are looking for.
You can defer answering questions on your desired salary by stating that you would like to discuss this when a job offer is made.
Give a Salary Range Rather Than an Exact Figure
If you are asked for your desired salary during the selection process, give a salary range rather than an exact number.
Don’t undersell yourself by stating a low salary. Conversely, you don’t want to price yourself out by stating a salary that is higher than the employer is able to give.
Stating a range means that you can keep things flexible until you are made a job offer.
When Stating Desired Salary Mention if This Is Negotiable
When sharing your desired salary state that you are willing to negotiate.
Never share the lowest salary you would consider. This does not give you any room to negotiate.
Be Truthful About Your Experience
State your experience as it is. If you don’t have experience in a certain area then be honest.
You can give an example of how you developed your knowledge in your current role. Show how this has benefitted both you and your employer. This shows your capability to learn.
Don't Try to Negotiate a Salary Before You Receive an Offer
Until you are offered the role, keep the selection process focused on you and what you can bring to the role.
Don’t Disclose Your Salary History
It may be that you were underpaid in previous roles compared to the market rate. Or that your previous employers were in a different sector to the one you are applying for.
Try not to disclose previous salary history during the selection process or when asked about your desired salary or salary range. Base your desired salary on market data and salary surveys.
Employers can ask for desired salary at various stages of the selection process. Knowing how to approach each of these situations will make things easier for you as an applicant.
As with all conversations around salary, be truthful.
Do your research. Prepare your responses and be polite and confident when communicating your desired salary.