How to Answer “What Are Your Salary Requirements?”

Feb 22, 2024

There might not be a more intimidating job interview question than, “What are your salary requirements?” Even though it’s a guaranteed part of every interview, it still terrifies most people. The potential consequences can either cost you the position or sell yourself short. So how do you answer confidently?


Understanding Market Pay Rates

There are industry benchmarks that you can explore to help determine your worth in the job market. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics is a great place to start, as they can provide statistical data on what specific positions and industries pay. This information provides a foundation for any other research you undertake.

It’s important to start with a scientific data because other publicly available resources can be biased. While they can still be helpful, it’s important to remember that they can be subjective and anecdotal. Websites like Glassdoor and Payscale rely on workers reporting their own data, which may be skewed or flat out incorrect.

As you research, keep in mind your unique situation. Your education level, years of experience, specific skills, and other nuances are critical factors. Determining your market worth involves comparing yourself against industry standards and recognizing the value you bring. Even geographical location makes a difference.

Remember, a recruiting agency is a great place to turn for accurate salary comparisons! Recruiters work with many positions, industries, and job seekers on a daily basis. Their data, while not recorded and reported as such, can be extremely beneficial.


Naming an Accurate and Fair Salary

Going into a job interview having done your research is half the battle. You also need to be prepared to draw a line in the sand.

Most advice around answering salary questions in interviews involves avoidance. After all, if you make the company go first, you can determine where you stand, right? While transparency in job descriptions and job postings has come a long way, a salary range is still just that—a range. If you’ve applied for the position with a ballpark number in mind, you still need to be prepared to throw the first pitch.

There are several strategies that you can use when answering the salary question. First, you can go for complete transparency and be up front about your salary history. You can respond, “I currently make $72,000 annually and I am looking for a position that will allow me a 5% pay increase. So ideally this position would have a salary of at least $75,600.” This tactic may be a good one if you are looking to accept more responsibility in a closely related position in your field. However, it may not account for your market rate.

Second, you could go directly for the market rate. “According to my research, the market rate for someone with my combination of education, skills, and experience is $78,000.” This is straight and to the point, but may not account for the nuances of the position. For example, what if that’s the market rate for the position, but you are interviewing at a small business? Or maybe there are more direct reports than the industry standard. It could still be inaccurate.

The third strategy—and possibly the best one—is a hybrid method. Narrow down positions by the salary range provided and only apply to those that you would be comfortable earning on the lower end. (If none is listed in the job posting, it is perfectly acceptable to ask for a general range before accepting the interview to make sure everyone is on the same page.) When the question about salary is posed to you, use your research to guide your answer but be sure to go with your gut. Only you know your specific situation and the value you can bring to the company. Your research will keep you from embarassing yourself by keeping you in the realm of possibility. But you have to trust in your ability to recognize your worth and ask for what you deserve!

Written by: Employment Enterprises

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