salary requirements

Rose, a client whose resume I’d recently written, emailed me today to say that her first interview with her target company had gone very well, and in follow-up the interviewer asked, “what are your salary requirements?” This question makes everyone understandably nervous; if the number you give is higher than the employer has budgeted, you may be out of the running; lower than expected, and they think that you’re not as good as they thought, or they’ll make an offer based on that low number that will serve as a benchmark for future compensation.

So here’s what not to say, “I’m pretty open because this is a great opportunity,” or any variation on the theme; also, don’t say that your salary requirements are “flexible” (unless your interviewing for a job as yoga instructor, and in any case, not in this context).

You have a couple of options here, and the best one depends more on whether your salary requirements are actually requirements because you’re in the enviable position of being able to call the shots, or if you’re in the more common situation of REALLY NEEDING THIS JOB! In the first instance, the answer is obvious: tell them what it will take for you to accept their offer. For the other 99%, a very safe ploy is to ask for a bit above or below the median income for your role in your location.

Check out Glassdoor’s salary calculator and Salary.com to see what both sites come up with. If there is a significant variation between the two, play around with title and responsibilities until you see more parity. You can also google “median salary for [your title] in [your city]. Rose and I googled “median income media buyer NYC” and came up with a $57 thousand annual salary.

The safest answer to salary requirements questions is to quote that median income, and then add a few thousand if you’re confident of your expertise and if the interview went well, or subtract from the median if you have less experienced than the employer is looking for.

Under NO circumstances should you respond to questions about your salary history. First of all, it’s illegal in some venues for employers to ask.  And even if you’re interviewing in a city where it’s still legal to ask, it’s best to state, respectfully and confidently, that you’re hoping for an offer, and would expect that offer to be commensurate with the value you represent to the employer.

Be sure to read “How to answer salary questions.” and if you’d like comprehensive help with your interview preparation, read this.

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