There’s a point in every job search when you have to state your pay or salary requirements: a form field on a job application, a question by an interviewer. You know the employer has a pay range in mind. You don’t want to ask for too much or sell yourself short. So what do you say?
If you’re lucky, the topic of pay requirements won’t come up until your interview. Then you have a chance to discuss your entire compensation package: pay, benefits, and other perks.
Of course, if you must provide your salary or wage requirements on a job application, you don’t have the luxury of dialogue. You have to enter something on the form that won’t turn off a potential employer.
The easiest way to tackle the question of pay requirements is to know your answer before the subject ever comes up. Follow the steps in this guide to figure out the right salary requirements for your job search.
1. Research Salary Ranges in Your Field
The typical salary ranges for most jobs aren’t a secret. Do some research to learn what the average salary or wage is for the positions to which you’re applying.
Not sure where to start? You can access real salary data on Ziprecruiter.com. We rely on salary data from the 7.5 million jobs posted every day to ZipRecruiter, including job title and location.
You can also try these other resources:
- The job listing
- The company’s career webpage
- The Bureau of Labor Statistics
- Employer review websites
- Salary information websites
Average salaries vary depending on factors like the seniority of the position and the geographic location of the job. Your research will help you identify an acceptable salary range for the job you want where you live.
2. Choose a Range for Your Salary Requirements
Offering a salary range, rather than a specific number, is always a good idea. Doing this helps ensure that there’s a comfortable figure in there for all parties.
Start with your “walk away” figure, the lowest number you’d be willing to accept. Make sure your low-end pay requirement is enough to cover all your expenses and savings needs.
Next, determine your ideal pay. What amount would you love to earn based on the services you provide and what you think you deserve?
Remember to be realistic with both your low and high pay figures. Base your salary range on the research you did in step one, factoring in the market, cost of living, and what others in similar positions are making.
3. Practice Your Negotiating Skills
If you suggest a low and a high salary figure, you would think an employer will opt for the low one? Not necessarily.
An employer’s starting offer might be on the low side, but they might not expect you to accept it. They may expect you to make a counteroffer, and they expect to negotiate your pay requirements.
Before you can decide if a salary offer or wage offer is fair, you must understand the job responsibilities and the expectations of the position. You also need to find out what other benefits and perks the company will offer you.
A salary on the lower end of the range might be acceptable if you receive profit units, annual bonuses, or the option to work from home once a week.
When the negotiating begins, you need to be ready. During negotiations, remember to:
- Advocate for yourself
- Ask for what you deserve
- Be polite, but firm
- Be professional
If you’re not used to negotiations or the thought of making demands makes you nervous, take some time to practice with a friend or family member.
4. Be Open to Discussion
Although you state your salary requirements early in the hiring process, negotiations occur later. When an employer offers you a job, then it’s time to negotiate the details of your compensation.
If you think a salary offer is too low, say something like: “Thank you for choosing me for this job. I’m thrilled to be joining the team, and I can’t wait to get started. My only reservation is that the salary is a little low. I was expecting something like [salary figure]. Is that a possibility?”
The worst they can say is, “No.” If the employer is stuck on a specific salary figure, take the opportunity to discuss other perks that may sway you, like flexible hours or a performance bonus.
At any rate, you won’t get what you want unless you’re willing to ask. And if an employer won’t budge on their too-low salary offer, you may be better off finding a job with a company that understands what you’re worth.