5 Ways to Answer a Prospective Employer’s Remuneration Requirement Question

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Dear Sam: I don’t know how to tell a potential employer what my required salary is. I’m afraid to present a low number that will allow them to lower the compensation, or count me out of the running by giving too high a number. I know I can search online with Glassdoor, salary.com, and other sites, but they don’t always provide a clear answer on what one employer might pay versus another. I’m afraid I can’t “win” answering this question, but if I don’t answer it, I’m afraid I won’t be considered. To help! – Rock

Dear Peter: You’re not the only one frustrated when it comes to answering the dreaded salary expectation question. I wouldn’t necessarily worry that an employer would “underestimate” you just because you put a low number, as they will have salary ranges for each job classification. Of course, they’ll also want to make sure whoever they hire is competitively compensated to drive both engagement and retention. Showing too many, of course, could put you out of the running, as it signals to a potential employer that they won’t be able to meet your compensation needs.

When asked about a salary requirement, there are a few standard approaches, none of which are without risk. Here are five of the most common ways to handle it:

  • First answer: Tell the hiring manager what you want to earn. If you have a base salary requirement, state it as such to tell the hiring manager that you’re probably expecting a bit more. The risk of using this approach is that you will be disqualified because your amount is too low or too high.
  • Answer 2: Give the hiring manager a wide range. Most employers have a range for each position, and the hope when using this strategy is that your ranges will overlap at some point. You can either declare that you want compensation in the “mid-50s” or ask for compensation of “$50,000 to $60,000”. The challenge here is not to present a range where your lowest amount is their highest available compensation or vice versa. You could get a job earning $50,000 instead of $56,000, just because you put your bracket between $50,000 and $60,000. Therefore, the second “mid-50s” strategy might work more in your favor.
  • Answer three: Avoid the question by stating that you are seeking competitive compensation for someone in your field or that you are flexible with your total compensation. This avoids answering the question and disqualifying you because of a number, but you answer the question to some extent. By using this approach, you’re also telling the hiring manager that you realize there’s more to a compensation package than just your salary.
  • Answer 4: Communicate that you would like to discuss your salary requirements once a mutual interest has been established. This allows you to assess the duties of the position you are applying for and fairly assess what you should be compensated for such a commitment.
  • Fifth answer: Don’t answer. Many candidates take this approach and hope that their experiences, accomplishments, and skills will get them through despite avoiding the question altogether.

You need to decide which strategy you want to use and whether the risk is worth it.

Samantha Nolan is an advanced personal branding strategist and career expert, founder and CEO of Nolan Branding. Do you have a resume, career, or job search question for Dear Sam? Join Samantha at [email protected]. For more information on Nolan Branding’s services, visit www.nolanbranding.com or call 888-9-MY-BRAND or 614-570-3442.

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