What is your salary expectation?
You're here because you want to know how to answer the salary question, and hopefully, feel super confident when you do.
And that is exactly what this post is going to help you do.
If you are exploring a new opportunity, this is going to be a question that you need to answer for yourself at some point.
The Myth of Never Going First
I want to start off by tackling the biggest myth that is out there, and that is that you should never be the first one to state your number.
The reason why this myth is persistent is that most people don't actually know what they should be making. If they are the first to state their number, they either price themselves out of the running or they don't ask for nearly enough.
And either scenario ends up with you having the short end of the stick: either over-pricing yourself out of the opportunities you really wanted to totally lowballing yourself and being shortchanged on what you could have been making if only you hadn't have answered first.
The thing is, this fear is based on you NOT knowing what you should earn, and not knowing how to answer it.
So let's clear those things up, shall we...
What Salary Should I Ask For?
In order to answer this question, you need to know the obvious: what is your number?
The most important thing that you need to know, long before you're actually asked what your salary expectations are is what your salary expectation actually is.
I speak with way too many ambitious professionals who are kind of grasping at straws and feeling around in the dark in order to figure out what this number is.
They're basing it on what they think their friends are making, or what they're currently making right now, or what they think the market is doing based on some obscure information that they saw on Glassdoor.
One of the markers that's actually going to differentiate you as a candidate is going to know exactly what compensation you actually should be earning.
And yes, this is going to take a little bit of work for you to do.
When you're asking for the right amount for the value, skills and the experience that you're bringing to the table, the company is going to know that your request is perfectly reasonable - and it's going to be easy for you to get it.
Now this question is asked for a whole bunch of obvious reasons during the interview process, which includes making sure that candidates that are being considered for an opportunity are actually candidates that the company could hire (i.e. they need know they can affort you).
And this works out very well for you , because it makes sure that as you actually progressed through the process that you're not going to get to the very end and find out that their $50,000 below what your actual expectation is.
There are a lot of places where you can go in order to find what your salary should be - at least in theory.
In fact, if you want to try this out, head over to Google right now, put your job title as well as your and salary expectation, and it is going to come up with a whole bunch of different results. It's highly likely those results are actually all over the place.
And this is one of the things that people actually really struggle with to determine what their number actually should be.
In short, this isn't the best way to find out conclusively what salary you can expect for your role in your market.
Plus, when you're looking at user-provided data, it's going to be skewed - people will over-report their earnings, and under-report. It's not to say this information shouldn't be used, it just needs to be used with the right processes in place to make sure you end up asking for the right number
This post would quickly turn into a novel (rivetting though it would be) if I deep dove here into how to discover your salary benchmarks... but that it what masterclasses are for (psst, I have one coming soon - stay tuned).
Now, once you know your number, it's time for you to move into the actual process of asking for your number.
How to Discuss Salary Across the Job Search Process
There is no silver bullet on how to approach the discussion of your compensation expectations across the journey - it largely depends on where you are in the process.
So let's break it down based on where in the journey you may be:
On an application form
I know a lot of career coaches will give you a ton of different tactics to help you avoid this question (at all costs). But they're wrong - you should not be avoiding it at all.
There's a very high probability that the recruiter is using it to filter candidates.
If you've ever worked as a recruiter, you know that you can open up an opportunity and get hundreds, if not thousands, of job applications and this becomes a very easy way to start filtering through people.
Why is that?
Because people who aren't qualified for the position don't actually know what the position pays- or at least that is the presumption.
Essentially, it's a lazy way to screen out bad fit candidates based on benign information that they are forced to provide.
Think you can dodge the question and still have a human look at your resume? Probably not. If you leave the field empty or enter junk values, you won't fit the parameters they are screening in their Applicant Tracking System (ATS).
This is why as long as you know your number and you're confident that you're asking for the right amount based on your market, your experience and your role, you absolutely should not have any trepidation in terms of putting your target salary in at this point.
I actually love having transparency in terms of salary expectations early in the process.
If your expectations are simply far out of the realm of what the company has the ability to pay this saves everyone time and possibly heartbreak if there is financial misalignment that goes undiscovered until later in the process - though it would be MUCH easier if they just posted their budget for the role on the job advertisement, but that's a rant for another day.
During a phone screen with a recruiter
If the application didn't inquire about expectations, then you are likely to be asked in the next step, which is the phone screen.
Now, I'm not totally for always being the first person to actually give your target salary, and in this case, I encourage you to flip the question.
Ask: "While I have a target salary in mind, I don't quite know enough about this role to appraise it. Can I ask you his dad what the budget is for the role, and I can let you know if that's a range that I'm generally considering at this time."
Most people will not answer like this. Most people when asked a question, especially in an interview, feel like they have to be the ones to answer.
However, if it's truly very early in the consideration process and the question is asked, you might not actually have enough information. to know how you appraise that role.
It's very fair at this point to actually ask them, and the majority of recruiters that you do speak with are going to give you the range that they have budgeted for the role.
If the recruiter won't give you the range, this is actually a red flag for me, because this tells me that the company is making a hiring decision based on 'price' versus fit for the actual opportunity.
Do with that opinion what you will.
During an interview
You've passed the phone screen, and now you're either in additional phone interviews, or maybe you're even in an onsite interview.
And at some point, this question has to come up, because at some point it is going to become about money.
If it does come up in an interview, you can revert to the script that I just gave you to use with a recruiter and you can use it with the hiring manager or whoever is actually asking you that question.
Alternately, if you do feel like you know enough about the role, you know your numbers, and you have a general idea of how you would actually appraise this role, you can give a ballpark at that point in time.
During an offer
I'm actually not a fan of getting this far into the process without having any discussions about numbers.
Because while you have determined the actual fit and the value that you bring, and hopefully, if they've sold you on the opportunity as well, if you've gotten to the point of the offer, it doesn't actually mean that you're financially aligned in terms of what you expect to be making versus what they can expect to pay.
However, if that's where you are, it's where you are and this is where you actually segue into salary negotiations and considering the offer as a whole.
Stay tuned because this is my first post in this series that focuses on increasing your income, supporting you in a salary negotiation and understanding and getting the best job offer you can.
I'd actually love to hear from you when in terms of your search, do you actually like to have the conversation surrounding compensation?
Let me know in the comments down below.