“What Is Your Desired Salary?”: Answers, Tips, and Examples

By Chris Kolmar - Nov. 13, 2020
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When you’re job hunting, you know that one of your most important goals will be that hard-earned paycheck. After all, odds are that you wouldn’t even be looking for a new position if you didn’t need the money.

That being said, whether you’re a manager, web developer, compensation analyst, or anything in between, it’s not only crucial that you know what you’re worth and what you need, but also how to bring those things up tactfully and discuss them with a potential employer.

With that in mind, one of the most important questions you should focus on, whether you’re applying or being interviewed, is the one about your desired salary. It’s vital that you know the appropriate answer, so you don’t either undercut yourself or come across as cocky and ignorant. With the proper research, you can provide a salary in the right range, which will help you get a job that can compensate you appropriately for your skills and experience.

Fortunately, this article will give you tips on what answer you should provide, among other tips and examples.

What Specifically is a “Desired Salary”?

A desired salary is the compensation that you would like to receive for a new job. Technically, anything you want is your “desired salary.” However, it’s important to be more reasonable and calculating with your answer. Remember, everyone would love to have a million dollars an hour, but that’s not exactly realistic.

More commonly, many people are unsure of what to put for desired salary when they’re submitting their applications or asked at interviews. Unfortunately, if you offer a number that’s too low, your employer may be delighted to accept the suggestion and pay you less than you’re worth. On the other hand, if you quote a desired salary that’s too high (like a million dollars an hour), you may just risk losing the job opportunity.

For these reasons, doing your research and brainstorming a smart strategy for approaching your desired salary when asked will pay off big time. Ultimately, the more information you gather, the more likely you’ll be able to quote a number that’ll get you fair compensation for the job.

How to Determine your Desired Salary

Now that you know the specifics of the question you’re tackling, here are some crucial tips that will help you determine a balanced ideal salary.

  1. Research. Before anything else, you should research the position and the company you’re applying to or interviewing for. When you research the company, you can often find the average salary given to employees, which may even be listed in the job description. Additionally, it’s worthwhile to peruse the internet for average salaries in your field. This can give you a bigger range of reasonable salaries. With all this research combined, you’ll get a better idea of what you should provide as your desired salary.

  2. Experience. The more experience you have working in your field, the better. Usually, when you research average salaries on the web, there will be a disparity between experienced and inexperienced workers. Keep this in mind.

    Job type you want
    Full Time
    Part Time

    If you’ve been teaching for ten years, don’t sell yourself short by providing a beginner’s salary. On the other hand, if you’re brand new to the field, it can be appropriate to take that same beginner’s salary.

  3. Education. No one spends a couple of years of their life in college for nothing. When in doubt, remember that the more education you have, the more valuable you are to an employer.

    However, keep in mind that certain fields require specific majors, so if you don’t have that major, it may not be reasonable to ask for a higher desired salary. Remember your research, and look for the education requirements in a job description. Regardless of whether you have a high school or college education, you can generally increase your desired salary with your education levels.

  4. Cost of living. Finally, you should know what you can afford and what your bills are. It can be valuable to add everything together and determine your average cost of living per month. This will give you a better idea of the salary you need to live comfortably.

    Further, The average salary for a job tends to vary by location. If you’re relocating for your new position, it’s essential to understand how much it will cost for you to maintain your current standard of living. If the new location has gas, housing, groceries, and utilities that are significantly cheaper, it can be acceptable to receive a lower salary.

    On the other hand, you may find that the cost of living is notably higher in your new location. In this case, it’s appropriate to request a higher salary, and your request won’t be out of bounds.

How to Answer “What is Your Desired Salary?” in Interviews

Interviews can be overwhelming and stressful, but if you can avoid being caught off guard by the “What is your desired salary” question, you’ll have one less thing to worry about. Here are some tips on the best ways to answer:

  1. Wait until you’ve gathered enough info. If you feel as though you don’t have enough information when the hiring manager asks, don’t make something up. Instead, you should wait to answer until you have more insight. You may say, “I’d like to learn more about what this position entails before I discuss my desired salary.”

  2. Always support your answer with research. Doing all that research wasn’t for nothing and will aid you in your interview. If your research brought you to the conclusion that you deserve a salary of $60,000 per year, you should have a solid argument for why you’re worth that amount. Know the details of the position you’re applying for, and use your research to sell yourself.

  3. Consider the company’s benefits package. Remember to inquire about the company’s benefits. Your health insurance, stock options, pension, etc. add real monetary value to the position. Therefore, they may affect what desired salary the hiring manager considers to be acceptable.

  4. Indicate if and when negotiation is acceptable. During the interview, make sure to let your employer know if you’re willing to negotiate your salary. Generally speaking, it’s best to be open to negotiations. However, if you’ve already stated your lowest acceptable salary, you should confidently stand by it.

  5. Decline unacceptable offers. Before going into your interview, know the lowest salary you can accept to maintain your standard of living and be prepared to respectfully decline an offer if the employer cannot meet your needs. Don’t sell yourself short. Keep in mind that It’s better to keep looking for the right fit than to take a job that doesn’t pay enough.

Example Responses for Your Interview

Now that you know what to keep in mind when discussing your desired salary in an interview, here are some examples of how you might respond to a hiring manager.

  1. Unsure of your desired salary:

    “At the moment, I don’t have a specific number in mind. However, considering that I’m focused on finding a position that fits my skills and goals, I’m willing to consider a salary offer that you feel is fair.”

  2. Requesting a pay increase:

    “My current salary is $75,000, which is the average pay for someone with a graduate degree in my field. However, I recently completed my Ph.D. in psychology, which has given me the skills and expertise necessary to take on a more advanced position. Because this job has a greater number of responsibilities, I’m seeking a 10% increase in my salary and asking for $82,500.”

  3. Discussing relocation:

    “Based on my research, the average salary for a Landscaper in the Orlando area is $30,000 to $45,000. I have 15 years of experience as a Landscaper working in New Orleans and recently obtained a Florida Fertilizer and Pesticide certification. Therefore, I believe this qualifies me for a higher salary within that range, and request compensation of $40,000 to $45,000.”

Tips for Discussing your Desired Salary

You’re almost ready for your interview. Now you just have to stay calm and remember these final tips:

  • Confidence without cockiness. Appearing confident without coming across as arrogant is one of the most critical tightropes to walk during an interview. Unfortunately, if you seem noticeably unsure, the hiring manager might see that as an opportunity to try to negotiate a lower salary.

    On the other hand, coming across as arrogant can turn an employer away from hiring you. Present yourself in a balanced way while also having an attitude that conveys that you know what your work is worth.

  • Go broad. When in doubt, if you can come up with a decent range of salaries you find acceptable, you should go broad and put your most ideal salary closer to the bottom of that range. This is because providing a salary range with your targeted salary near the bottom gives both parties room for negotiation and makes it more likely that you’ll get the pay you want.

  • Prepare counter questions. More than likely, you’ll be asked about your salary range in an interview, and you should counter with appropriate questions of your own. You can say something like, “I don’t usually discuss compensation until I have a job offer. Is that the case here?”

  • Stick to a worthy salary. As mentioned previously, it’s important that you know your worth and what you can afford. Therefore, if the potential employer can’t meet your desired salary, the job probably isn’t a good fit for you. Always stick with a range that you’re comfortable with.

With these tips and examples in mind, you’re more than ready to ace the potential employer’s questions and achieve a salary that works for you.

Good luck!

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Chris Kolmar


Chris Kolmar

Chris Kolmar is a co-founder of Zippia and the editor-in-chief of the Zippia career advice blog. He has hired over 50 people in his career, been hired five times, and wants to help you land your next job. His research has been featured on the New York Times, Thrillist, VOX, The Atlantic, and a host of local news. More recently, he's been quoted on USA Today, BusinessInsider, and CNBC.

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