How To Answer “What Is Your Desired Salary?” (With Examples)

By Jack Flynn
Aug. 11, 2022
Articles In Guide

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One of the most critical questions you’ll, either 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 sell yourself short 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.

Key Takeaways:

  • Know your desired salary before applying for a job as it may come up during the application process.

  • Research the average salary of your position while considering your own experience and cost of living.

  • Don’t sell yourself short but remember that employers are trying to find a candidate at the lowest cost.

  • Try as much as possible to avoid placing a desired salary in a job application. Save it for the interview.

  • Wait until you’ve gathered enough information (or a job offer) before answering the question “what is your desired salary?”

How To Answer

What 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 respond with 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 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.

Why Employers Ask About Desired Salary

Employers ask about your desired salary to help them find the best candidate for the lowest cost. If you give a number that’s too high, you’ll remove yourself from the candidate pool, and if you put a number that’s too low, the company now has leverage over you in salary negotiations.

Remember that this question serves to help the company, not you. There are very few occasions when divulging your desired salary before hearing a job offer is a good idea.

That being said, it’s important to make a mental note of your desired salary as you enter the job market.

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.

    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. People don’t spend a few 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. In general, you can 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” on Job Applications

Some company’s online application websites will ask you either to include your desired salary in your resume or cover letter or, more commonly, ask you to fill out a field with your desired salary. Whatever directions are given, make sure to follow them closely: employers are never impressed by candidates who fail to read carefully.

It’s usually best to hear more about the job at an interview or, ideally, let the company give an offer as a starting point, so we recommend avoiding giving a concrete number too soon in the application process.

For example, if the company asks you to include your desired salary in your resume or cover letter, you could include something along the lines of “willing to negotiate salary once learning more about the role at an interview.”

However, some job postings will have strict requirements for providing a number, or a field on an application portal will only allow numerical inputs. In that case, you can type something like 000 to indicate that you’re not answering this question.

But if you do decide to give an answer, you should follow the advice given above to research and determine a fair salary for yourself based on factors like experience, education, and location.

Then, provide a range if possible. This way, you can put your lowest acceptable offer (or something slightly above it) at the bottom of your range.

If possible, also indicate that you’re willing to negotiate the number you provide. Some portals will have a checkbox asking if your salary is negotiable. Most applications also leave space for notes and additional information, so you could briefly explain yourself here as well.

To reiterate, our number one suggestion is that you do not put your desired salary on a job application. It can almost only hurt you and never help your standing in salary negotiations if you are offered the job later on. Do yourself a favor and wait for at least the interview.

How to Answer “What Is Your Desired Salary?” in an Interview

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 — it’s time to put that data to use. 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.

Common “Desired Salary” Mistakes

Avoid these mistakes to achieve the highest possible starting salary:

  • Speaking too soon. The sooner you put your desired salary on record, the earlier the employer has leverage over you during the hiring process. It’s almost always best to let the employer speak first in a salary discussion, whether that’s verbally indicated or put in writing in the form of a job offer.

  • Thinking it’s time to negotiate. This question isn’t the start of salary negotiations — it’s just another piece of info that the hiring manager stores away to use when evaluating the best value per candidate, which can only hurt you.

  • Providing your last or current salary. By getting you, as a candidate, to think about this new job in relation to your old job, you’re being duped. Your current or most recent pay is certainly important to consider when budgeting and planning for your personal finances, but it’s neither here nor there when it comes to salary negotiations.

  • Failing to consider things long-term. If there’s a regimented system in place for pay raises, promotions, commission, or bonuses, then you might miss the bigger picture by simply focusing on the base salary you’re being offered. This will take some math and a degree of trust in your potential future employer, but these factors should be a part of your considerations.

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. Why do jobs ask for desired salary?

  2. Employers ask for desired salary to see if the candidate fits within their budget. This is important to remember. Although some jobs may be willing to negotiate, you also have to be cautious that you do not price yourself out of an opportunity. That is why it is crucial to do research and know your value ahead of time.

  3. How do you answer salary expectations?

  4. Whenever possible, be vague and flexible until you have a job offer. A concrete desired salary amount can box you in too soon. However, do not be annoyingly aloof about your answer. Keep it professional and make it clear you are willing to do what’s in the best interest of yourself and the company.

  5. Is being asked about your desired salary normal?

  6. Yes, it is very normal to be asked about your desire salary. Do not consider the question a red flag. Companies have their own agenda and have to consider their hiring budget during the process. Remember that this discussion is a two way street, so while they consider their needs, be focused and know your worth.

Final Thoughts

While it’s good to have a desired salary in mind throughout the interview process, it’s usually best to keep that to yourself. While it’s one of the most common interview questions, it’s one that we don’t actually recommend answering in a straightforward way.

As an interviewee, you don’t know if you’ve been offered a job yet, and giving a number that’s too high might count you out of the running for the job, while giving a number that’s too low might land you in a job where you’re not fairly compensated. It’s a big moment in your career, and therefore not the time to be playing The Price is Right.

Instead, do your homework, impress the hiring manager with your skills and experiences, and let your interviewer be the first to introduce a number. Saying something as simple as “I’d prefer to wait for a job offer before discussing salary” is a perfectly acceptable and professional approach.

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Jack Flynn

Jack Flynn is a writer for Zippia. In his professional career he’s written over 100 research papers, articles and blog posts. Some of his most popular published works include his writing about economic terms and research into job classifications. Jack received his BS from Hampshire College.

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