How To Answer “What Are Your Salary Requirements?” (With Examples)

By Maddie Lloyd - Feb. 15, 2021
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“So, what are your salary requirements?”

When you’re looking for jobs, at some point you’ll probably be asked to give an employer your salary requirements or salary history. It’s important to be careful with how you describe this information — you don’t want to be screened out or offered a low salary.

Whether you’re asked this question during the application process or in a job interview, it’s essential to have an answer ready.

We’ll cover why recruiters and hiring managers ask this question, give tips for how to answer, and provide sample answers that give the best chance at a high starting salary.

What Are Salary Requirements?

A salary requirement is the amount of money a person needs to be paid in order to accept a job offer. Some companies ask for people to include their salary requirements either with the application or in the cover letter.

Some interviewers may ask you in person, and it’s best not to let them catch you off guard.

Salary requirements depend on a few different factors, like the industry, the benefits package, your salary history and work experience, and the cost of living in a specific area.

Sometimes employers ask for your salary history instead of your salary requirements, and sometimes they ask for both. A salary history lists your past earnings and usually includes the companies you’ve worked for, your job titles, your salary, and your benefits package.

Why Do Employers Ask for Your Expected Salary?

Employers ask for your salary information for a few reasons. If your salary requirements are too high, they may no longer consider you for the job because they don’t want to pay that much or think you won’t like working for less money.

On the other hand, if you give a salary requirement that’s lower than what the company is willing to pay you, they might offer you a lower salary than you deserve.

Hiring managers want to see that you can accurately assess and communicate your worth. They also have a budget to consider.

The key to answering this question is all about finding a good middle ground. You don’t want to sell yourself short, but you don’t want to make less than you deserve or get screened out of the hiring process.

Tips for Communicating Your Salary Requirements

Here are some tips on how to figure out and describe your salary requirements:

  • Do your research. Learn as much as you can about the position and compare salaries with other companies and similar job titles.

    Look for salary information on the company’s website and use online salary calculators like Payscale to factor in your cost of living.

  • Give a range. After researching reasonable salaries, consider giving a salary range rather than a specific number.

    For example, you could say:

    “My salary requirement is in the $35,000 – $40,000 range.”

    Giving a range as your answer gives you some flexibility, while also keeping you from being offered too low of a salary or being kicked out of the hiring process for expecting too much.

  • Aim high. In your range, you should include as high of a salary as you can justify based on your education, experience, and skills.

    The trick is to put your target salary at the bottom of your range. For example, if you’d like to make $50,000, state your range as $50,000-$57,000. The employer is likely to offer you the lower end of that range, but anything more than the absolute bottom is just icing on the cake for you.

  • Leave it negotiable. Let them know that your salary requirements are flexible and that you’re open to negotiating. This will help keep you in the running for the job and will help when negotiating if you end up getting a job offer.

    Stating that your requirements are flexible will give more room for salary negotiations later on if you end up getting the job.

Tips for Communicating Your Salary History

If you’re asked to include your salary history, you could also list your previous salaries as ranges instead of giving a specific amount.

However, if the employer gives specific instructions on how to include salary information, you should follow the rules.

Always be honest.

If you lie about your salary history, your potential employer could easily check in with your previous employers. Lying is a good way to get screened out of the hiring process.

How To Answer “What Are Your Salary Requirements?” Tips From An Expert

Wendi Weiner
Attorney and Career Expert

As a lawyer who spent 11 years settling large insurance claims and negotiating attorney’s fees with some of the most contentious opposing counsel, I learned various tricks and tools that helped me excel in the process and even during the dreaded salary negotiations talks in job interviews. My strategies enabled me to acquire hefty salary increases at subsequent roles and even during performance reviews. I have since leveraged that experience and skill set in job search strategy sessions with career coaching and resume clients, which have included a payoff to many in the form of $20,000 or more.

I believe that one of the key issues job seekers have is feeling that they are not getting paid what they are worth. But here’s the flip side to that: if you don’t have the experience or skill set, it’s hard to leverage that worth. As they say, you must “pay your dues” and gain the experience in order to have the leverage. So, how exactly do you negotiate the salary you deserve? Well, I want to tell you exactly how to do it through the following steps:

Know Your Strategy Ahead Of Time

Like any good negotiator, you must plan ahead and work your plan at the time of the salary talk. My top tip is always to go into the salary discussion knowing the information. That means you need to research what competitor companies are paying someone at your level, and what the fair market value is for someone at your level. Remember, it’s not about what you think you deserve, but rather what companies are actually paying employees who have similar credentials and skills that you possess.

Don’t Focus On Your Current Salary Or Past Salary

Many times, career professionals will focus only on the number they are making (or were making in the past) and dwell on that number rather than looking to what the fair market value is paying. If you focus too much on your current salary or past salary, you will find that the conversation centers around negativity, frustration, and disgust. Yes, companies may ask what you are currently making, but when you give your current salary number, do not forget to add what similar companies are paying someone at your level and don’t forget to factor in the additional compensation perks (bonuses, benefits, vacation time, award earnings, etc.) that you are earning. It’s not just about your current paycheck. You need to look at the big picture of your entire compensation package.

Do Not Bid Against Yourself

This is the most important piece of advice. Never (I repeat NEVER) throw a number out there that causes you to bid against yourself. You could be giving too low of a number or even worse: a number that is out of the ball park that completely disqualifies you from moving forward in the interview process. Remember this bold statement: in business, it’s all about what you negotiate not what you think you deserve. Let the prospective employer know the range of what other employers are currently considering you for. Tell them you are open and negotiable, but also remind them of your clear objective: to have long-term growth at an organization. An important takeaway from this is that giving a range is always better than a hard number. Why? When you give a range, you are demonstrating flexibility and employers always prefer flexibility and versatility in an employee.

Consider The Power Of The Counteroffer

Like any good negotiator, it’s often expected that you will not accept the first offer given to you. Allowing the employer to provide you an offer gives you the power to counteroffer. But, don’t get into a bidding war of going back and forth multiple times with the number. Give one counteroffer and then make your decision.

At the end of the day, salary is important in a job or career, but your happiness and long-term goals are just as important. Consider all of the options, and create a pro and con list before making any decision to accept a salary offer. Remember, show your enthusiasm, but do not be afraid to ask for a few days to consider the offer. Thinking things through and weighing your options will help you make the right objective decision rather than being impulsive and possibly regretting that decision at some later point.

Where and How to Include Salary Information

Employers will often tell you where to mention your salary requirements and history — they’re usually included in your cover letter, in the application, or during an interview. If the employer asks for your salary requirements in a different way, follow their directions.

You can give your salary requirement in your cover letter by stating something along the lines of:

“My salary requirement is flexible based on the compensation package and is in the $25,000 – $30,000 range.”

Try to keep your salary requirements brief, so that the employer can spend more time focusing on your cover letter and your application.

You want them to see why you’re a good fit for the job and deserve the salary requirements you give them, not that you’re a money-hungry psycho.

Should I Even Tell Them?

If the job listing or application doesn’t mention salary requirements, you don’t have to include any salary information at all.

If you are asked to give your salary requirements, you could ignore them, but then you might not even get the job. No one likes people who don’t follow directions.

That being said, most experts agree that you should delay providing your salary expectations as much as possible.

If asked about your salary requirements during an interview, you should instead focus on the value you’ll provide and say you’re sure that they’ll offer competitive pay. That pulls the ball in their court, which might end up better for you in the long run.

Another way to dodge the question is to simply provide the information you found during your salary research, without actively saying that’s what you’re seeking. It leaves it open-ended while still suggesting that you have a working knowledge of what “competitive pay” really means.

When hiring managers and recruiters ask about your current salary, they’re operating under the assumption that they’d need to offer you a substantial bump (10%+) for you to bother making the move. Of course, folks who change careers might have to accept a bit less money than they’re accustomed to.

Example Answers to “What Are Your Salary Requirements?” Interview Question

Let’s take a look at a few different ways of answering this seemingly straightforward question during an interview:

  1. Example 1: Research-Based

    Based on my salary research, I feel that an annual salary of between $39,000 and $45,000 is appropriate for someone with my experience. I am open to learning more about ABC Corp.’s salary expectations and included benefits for this position.

  2. Example 2: Skills-Focused

    While certainly open to negotiation, a starting salary of $46,000 to $51,000 seems fair to me. I bring a unique blend of management, business, and customer service experience and skills to a position that requires all three, based on our conversations.

  3. Example 3: Other Benefits

    I’ll open by saying that I’m impressed with the benefits package that your company offers. Still, as an experienced project manager, I expect a base salary of between $56,000-$60,000.

  4. Example 4: Delay (No Number)

    At the moment, I’m focused on finding a position that fits my skill level and passion. Based on our conversation and my research of your company, I’m sure you can provide a competitive offer.

  5. Example 5: Delay (Salary Range)

    My salary research indicated that a typical annual salary for an employee with my level of experience working in this position is between $67,000 and $72,000.

How to Negotiate a Higher Salary

Once you’ve been offered a job, you can still negotiate your salary. Use everything you’ve learned about the role and what the company values most to sell the employer on the idea of paying you a bit more than they’ve offered.

Think back on the interview process when considering what information to use when explaining why you deserve more. Salary negotiations are rarely comfortable, but your starting salary affects the trajectory of your earnings for years to come, so it’s worth a bit of awkwardness.

Follow these tips when negotiating a higher salary:

  • Start with a high number. Determine the highest reasonable salary you can justify and focus on that. As long as you state that your salary requirements are flexible and you can defend your request, there’s no risk of aiming high, and you’ll also show that you see yourself as a valuable employee.

    Giving a higher number gives you more room to negotiate if you get the job and you’re more likely to get what you want.

  • Don’t sell yourself short. If you give a salary requirement that’s lower than what a prospective employer is willing to pay you, you could cheat yourself out of more money and come off as unprepared.

    Too low of a salary requirement could make potential employers see your flaws instead of your strengths.

  • Be aggressive. Don’t be afraid to give a number that you think you deserve.

    People who make more aggressive offers for the highest number in their range are more likely to get what they want than people who focus on the minimum amount they’re willing to take.

  • Be flexible. Take a lesson from your friendly neighborhood yogi and remember to be flexible.

    You might have to concede your first offer, but you’ll probably still get a good deal and your potential employer will be happy with the results.

    There’s little risk if you give them the highest number you can defend, but there’s a lot to lose if you’re too afraid to aim high.

    Finally, remember that there are several things that go into compensation, like benefits and opportunities for growth.

Final Thoughts

Remember that even though compensation is important, this is not the most important part of your application or your interview. You want the employer to be able to spend a lot of time reading or hearing about your strengths and qualifications.

Don’t sell yourself short and let your employer know why you deserve to be paid the salary you require. Be willing to negotiate and justify your salary requirements.

Now that you know what to do — get out there and request a reasonable salary!

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Author

Maddie Lloyd

Maddie Lloyd was a writer for the Zippia Advice blog focused on researching tips for interview, resume, and cover letter preparation. She's currently a graduate student at North Carolina State University's department of English concentrating in Film and Media Studies.

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