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“What are your salary requirements?”

This can be one of the most challenging questions in the job interview, and one that invokes a ton of anxiety for job seekers. On one hand, no one wants to price themselves out of a great opportunity. Yet on another, you want to make sure you’re paid competitively for your skill level and given an opportunity to grow.

The hiring manager has a responsibility to protect the investment of the business, and this means hiring the right talent, at the right price point, and making sure that’s it’s a win-win on all sides. If a candidate takes a job for less money than they’d like, there’s a chance they will quit for a better opportunity. And statistics show that it is 3x more costly to hire a new candidate than to retain existing talent. So it’s important that the opportunity is a financial match on all sides, which means there is a baked-in incentive for employers to offer a competitive salary.


How to Know What to Ask For

You can do your research by using tools like and Glassdoor to determine competitive pay based on your market and specialty. Or speak to colleagues in your field to get an idea of where you should be looking. Whether you’re looking for a step up, a lateral move, or willing to take a pay cut for the right opportunity, you’ll want to come prepared with data to back up your asking price.

Ideally a company will disclose the compensation upfront, but that doesn’t always happen. You’re likely to encounter one of three scenarios, so be prepared to speak to each:

Company Discloses Salary Information Upfront

  • Your Response: “My expectations fall within the range of the position.” or “My salary requirements are slightly above the range, is there any room for negotiation?”

Company Does Not Disclose Compensation – Asks for Your Current Salary

  • Your Response: “Based on my experience and track record, I am looking for a step up from my current role, and am targeting between $75,000 and $85,000.”

Company Does Not Disclose Compensation – Asks for Your Requirements

  • Your Response (Provide a Range): “I’ve looked at similar roles in the market for my skill set and experience level, and am targeting between $75,000 and $85,000.”


Is it Okay to Negotiate?

If your ask is outside the range of a position, an employer may either counteroffer or ask if your figure is negotiable. Go in knowing exactly what your lower limit is – the number at which you are not willing to go below based on what’s fair and your own financial requirements. You can also counteroffer (if an offer is made), or ask the employer if they are willing to negotiate. Be prepared to back up your request with data around why this figure is valid, whether it’s market value or something unique that you bring to the table.

Someone with a master’s degree in a field, for instance, may be able to command a higher pay level than someone with a bachelor’s degree. Similarly, someone with managerial or industry-specific experience brings a unique component that may strengthen their negotiating power.


Other Ways to Negotiate Your Compensation Package

In some cases, negotiation is not an option, or an employer may simply not have flexibility with the offer. Consider other benefits that can increase the overall value of your full compensation package outside of salary – such as flexible work options, healthcare reimbursements, bonus potential, equity in the company, or transit benefits. If the employer offers telecommuting as an option, consider how much money this saves in terms of gas, time, and wear and tear on your car.

If the employer isn’t flexible on salary, ask about additional benefits – you might be able to negotiate additional leave, sick days, or stock options that end up being a higher payoff in the end.


What’s Next?

A solid resume and interview strategy are critical to securing the best job offer and negotiating the right salary. Check out our suite of resume and career coaching services to help you get noticed and get hired.