When I recruited, I never asked, “What are your salary requirements?” in an initial conversation. It seemed tacky to me.
Still, many recruiters do, so this post offers an example of how to respond when employers ask the salary requirements question.
Know What You Want
First, when you apply for a job, establish your minimum salary requirements with yourself. Know your bottom line.
They might vary depending on several factors. Per the 2020 Job Seeker Nation report from Jobvite, people care most about:
- Career growth (56%)
- Compensation (54%)
- Healthcare and retirement benefits (49%)
- Flexible schedules and remote work (33%)
So, begin with the end in mind because you can’t negotiate effectively without knowing what you want.
When an Online Application Asks for Salary Requirements
If you’re applying online, you might be forced to include your salary requirements to complete the application.
That sucks. So, please take a minute to think about it. Do you want to work for an unreasonable negotiator?
Instead of applying online, if you decide to continue, use the “find the right person” approach described here to contact the prospective employer. It lets you avoid compensation questions until you’re interviewing.
How to Answer Salary Requirements Questions Online
Finally, if you apply online, share a salary requirement that won’t eliminate you from consideration (your number can be too high or too low). Many forms simply want a number. You can negotiate later when you have better information.
However, if you get to write any narrative, use this salary requirements example:
“I have shared the compensation information you have requested. Please note that salary, employee benefits, and other forms of compensation matter to me.
That said, I plan to consider many factors in deciding whether or not to accept job offers.
My current base salary is $150,000, and my bonus runs up to 30%. My employer also provides additional compensation and benefits.”
As you can see, if they haven’t answered, “What does salary requirements mean?” in their request, you have latitude when answering.
When an Online Application Wants Your Salary History
First, know that many states and political subdivisions have outlawed this question. Check this Paycor.com list.
However, legal or not, you might have to answer the question to apply. If that’s the case, use your most recent year’s cash compensation, generally base plus commissions and bonuses.
In the end, there will always be tension between employers and employees about compensation because it is a negotiation.
But I’m not crazy about employers who expect you to name a number before you understand the job.
Updated January 2021
© 2010 – 2021, Donna Svei. All rights reserved.
Donna Svei, an executive resume writer and former C-level executive, retained search consultant, and CPA, authors all of AvidCareerist’s posts. She has written for and been quoted by 100+ business and general media outlets, including Forbes, Mashable, Fast Company, Inc., Entrepreneur, the New York Times, USA Today, Time, CBS, the BBC, Lifehacker, Social Media Today, IT World, SmartBrief, and Business News Daily.
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