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How to Respond When Asked For Salary Requirements

How to Respond to the Salary Question

The question "What are your salary requirements?" can strike fear into the eager hearts of job seekers. Here, a reader asks for advice on how to respond:

When you are applying for a job and an interviewer asks for your salary requirements, how should you respond, especially if you do not have a current salary?

Our answer: Your salary requirements are quite simply, and honestly, negotiable. You don't have a salary history to divulge, so you really are at a jumping-off point, and your salary will be based not only on what is a fair number but also on the other benefits offered.

If asked for your requirements in a cover letter, write, "My salary requirements are negotiable." Something so simple can help you get your foot in the door for an interview; naming a number too high could make them apprehensive about bringing you in, and identifying a number too low could hurt your chances of securing the best possible salary. If you've done thorough salary research using the Internet, made phone calls, and had discussions with other first-year associates, you could name a salary range, but only do so if you're very comfortable and confident that you've gathered accurate information.

It's also likely that you will be asked about salary during your interview. Prevent a deer-in-headlights reaction by having a prepared response. Choose from two options: Respond by saying something along the lines of, "My salary is negotiable considering other benefits and what your firm thinks is a reasonable start." The other choice would be to mention a salary range that leaves plenty of room for negotiation.

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VictoriaCareerCoach VictoriaCareerCoach 4 years
I would actually advice against doing this. The question is posed to weed out candidates who may aim too high, sure, but what I've heard from recruiters and hiring managers is that the intent is to not waste their time or yours. So while stating a "too high" salary might drop you down the list of those they are considering for the position, you are also not making it any easier by not giving any idea of what you are looking for at all. I would recommend doing your research, as several others have suggested, and then give a range rather than a set number.
sherrieshopsalot sherrieshopsalot 9 years
I am a recruiter and this is always one of the first five questions I ask job seekers. It's amazing how many people throw themselves below a rate I could easily get them just based on experience. Always do your homework to know what you're worth, but take a negotiable approach. is a great place to start.
i-am-awesomeness i-am-awesomeness 9 years
ChicaCity, that's a good idea!
Black-Velveteen Black-Velveteen 9 years
Thanks for great advice Savvy! I'm usually at a complete loss when I'm asked that question. "my salary is negotiable considering other benefits and what your firm thinks is a reasonable start." I will definately remember this. :)
lexichloe lexichloe 9 years
I like ChicaCity's response!
lightheaded lightheaded 9 years
I have always wondered about this... hate that question because the obvious answer is "How much are you willing to pay me?" but you can't say that... Some good suggestions by all!
Happsmjc Happsmjc 9 years
GlowingMoon, I totally thought the same thing you said would be perfect to say on a recent law clerk position interview (i.e. finding a position that is a good fit is more important then the salary, or something along those lines). Well, the men that I was interviewing with totally shot down my answer, and actually told me for the future never to use that answer again! I was shocked because I truly believe what I said--I had a terrible law clerk position in the past and was more concerned with not being miserable at work--but they said that I am trying to sell myself and saying that makes it seem that I don't think I'm worth as much as I could be. I forget what they told me to say because I was so shocked!
Just-Oh Just-Oh 9 years
em113, precisely right. The Internet makes salary research a cinch for every market, particularly for lawyers. Remember that there are sub-markets, too. I recently lateraled from a top-tier firm in a major market to a boutique litigation firm in a smaller market and 30 minutes on the Web prepared me for this question. I would have been in for some major sticker shock had I not done that preliminary research. Show that you've done your homework and potential employers will know that you are the type of person who will do thorough work on their dime!
em113 em113 9 years
First year lawyer salaries are pretty easy to find. I'm not a law-student or anything but I'm pretty familiar with the going rate in my area. Just do some research, I'm sure you can find stuff with google.
GlowingMoon GlowingMoon 9 years
Easy. Just say, "It's negotiable." Also, I would add,"Right now, my priority is finding a company that's a good fit -- for the both of us. At this point, it's not about the salary." Personally, I never discuss salary until they offer me the position, and I'm the one that they want. I have the most leverage that way to negotiate the highest salary possible. They want ME, so I'm at a powerful position. Until I get to that point, I deflect all salary questions. This has worked for me, and I got paid at the highest end of the pay scale.
ChicaCity ChicaCity 9 years
I always turn the question back around on them - something like "My salary is negotiable but what is the range that your company usually offers for similar/entry-level positions?" It puts them in a position where they have to answer and doesn't leave you aiming too high or too low.
fleurfairy fleurfairy 9 years
This is tough, especially if you want a better salary than your most recent/current job. I just went through this and I got a 25% increase in my salary by saying that I was much more qualified than the salary indicated at my old job. And that was true. So yay for me :)
Frenched Frenched 9 years
Yeah, I was caught with the deer-in-headlights reaction and it was pretty awkward for me to ask but I still got a better pay. My boss was cool :)
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