The Dreaded Salary Requirement Conundrum

Anita,

Why don’t employers put the pay rate or salary in their job postings? It would sure save everyone on both sides a lot of time. I never know what to put when the ad says to include your salary requirements. I don’t want to ask for way too much and blow my chance to even get an interview. But if they pay more than I am used to, I don’t want to cheat myself either. What do you suggest?

Dear, Waging War,

Many employers choose not to list salary ranges. Candidates will almost always negotiate for the high end of the range and if they don’t get the max, they may end up with lingering resentment. Another consideration for large employers hiring nationwide is the wide discrepancy in costs of living. A yearly salary of $50K in San Francisco won’t provide much buying power, but the same salary in a Detroit suburb may provide a middle class lifestyle.

If salary requirements are requested in a job posting, be sure to comply or risk looking like an applicant who can’t follow instructions or does not pay attention to detail. But, just like you shouldn’t bring up salary at the beginning of the interview process, wait until after you sell yourself in the cover letter. Then, include a salary range instead of just one number. Remember, this is a negotiation, not a demand. If you really won’t accept less than say $40,000, state your salary range is between $41,000-$46,000. (I prefer non-rounded numbers; it sounds like you really figured out what you’re worth and what you need to cover your expenses. And you did research comparable positions on Salary.com, Payscale.com, or Glassdoor, right?)

You may be able to avoid giving a number with a phrase such as, “My salary requirements are negotiable based on the position and the total compensation offered, including benefits.” Remember when negotiating that perks such as holidays/vacation time/PTO, flex-time, company-paid professional development opportunities or even bringing your dog to work can make a job offer more attractive than salary alone.

The salary discussion is always fraught with tension, but look at it this way: If you really need a certain wage, why waste time interviewing for a position that won’t even pay the bills?

Readers: Do you have a strategy for the salary requirement question on a job application or during an interview?

Do you have a job-related question? Ask Anita.

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Disclaimer

Anita Clew's blog posts are intended for general guidance and should never be taken as legal advice. In all instances where harassment, inequity, or unfair treatment is believed to be present, please consult your HR Department or legal representation.
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