One of the toughest things to handle during a job search is the question about your desired salary. My desired salary is $5 billion, but I’m not going to land a new job with that answer. So, what should you put on a job application or say during an in-person interview? Should you offer a number, or should you maneuver to get the employer to make an offer first? There’s no easy answer, but here are some things to consider:
Can you sidestep the question?
In the best of all worlds, you could answer the desired salary question by saying your salary is negotiable and that you’d really like to understand more about the position before answering. In other words, you’d like to be interviewed before talking money. If you have this opportunity, take it.
Unfortunately, many times your first step in the interview process is filling out an online application that forces the desired salary answer out of you. (The dreaded drop-down menu that forces a salary range is the worst.) In that case, think about the following questions:
What is the expected salary range for the position you’re seeking?
If a job listing doesn’t state a salary range and you’re not sure what a reasonable salary might be, do some research. One source for such information is the Bureau of Labor Statistics Wage Data, which is listed by area and occupation. This may not get as specific as you’d like, but it could prevent you from stating a desired salary that is way too high or way too low for the position. (If your desired salary is too low, you may appear to be under-qualified for the job, which could knock you out of the running just as fast as asking for too much money.)