How to answer the question ‘What are your salary requirements?’
Preparing for a job interview can be a stressful process. There are many things for candidates to consider including representing themselves in the best light and also answering questions in a way that demonstrates their expertise. One question that candidates are always keen to know how to respond to is, “what are your salary requirements?” This question about money holds particular significance because answering it in a way that’s not to the interviewer’s liking can cost the candidate the job. If a candidate provides a figure that is considered too high, they may fail to secure the job. On the other hand, if the candidate provides a figure that is too low and gets the role, they may build-up feelings of resentment towards the employer if they feel exploited.
What are salary requirements?
A salary requirement is the amount of pay that someone needs to say “yes” to a job offer. The following affects salary requirements:
- Previous work experience.
- The industry.
- Cost of living.
- Prior salary history.
As well as salary requirements, some employers may also ask candidates to provide a salary history. A salary history is a list of every company that the candidate has worked for with their job title, salary, and benefits package.
Why do employers ask for salary requirements?
Given that nearly 70% of employees admitted that they would leave a job due to low pay, some employers continue to make pay the determining factor when hiring. Employers ask for salary requirements in order to screen out candidates that quote a figure that is considered too high. Conversely, if a candidate mentions a salary requirement that is less than the employer’s budget, then the employer would have made a saving on labor costs. Unfortunately, it becomes difficult for a candidate to guess salary requirements because some employers place a lower premium on certain positions despite what the market dictates.
Is it legal for employers to ask about salary requirements?
Different states impose different conditions in relation to salary requirement questions. However, a growing HR compliance trend is for states to enact legislation that limits an employer’s right to ask salary-related questions. Jurisdictions such as California, Delaware, and New York City have already put in place measures to ban employers from making inquiries about salary histories. Both employers and candidates should check with their state’s department of labor to determine what the law is.
Issues with answering the salary requirements question
Most candidates dread the salary requirements question for the following reasons:
- Stating salary requirements too early in the recruitment process doesn’t give the employer the opportunity to find out what candidates bring to the role and why they may deserve higher pay.
- Where a candidate provides a low salary requirement, employers who have an understanding of the marketplace may be put off because they believe the candidate has devalued their skills and standards to secure employment.
- If the employer accepts a low salary requirement, the candidate may regret this especially if they end up experiencing financial hardship because they aren’t able to meet their obligations.
How to answer the salary requirements question
Below are the steps on how to answer the salary requirement question:
- Use salary calculators
- Delay answering
- Provide a salary range
- Consider the compensation package
Candidates who are changing positions within their industry will be familiar with the salary requirements of the job they’re applying for. Knowledge of a particular industry makes it easier for a candidate to confidently state their salary requirements. Where the new job involves much greater responsibility in the same industry (or is in a new industry altogether), the candidate should carry out research to determine what their salary requirements should be.
Researching salary expectations can take place online. Candidates should search sites such as Salary, Payscale, and Glassdoor to determine the salary expectations for their role in relation to companies:
- In the same location.
- Of a comparable size.
- With the same job title.
Although salary ranges can vary significantly, candidates should add their experience level to the information they have collected in order to make an informed decision about their salary requirements.
Searches about salary requirements can also be done by looking at job titles in the same region as the job on offer. Salaries vary according to states so, to get an accurate picture of salary requirements, searches must include the place where the job is based.
Sometimes, the salary offered is only a baseline for candidates to make a decision. Salary requirements should be provided in light of factors such as retirement contributions, health benefits and cost of living. Salary calculators help candidates to work out how much a job is actually worth. Cost of living calculators also assists in providing information about the real value of a job. Candidates should use salary and cost of living calculators before providing salary requirements. This will help to determine how much of their pay will end up in their pockets. The following are free salary calculators:
It’s recommended that candidates avoid answering the salary requirements question for as long as possible to give the employer time to form an impression in the hope that money won’t be the biggest deciding factor. Therefore, if a candidate is asked about their salary expectations during a job interview, they can use the sample answer below:
“I’m very excited about working with a company that’s a great fit for my experience and I’m sure that your salary offering is one that’s competitive within the industry.”
This answer tells the employer that the candidate is aware of their value and aren’t willing to sell themselves short by providing salary requirements. It also lets the employer know that the candidate expects them to be fair when making a remuneration offer. The candidate will assume some risks in adopting this approach since the employer may choose to hire someone who has provided salary requirements.
If an interviewer continues along the lines of demanding a response to the salary requirements question, the candidate should answer based on their research. The answers should be market-led and also based on the candidate’s experience. The salary requirements sample answer in this instance could be:
“My research into this role based in X state within this industry commands between $60,000 and $80,000.”
This answer gives an objective basis for the salary requirement as opposed to what the candidate thinks they’re worth.
If a candidate has to answer a salary requirements question in an interview, they should provide a range instead of a fixed number. The range must be based on research and should begin with the candidate’s minimum compensation requirement and end with the maximum amount (accounting for their experience). Research, coupled with experience, will provide an accurate salary requirements range. The following salary requirements sample answer can be used:
“I’ve found that roles with similar responsibilities to this job pay within the range of $40,000 – $65,000. Given my expertise and experience, my salary requirements are between $45,000 and $55,000.”
Providing a salary range demonstrates that the candidate is flexible and avoids a situation where the quote is too low or too high.
The lowest part of a candidate’s salary range is normally their minimum compensation requirement. This is the lowest dollar amount that they’re willing to accept. If an employer makes an offer below a candidate’s minimum compensation requirement, it’s likely that the candidate will drop out of the recruitment process.
However, if a candidate is desperate for a job, they may accept an offer below their minimum compensation requirement. Should an employer decide to offer a candidate a salary less than the lowest number on the range because they sense desperation, it may come as no surprise that the candidate won’t stick around when they secure a job that meets their minimum compensation requirement.
Employers rarely offer stand-alone salaries without benefits. Candidates should consider the value of the benefits on offer before quoting their salary requirements. For example, candidates should ask about health insurance cover as well as bonuses and commission.
Where a candidate is aware of the benefits on offer, they should make reference to this when discussing their salary requirements. A sample answer, including a compensation package in salary requirement negotiations, is as follows:
“Taking into consideration the whole compensation package that your company offers, there’s room for negotiation on my salary.”
Answering the question how much are you making now?
Most employers ask this question during an interview to determine how much to offer the candidate. Typically, employers regard a 10% to 15% increase as a fair offer. However, a candidate may still want to avoid answering such a question if they know that they’re currently underpaid or overpaid. Where their current salary is too high, the employer may feel unable to match or exceed this number and remove the candidate from the list of potential hires. A current low wage could make the employer question the candidate’s competency.
There may be additional factors that contribute to the candidate’s low pay, for example:
- Flexible working options.
- More benefits.
- Commission-based work.
Here are some salary requirement sample answers when responding to the question “how much are you making now?”
“Because this position has quite a few differences compared to my current job, it would be helpful to discuss my roles and responsibilities in this job to determine what a fair salary will be.”
“It appears that I’m being considered for a salary range. I’d love to hear what your range is and I’ll be more than happy to let you know whether it’s within my range.”
“I feel uncomfortable divulging my current employer’s compensation package as this is something they wouldn’t appreciate. I’m still employed by them, so I’m not comfortable sharing this confidential information.”
However, if these answers aren’t effective and the employer insists on the candidate providing details of their current pay, contributing factors such as flexible working options should be mentioned.
Salary requirements in a cover letter
Some employers request salary requirements very early on in the hiring process. This means that candidates won’t have the luxury of building a rapport with the interviewer before they talk about money. This is the case when an answer to “what are your salary requirements?” is required to be included in a cover letter.
When considering how to write salary requirements in a cover letter, candidates should search for salary requirements sample cover letters and make amendments to suit their circumstances. To answer the salary requirements question effectively, a candidate should include the following in their cover letter:
- Experience and training.
- Transferable skills.
- Education and qualifications.
The candidate should write their salary requirements in the last paragraph of the cover letter.
Here’s a sample of how to address salary requirements in a cover letter:
“As requested, a satisfactory range for this role as per the job description, research and my experience is $40,000 – $50,000 (excluding supplements or benefits). This salary requirement is flexible and I’m open to negotiation.”
A candidate who writes their salary requirements in a cover letter using the above format notifies the employer of the reasons for their salary range. Where the candidate includes a stipulation that they’re willing to negotiate, the employer has the opportunity to present their benefits, such as training and career development options to justify paying a lower salary.
As an employer who has successfully negotiated salary requirements to get the right candidate, you should continue to do everything possible to make sure your new hire is happy. Ensure that you run an organized workplace by eliminating confusion from work scheduling. Set up a call with one of Deputy’s reps to find out how the efficient scheduling capabilities can elevate your workplace into somewhere that new hires are happy to have chosen.
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