Career Advice

Got the Jitters Over Your ‘desired salary’ Response?

min read
Mikaela Thompson

The rule of thumb is it’s best not to reveal your target salary. However, there’s a variety of better answers at your disposal depending on the medium and situation in which the question is being asked. You’ve gotta think smart and flexibly to craft the best response and avoid the downfall of one rule fits all. 

Check out the tips below so you can confidently breeze through your next interview and land that dream job!

Situation contingent responses

1. The online job application form:

yes, these are typically extremely tedious to fill out and take a good amount of time, often causing quite a headache for the applicant – especially if you fail to provide an acceptable entry which results in a seething irritability as you try to find a way around it. Not helping matters is that these forms can require various styles of answers to the dreaded ‘desired/expected salary’ field that must be answered in a specific way to have the submitted form go through the company’s respective system E.g., this could be a numeric range or a specific amount therefore, leaving it blank is not an option. No need to panic! There are ways around this. For instance, you can input ‘000’ or ‘999’ as a finite amount but use a notes section to explain your willingness to discuss the desired salary later in the hiring process, such as, at a face-to-face or zoom interview (as is likely during COVID-19 restrictions). 

On the other hand, if a salary range is asked for, this will serve you better than a specific amount anyway as it’s less likely to get you cut from the hiring process. However, offer a broad range, such as, $45,000 - $65,000 to give you more flexibility in negotiations later once you know the job responsibilities and whether the job is a good match for both parties. This also serves to inform the employer whether your salary expectations fall within the ballpark of their budget. No one wants to waste time if salary expectations are wildly off the mark.

2. The cover letter:

some employers may ask you to divulge your expected salary here. Again, avoid sharing a specific number of dollars by refocusing them on your search for a position that best fits your career aims rather than remuneration. 

3. The initial interview:

if you haven’t prepared yourself for this question, it can be a terrifying moment of indecision, as you churn over the possible negative consequences of your response. One way around it, is to redirect this question back to them by asking what their budget is for this role which provides YOU with some useful information. Or you can aim to deflect the question by suggesting you haven’t an amount in mind at the moment since you need to know more about what the role entails and whether you will fit their values and culture, as well as, have the prerequisite skills etc. for this position. 

4. Interviews further along the hiring process:

Keep the conversation focused on the job responsibilities and your skills and abilities in relation to these…until you’re confident the company wants to offer you the position. Up until this point, just reiterate that you haven’t a set amount in mind as you’re still finding out about the demands of the job. It’s important you have some bargaining power. They will be more willing to negotiate if they’ve already decided to hire you. On the other hand, you could sidestep the question by reassuring them of your willingness to consider a fair salary offer for the role ONCE a job offer has been made.

Remember: the goal throughout the hiring process is to avoid revealing your desired/expected salary until the job is a sure thing. There is nothing to be gained by an applicant by showing your hand too early!

Read more on how to increase your chances of landing a job in 2021 here:

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