How Should I Answer, “What Is Your Desired Salary?” |

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EP 1748 As is usually the case, how you answer this question depends on a number of factors.

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Someone asked me the question how should I answer the question of what is your desired salary. I always answer questions and I have to hedge my answer because it really depends on you. Some people are able to be more aggressive than others. Some people are in better circumstances than others. So, my answer starts off with, “ it depends.”

It depends on if you been out of work six months and you don't have prospects, let’s not fool around. You need to be compliant at this point and say, “my last salary was such and such and I'm looking for a bump, but I also want to say that I'm interested in an opportunity. If you decide on the right person for you and from what I've heard so far,, this seems like a great opportunity for me. I just want to ask you to make your strongest offer.”

Or, you can say, “my base is $100,000. I'm looking for $105 to $110.” You can just leave it at that. Flat answers . . . but that's not ideal because, again, every step along the way firms are negotiating and most job hunters aren't aware that they are negotiating. Job hunters think they are negotiating when the offer is made. Yet, every question about compensation is a negotiation.

So, the correct answer to me (and you have to pause for a second to put a smile on your face and go, “it’s a little early for me to talk about it. Could you give me a sense of the salary range for the position?” Now, they may hem and haw on their side at which point you go, “You see, this is where it becomes problematic. I'm supposed to tell you but you're not willing to tell me.”

So, recognize that for those of you who are working, you have more leverage. They do have other people that they are interviewing, but so what? You have to determine that this is a job that you're interested in. Your goal is to get the most amount money possible, and the best job possible. That was response #1.

Let me go one step further. You can then say, “I want you understand that other firms are interested in me. Now, I understand you're talking about a salary of $110 to $120. I just want to encourage you that if you decide on the right person for you and this does seem like a good opportunity for me, I want to encourage you to make your strongest offer because, frankly, I am talking other firms and they seem to like my background, too.

So, what you're doing is dangling the fear in front of them that they're competing. Now, on their side, they are not ready to be fearful but, on your side, you are not ready to be compliant until they commit to a number. Thus, when they come up, “You know, you said in your initial conversation that you would be okay with $110,000-$120,000,” you can respond by saying, “that isn’t exactly how it went. What I said was my understanding is that this position pays $110,000 to $120,000. I also said that other firms are interested me at higher numbers, but this seems like a good job and thus …” and then you would pay back what you said at that point.

Again, remember, everything they're doing on their side is to confine you to a range, to put you into a box and to do it before you know anything about the job.

Now, on your side, understand that once you know about the job, you may say, “I wouldn’t do this for $120; I would need at least $130 do this!”

So, why box yourself in on a number until you know more. Again, you want to be talking about, “this seems like an interesting opportunity to me and other firms are talking with me about a bit more. So, if you decide I’m the right person for you and I concur that this winds up being a good opportunity for me, I want to encourage you make your strongest offer.

Again, it's not radically different than the first thing but you are not allowing yourself to be boxed into the specific place that there trying to put you into because, of the end of the day, let’s say that they make the offer at $120,000, and you also have an offer at offer $125,000 or $127,500 or $140,000, other firms have valued me to a higher number. I would be happy to join but my goal is to get a comparable offer to what I've received elsewhere.”

Thus, you are able to actually negotiate from the position of power.


Jeff Altman, The Big Game Hunter
Jeff Altman, The Big Game Hunter

Jeff Altman, The Big Game Hunter is a coach who worked as a recruiter for what seems like one hundred years. His work involves career coaching, all as well as executive job search coaching, job coaching and interview coaching. He is the host of “No BS Job Search Advice Radio,” the #1 podcast in iTunes for job search with more than 1700 episodes and “The No BS Coaching Advice Podcast” and is a member of The Forbes Coaches Council. “No BS JobSearch Advice Radio” was named a Top 10 podcast for job search. is also a Top 10 YouTube channel for job search.

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