5 Steps to Determining Your Salary Expectation

During an interview, we have all been asked the famous awkward question – what is your salary expectation? We either confidently provide a salary range or rate that encompasses our experience and matches the current market value… or we provide a random range or rate. By following these tips, you will be equipped with the necessary information to confidently disclose your salary expectation to any recruiter or hiring manager and skip the awkward guessing.

1 – Learn the Market

It is important to take some time to perform research on the current market. In other words, what are other companies paying for the same job? Your research should be specific to the location and the job title to ensure your results are accurate.

Job board websites such as Glassdoor and Indeed are great resources for locating what similar organizations are paying for the job in which you are applying for. Glassdoor has a function within their website where you can get a personalized salary estimate. This estimate can then be used to compare with other similar jobs. Both Glassdoor and Indeed have reviews provided by current and past employees. Sometimes salary information is disclosed in the reviews. Try searching the company you’re interviewing with to see if you can locate any valuable salary information.

An easy way to locate market salary data is to simply review current job postings. Sometimes the salary range is disclosed, which is extremely helpful. Just remember to narrow your search to be specific to the job posting and the location of the company.

Another great source is Payscale. Payscale is a tool used by organizations for their compensation related needs. Candidates can access this tool to gain a deeper understanding of their true worth when it comes to their skillset. You can create a profile and the system will generate a salary report. You will also have access to salary data for specific job positions and employers.

2 – Match Your Skillset

Your experience, educational background and skillset should match your salary expectations. Review your job experience, post-secondary educational background, certifications and any relevant skills. Once you have reviewed your complete skillset, read the job posting to thoroughly understand the requirements. Create a separate list for each and match your skillset to the job requirements. The more matches you have the better. By doing this, it will provide you with a platform to confidently explain your salary expectation.

3 – Reach Out to Your Connections

In the professional world, connections are very useful when it comes to getting a reference, learning new skills, getting a new job or even making friends! On LinkedIn, make new connections with current or past employees that hold the same job title within the same company or similar companies. Once the connection has been made, send a message. Below is a great template to help you kickstart the conversation about compensation and perks. This will help you to gain valuable information about the total rewards aspect of the organization.

Hello First Name,

Thank you for connecting! I am currently in the recruitment process for the Job Position Title at Company Name. I noticed you have been/were employed with them for X number of years. I am interested in joining the team and was hoping you could share your perspective of the organization. What are/were your likes/dislikes? What is the culture of the team? How did you feel about their overall compensation program? Any insights you can share are greatly appreciated!

Thank you,

Your Name

4 – Assess Your Lifestyle

This might be obvious but you should set aside time to review your current lifestyle in order to determine a salary rate/range that will help you continue your current lifestyle or improve it. We never want to go lower in salary unless it will not make a huge impact on your quality of life. Review your monthly expenses such as rent/mortgage, food costs, and transportation costs. Display this information in an excel spreadsheet or a financial planner document to visually see what your monthly expenses look like.

Another great tip is to always base your salary expectation on your current salary. We always strive to earn more than what we earned at our previous job. For example, if you currently earn $50,000 per year you should aim to have a salary expectation range higher than that when you move into a new position, taking your existing skills and experience into account.. 

5 – Ask the Question!

In an ideal world, all job postings would state the salary range upfront, but this isn’t always the case. If you’ve completed research and are unable to locate an appropriate salary range for the job position, you can always ask. At any stage of the recruitment process, you can connect with the recruiter or hiring manager to discuss their expected salary range for the position to determine whether or not it’s something you want to pursue.

As discussed, salary conversations can sometimes be uncomfortable, but each tip will help you find a compensation rate/range that will work for you. The right research and information will give you the confidence to handle these conversations like a pro. 

Need more advice on determining your salary expectation? Talk about it with Style Nine to Five Founder, Christie Lohr with the Ask 1 Career Question service.

Najja Morris is a human resources professional with passions for writing and fashion.