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What is your desired salary?

desired salary

Will your answer to the Desired Salary question make it rain?

We know the Desired Salary question is coming

“What is your desired salary question?” Ever worried if your number was too high or too low when interviewing for your dream job? Ever wonder if you are disqualifying yourself or leaving money on the table?  

  • Hesitating on this answer shows insecurity and this of all questions is not where we show insecurity. The excuse “I wasn’t expecting that question” is unacceptable. 
  • Responding with “What does the job pay?” is answering a question with a question. When we are being interviewed, we need to answer the question with an answer.
  • Recruiters only want to hear $1 Million dollars if they are recruiting professional athletes.

Be the hammer and not the nail

Most candidates approach this question with the mentality that they NEED to answer it correctly for the hiring company. Too many candidates approach this question as if there is a right and a wrong answer. Most candidates answer this question defensively. Some of the insecurities around this question:

  • Give too low a number and we are leaving money on the table.
  • Share a number that is too high and we are no longer qualified for the job.

First, we need to recognize that the recruiter needs to have this question answered. If we don’t share our desired salary than we will probably not be invited back to interview for the position.  I know that I am not going to fight you for your desired salary number and if I don’t get this number, I personally won’t pass you along. This sounds harsh, but let me explain the business logic behind this reasoning.

Why this question is being asked:

This question is being asked because the hiring company needs to make sure it can afford your skill set. If the budget for the position is $50K, the hiring company wants to confirm that you aren’t looking for $60K or even $52K. The last thing a recruiter can afford to do is send you through a hiring loop, only to find out the company doesn’t have the budget.

Let’s say a recruiter thinks you are an AMAZING candidate! The recruiter schedules the hiring manager and the team to interview the candidate. Then the candidate interviews with the VP of the department. Everyone loves the candidate. An offer is extended and the hiring company finds that their budget isn’t enough to land the candidate. The first question the VP will ask of the recruiter is,

“Did you find out if this candidate was in our budget before you wasted everyone’s time?”

Uhhhggg. I don’t care you who you are. No one wants to hear those last 4 words. In this case, the hiring manager, the team and the VP loved the candidate because the candidate wasn’t a $50K dollar candidate, they were a $60K candidate. They weren’t a Bank Teller 1, they were a Sr. Bank Teller. As a recruiter I look like shit and worse, I just wasted a lot of cycles and time on a candidate that the company is not able to afford. The candidate’s experience sucked and I wasted company resources with time spent. 

If you want to move forward, answer the question

If we don’t answer this question, we are not going to move forward in the process. Trust me, as a recruiter, I am not going to risk my reputation because once you have made this mistake, you don’t make it again.

Not answering this question is the wrong mentality. My recommendation is that the candidate answers this question with a number that is going to make the candidate happy. Don’t worry about the hiring company. This is easier said than done, but here is the justification for giving an answer you need to make yourself happy. Keep the following logic in the back of your mind and you will present much more confident when you provide your desired salary. Remember, your goal isn’t just to find “a” job. It is to find the “RIGHT” job. The right job means you will be happy with the work and the pay. This also means the company will be happy with you and what they are paying.  

  • If your number is too high then you are probably overqualified for the position. Your experience warrants a higher salary for this compensation philosophy and you will end up being bored in the job. Hiring companies don’t want to hire overqualified and you don’t want to be in a position where you can do the role in your sleep. Read more about overqualified candidates here.
  • If your number is a little low, that is OK. You want to make sure that you are not underqualified for the role. We don’t need to get greedy. Establish your number and stick with it. Don’t worry about what you could have had. Worry about landing the job and understand you have room to move in the salary band.

Answer the Desired Salary question

We answer this question with a single number, not a range. We don’t hesitate, and we don’t stall. If we give a range, the recruiter will ONLY hear the low number in the range. Explain your position along the following lines:

This is a great opportunity. I know I will learn a lot here and feel like I can contribute. I am looking for $60K. This is a great opportunity so I don’t want to let a few 1000.00’s get in the way.

With this answer, you put a single number out on the table and explained you have some flexibility without giving a low number. The recruiter will have heard “$60K”.

To put this post in perspective, read about Compensation Philosophy and how it relates to the desired salary. 


See you at the after party,


nasty: an unreal maneuver of incredible technique, something that is ridiculously good, tricky and manipulative but with a result that can’t help but be admired, a phrase used to describe someone who is good at something. “He has a nasty forkball”.

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