Navigating the ‘desired salary’ question: A job seeker’s guide

woman with money

Meet Sarah. She’s excited about a job opportunity she recently applied for. However, as she progresses through the recruitment process, she encounters a daunting question: “What is your desired salary?” Like many job seekers, Sarah wonders how to handle this query without jeopardising her chances of landing the job. In this guide, we’ll explore strategies to help job seekers like Sarah navigate the ‘desired salary’ question with confidence and professionalism.

Understanding the ‘desired salary’ question

Before diving into strategies, let’s determine why employers ask this question. Employers want to ensure that they’re on the same page with candidates regarding salary expectations. It helps them gauge whether a candidate’s expectations align with the company’s budget for the position. Your response to this question can significantly impact the recruitment process, making it crucial to handle it wisely.

Preparing for the question

Sarah, like all job seekers, should start by researching industry salary standards. She needs to know what the typical salary range is for the position she’s applying for. Websites like Glassdoor and PayScale can provide valuable insights.

Also, Sarah should do some self-assessment. What are her financial goals and needs? What is the minimum salary she would accept to maintain her lifestyle comfortably? Let’s say she needs a minimum of $40,000 annually to cover her expenses and save for her future. This information will help her set a baseline for her salary expectations.

Crafting your response

Now that Sarah has done her homework, it’s time to craft her response. Here are some strategies she can use:

The art of deflection

If Sarah is asked about her desired salary too early in the process, she can politely deflect the question by saying something like, “I’m excited about this opportunity and would love to learn more about the role and the company before discussing salary specifics. Can we revisit this later in the interview process?”

Transparency vs. tact

Sarah should aim for a balance between transparency and tact when discussing her desired salary. She can express her expectations clearly but ensure her tone is respectful. For example, “Based on my research and experience, I’m looking for a salary in the range of $45,000 to $50,000.”

Offering a range

Offering a salary range can provide flexibility. Sarah could say, “I’m open to discussing compensation, but I’m looking for a salary in the range of $45,000 to $50,000, depending on the overall package and benefits.”

Using benefits and negotiation

To bolster her case, Sarah can highlight the value of benefits, such as healthcare, retirement plans and professional development opportunities. She can also express her willingness to negotiate, showing her commitment to finding a mutually beneficial solution.

Sample responses

Here are some examples of how Sarah might respond to the ‘desired salary’ question:

“I’m open to discussing compensation, but I’m looking for a salary in the range of $45,000 to $50,000, based on my research and experience.”

“I believe my skills and experience align well with this role, and I’m looking for a competitive compensation package that reflects that.”

Handling follow-up questions

Once Sarah has provided her initial response to the ‘desired salary’ question, she needs to be ready for potential follow-up questions or counteroffers. Here are some examples of how Sarah can navigate this part of the conversation:

Clarify expectations: If the interviewer expresses concerns about Sarah’s salary expectations being above the company’s budget, she can respond with, “I understand budget constraints are a consideration. Could you provide more insights into the company’s compensation structure and how it aligns with my experience?”

Emphasise value: If the interviewer questions why Sarah is seeking a higher salary, she can highlight her qualifications by saying, “I believe my skills and experience bring significant value to the role. My goal is to contribute positively to the company’s success.”

Consider benefits: Sarah can inquire about the company’s benefits package, saying, “I’d like to consider the overall compensation package, including benefits. Could you share details about healthcare, retirement plans and any other perks offered?”

Negotiate professionally: If the interviewer presents a counteroffer lower than her expectations, Sarah can respond with, “I appreciate your offer. However, based on my research and experience, I was hoping for a salary closer to the range we initially discussed. Is there room for further negotiation?”

Discuss performance-based increases: Sarah can express her commitment to performance by saying, “I’m open to discussing salary increases based on performance. Are there opportunities for performance reviews and adjustments in the future?”

By demonstrating a willingness to engage in a constructive dialogue and asking relevant questions, Sarah can maintain a positive and professional tone throughout the salary negotiation process. This approach not only helps her make an informed decision but also showcases her negotiation skills and commitment to finding a mutually beneficial solution.


Navigating the ‘desired salary’ question doesn’t have to be intimidating. With research, self-assessment and well-crafted responses, job seekers like Sarah can handle this crucial aspect of the job application process confidently. Remember, it’s an opportunity to align expectations and set the stage for a successful employment relationship.

Main image created using Blue Willow AI.