How should I respond when asked for my salary requirements?

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salary1-smallShawn from the University of Alabama Birmingham asked:

I have my AAS in Computer Programming, and I am currently seeking my BS in Business Information Systems.  I have applied for a position as Software Librarian, but they are asking my salary requirements.  I can find no information online about the average salary.  Can you help?  How should I respond when asked for my salary requirements?

Hi Shawn –

This is a great question.  A lot of job applications request that you submit your salary requirements or your desired salary range, and it is important to know how to answer that question effectively.

Why do employers ask for your salary requirements?

Asking for your salary requirement is a great way for employers to find out whether or not you have done your research.  If you throw out an unrealistic number – too high or too low – the employer can tell that you just took a wild stab in the dark; that you don’t know what the current “going rate” is for the position for which you are applying; or that you simply don’t care what they might be offering – you only care about how much you want to make.

The economics of supply and demand apply in this situation, so you need to know what the market will bear for the types of positions you are targeting and state your salary requirements within a related and realistic range.

How should you respond?

Do your homework (research salary data) and then provide a range.  Do not provide a single amount.

Giving a range allows room for negotiation when that time comes.  Give a single, specific amount, and you leave no room to negotiate.

Let’s say their hiring range for a job is $40,000-$50,000.  If you say your salary requirement is $42,000, you have just told that employer that they don’t need to offer anymore than $42,000.  Provide a range – $42,000-$48,000, for example – you are leaving the door open to a higher offer.

I typically recommend offering a $5,000-$8,000 salary range when asked, based upon the salary data you are able to gather.

If you’d don’t want to give a specific range, you can always just respond with “Negotiable,” but you will still need to do your homework and prepare for the eventual salary discussion.

Where can you find that salary data you need to respond?

The American Library Association ALA Joblist  has Career Resource links on its website that includes some information on negotiation and salary.  I strongly recommend you review these resources.

Also, ask your Career Center for your school’s employment reports on recent graduates.  These school-specific reports should include salary and employment outcomes data on your major and degree.

The National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) Salary Calculator and September 2012 Salary Survey are also useful tools for job seekers and employers seeking entry-level salary data.

The US Department of Labor’s CareerOneStop Salary Info is a good resource, and and  all provide online salary information that may prove helpful.

Hope this info helps.

Good Luck!


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