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Advice / Job Search / Job Offer

5 Smart Approaches to Take When You're Asked to Name Your Salary (Besides Just Writing All the Zeros)

You’re interviewing for a pretty great gig, and things are going really well. Until, well, they ask you what seems like a trick question: How much money do you think you deserve?

While most of us have been at the negotiation table before, throwing a salary out there with no context is an entirely different playing field. On one hand, you want to ask for “one million dollars, please.” On the other hand, you know that’s wildly unrealistic. (Though, does it hurt to ask for something wildly unrealistic—since the number can only go down from there?)

It’s normal to be scared that you’re asking for too much (or, heaven forbid, too little). Luckily, a user on Quora had the same issue—and several other members came to the rescue. As always, we’re lucky to have the internet at our disposal.

1. Look at Competitors

I would look at comparable companies…and comparable salaries on Glassdoor for similar positions within those companies. Then add 10% more than what you find there and explain to the recruiter/hiring manager that you are worth more than the average person fulfilling that position for x, y, z reasons.

Alex Popp

Another pro tip: Make sure you look at competitors in the same city. Understandably, there’s a huge discrepancy between what a marketing manager makes in New York versus Oklahoma City.

2. Find the Ceiling and the Floor

Ask for them to write down a figure that is the maximum they’d they’d be willing to pay. It will be a figure based on what they think you are worth to them now, what they can afford to pay, and what they think is the highest reasonable [salary] given their business and how much they pay their other employees. This is not what you will be asking for; it’s just the ceiling.

Sean Lucent

Once you have the salary “ceiling,” Lucent recommends putting together the floor: What’s the minimum amount of money you need to pay the bills, afford rent, have enough food, the works? (And don’t be modest with the works—you know what matters to you.)

When you have both a minimum and maximum to work within, the process of figuring out your pay gets easier. Obviously, if you find that the company’s “ceiling” is much lower than the “floor” you’ve calculated, it might not be a good fit.

3. Flip the Script

There’s an old adage in negotiation that goes something like this: He who speaks first loses.

Anthony Gold

This was a general theme throughout the Quora thread: If at all possible, find a way to get the company to give you some sort of offer for reference. You can do this by being vague about the fact that “your total compensation package is flexible and depends on the specific package offered.”

4. Think About Other Benefits

You should talk directly with the owner of the business if you have this much leverage, and you should center your “package” around getting close to that individual.

Jason McCabe Calacanis

Salary is just one piece of the puzzle, so spend time talking to the company to figure out the other benefits and perks on the table. For example, as Jason McCabe says above, will you be able to hang out with leadership at all? Also, what does your vacation time look like? Are there stock options? Free lunches? All of these things add up.

5. Figure Out Your Seniority

Negotiate your seniority level with the company, not the salary! Mention your extraordinary skills and your big successes and show them the confidence that you reached that seniority level that they are looking for.

Motea Alwan

It’s easy to get caught up in the numbers. But building on the point about the overall package, don’t forget that negotiating your seniority is important to not only getting a salary you want, but also the respect you desire.

Being asked to discuss your salary requirements can be daunting, but just remember the end goal: Ka-ching! A.k.a., making enough money to feel valued and satisfied at your new job.

Photo of sticky note courtesy of Shutterstock.

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