Are There Consequences to Providing Your Desired Salary?

Are there consequences to providing your desired salary on job applications?

QUESTION: Why do job applications ask for desired salary? What are the consequences of giving a number too low or too high?

Answered by: Jessica

This is a great question, and a controversial topic in the hiring world, from HR to hiring managers, to applicants. Let's break this down:

Job applications often ask for your desired salary because they already have a number in mind. When organizations do workforce planning, they have budgets, they know who they need to hire over the next year, and they know what they can afford (and often, how much wiggle room they have). In other words, they have a range for what they can pay.


RANGE: [What they want to pay -- what they can pay for the right person]


Now if you provide a figure that's too low, there is a possibility that the person on the other side may look at the number and think you're not experienced enough if you're asking for too little. If you put something too high, they may take you out of the running because they know they can't afford you.


But most of the time, in my experience, recruiters spend more time looking at your resume and your LinkedIn, and if they're interested in you, they'll talk about your salary expectations in your first call (the "phone screen").


But, here's what I suggest: DON'T PUT ANY NUMBER.

Take out the risk of being eliminated from the candidate pool for salary expectations. There's no reason a company needs to know what you were making before and what you hope to make next. It could end up with them giving you a lower range than they planned.


Just don't put anything. Because here's the thing -- if you're applying for a job, you've probably already done your research, and you know how much on average this position pays. More than likely, you were in a position similar to it before, so you know what to expect.


Then when you get on the phone, here's what I'd suggest -- ask the recruiter what their salary range is first. After the whole conversation takes place and they vet your qualifications and talk about the company, there's often a pause where they ask if you have any questions.


Here's where you say "I am SO excited about the possibility of being a candidate. I've admired your company for a while, and I think with my experience, I could really add some value. I'd love to talk about next steps, but I want to make sure we're in alignment -- would you mind sharing the salary range with me?"


Now, the recruiter or hiring manager may come back and say "well, we're flexible -- what's yours?" So have your range in mind. But let them know you're flexible too (if you are) for the right position.


SIDE NOTE: There are about ten states that aren't allowed to as your previous salary/compensation. But they are allowed to ask what how much you are looking for.


Now...


IF THE APPLICATION MAKES YOU PUT A NUMBER, HERE'S WHAT YOU SHOULD DO:

Do your research, understand what you cannot go below, and think of your overall compensation.

RESEARCH: Do some research on how much a position like the one you're applying to pays on average. And then look up how the company you're applying to tends to pay. Some companies pay way more than average because they have money to spend on the best talent. Some companies pay below average because they're a startup...or they have some issues. Research compensation to help you find your salary range for the position.


You can find salary ranges on Glassdoor.com or Payscale.com. Make sure to look at both.

FIND YOUR RANGE: Calculate your expenses and the minimum amount you can bring in to live comfortably. There's your minimum.

Now think about how much you want to save, a realistic number of much you want in extra spending for vacations, shopping, to send back home to family, to buy a new car, etc. How much would you need per year? There's your maximum.


Now, look at the range of this position. Does it fall within your salary range? If it's low on your range, think about why you want to work there instead of somewhere else that might pay better. Do they do fantastic work? Is there the possibility to rise the ranks much faster? If you joined, could you help take them to the next level? Do some research and thinking on this.


OVERALL COMPENSATION: Does the employer offer amazing benefits? Maybe they have unlimited PTO (and via Glassdoor, they state being able to take those days). Maybe they pay 100% of your health/dental/vision. Maybe they have one year paid family leave, and you plan to have a baby in the next few years. Perhaps they give a signing bonus, or perhaps they have a stock plan for employees, and this company is on the rise (but be cautious here, because counting this as part of your total comp can be risky).

Whatever it is, you have to think of all the benefits and include that in your total compensation package. You can find out a lot of this information on the company's website or Glassdoor. And if you can't, reach out to someone who works there through LinkedIn. Getting the full picture is important. If you plan on talking with someone, I urge you to do it quickly, and then ask that person to give you a referral to make sure your resume gets seen!


There could be consequences for going to low or too high on your salary expectations, but if you think it through and do your research, you should be fine.

Jessica Eggert