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November 9, 2012 2:39 AM   Subscribe

What's the consensus on a response to the dreaded "Salary Requirements" question in a job posting? I've looked around AskMeFi and have seen a variety of responses, ranging from "Don't answer that!" to "Tell them what you want to make." Specificity and individualism await within.

I currently work at a non-profit where, although highly valued by my agency, I am over-qualified (and underpaid) and work a difficult schedule. This is mostly balanced by a deep love for the organization, its people, and its mission, and excellent health insurance and benefits, which are very important to me. However, those crappy hours are beginning to affect my health and personal life.

Along comes a job posting for another highly-respected institution, for which I am preparing a resume and cover letter. The posting asks for my salary requirements, but also lists a salary range. The top of that range represents about a 20% pay cut for me, but the job would have much better hours, and would use my skill set more fully. (I don't know at this point how the benefits stack up.)

I'm somewhat neutral towards the mission of the new agency. Let's say it would be going from social services to a museum. It's a valued and respected institution, yes, but doesn't feel as rewarding to me on the surface.

Other pertinent facts: I already took a 40% pay cut to take my current job, but the economy in 2009 played a role in that. I have two advanced degrees, and the job in the posting would have me making considerably less than I made fresh out of grad school ten years ago.

So, do I take the advice of some who say to just put "I'm open to negotiation" and wait for the offer? Do I give my own range, which starts at their top number but could price me out of an interview? Or do I put down their top number and wait for negotiations once I see the total compensation package?
posted by OHSnap to Work & Money (7 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
I've looked around AskMeFi and have seen a variety of responses...

...and you'll get the same variety here. Personally, I'd wait for them to make me an offer—and demur with "I'd need to see what the overall compensation (benefits) would be."
posted by violetk at 2:57 AM on November 9, 2012

The fact that they've posted a salary range is helpful in framing your response. In your position, I would state a range that straddles the top number by several thousand on either side, which likely means that the top of your range might be somewhat close to your current salary. I've also simply posted the word commensurate, which implies that I'm aware of their listed range, open to discussion, and seeking a fair market rate on par with others who parallel my experience and education.
posted by mochapickle at 4:50 AM on November 9, 2012

A good response is: The salary range you posted in the ad is a bit less than I'm currently making, but depending on the perks and benefits it may very well be in line with my expectations.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 5:56 AM on November 9, 2012 [2 favorites]

I think there are three really important questions you need to address before knowing how best to proceed:

1. Is this institution known for paying generously, averagely, or stingily?

2. How valuable is your skill set to them, and how hard is it to find people with your skill set?

3. How important is it to you to increase your income above your current level, and by how much?

Your negotiation strategy should depend on the answers to those questions. I generally agree with the notion that you shouldn't name a number because it's kind of a can't win thing to do: you either sell yourself short or price yourself out of a job. In my business, I often ask customers for a price target for a custom build product, but I'll never answer that same question if someone asks me it. And for the same reason, I think most "how to negotiate the purchase of a new car" guides would also say don't tell the dealer what price you are willing to pay.
posted by Dansaman at 7:54 AM on November 9, 2012

I always put a range, prefaced with "Depending on benefits and other considerations, my salary requirements would be between [near top of standard level] - [10k higher than top]."
posted by Potomac Avenue at 9:52 AM on November 9, 2012 [2 favorites]

If they ask specifically for salary expectations in a cover letter, you kinda have to give something. Something along the lines of Potomac Avenue's answer would be suitable.

That said, it's weird that they would list a salary range then ask for your expectations. Usually they do one or the other.
posted by radioamy at 9:57 AM on November 9, 2012 [1 favorite]

I worry about you already feeling that you're underpaid and overworked and now you're saying you're going to be more underpaid and (who knows if overworked)

how do you negotiate in those circumstances? you tell them your current salary and let them know that you're willing to take a pay cut because you believe in their mission. if they want you maybe they'll pay the top of the range or maybe more.
posted by saraindc at 9:57 AM on November 9, 2012 [1 favorite]

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