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Worst Question Ever: “What Are Your Salary Requirements?”


It’s every job seeker’s least favorite question, and yet it seems to be almost unavoidable in today’s job market. Figuring out how to specify salary requirements is tricky: ask for too much, and you risk being removed from consideration, but ask for too little, and you could wind up cheating yourself. What’s an applicant to do?

Bob Corlett of Staffing Advisors tackles this question in the Washington Business Journal. There are many things we like about his take on the salary requirements issue, but let’s start with our favorite: He believes that it’s a bad question in the first place, and advises employers not to ask it.

“Many terrific people will not even apply, being offended by your cheekiness in asking,” he writes. “It’s akin to asking someone’s annual salary on your first date (well, technically before your first date. ‘Gosh, Jim, I’d love to go to dinner with you, but first I have a question: How much did you earn last year?’)”

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But since the folks applying for jobs don’t have much control over the questions they’re being asked, he advises applicants to tackle the problem in one of a few ways:

1. Ignore the question. Lots of job seekers do, and although it might get you ruled out of a search, Corlett points out that you might want to ask yourself if you actually want to work for a company like that in the first place.

2. Answer the question — sort of. Instead of giving a specific number, he says, write something like, “I am most interested in the opportunity. My salary requirements are negotiable based upon the position and the overall total compensation package, including benefits.”

He also has some great language for applicants who are feeling particularly desperate, but still don’t want to miss out on making a decent salary if they get the gig.

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(Photo Credit: thethreesisters/Flickr)

Jen Hubley Luckwaldt
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As of January 1, 2018, in California, employers are not allowed to ask this question anymore. Great response to the question.

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