The most stomach-churning hurdle of a job hunt is often the dreaded salary question you must answer on an application or even in your first conversation with a potential employer.
Just as religion and politics can be topics to avoid on a first date, so is bringing up money in an interview before you or the company decides you are right for the job. Trouble is, it's becoming standard procedure to deal with the pay question sooner rather than later in the hiring process. After all, if you aren't in the pay range, there's no reason to waste anyone's time — including yours.
When you fill out a job application, you will likely have to state your desired salary or disclose what you made at your last job. Or a recruiter or hiring manager who calls you may bluntly ask your salary requirements right off the bat.
Keep in mind that employers base a salary on the requirements of the job and the availability of qualified job candidates, not what the job seeker was paid in the past, says Susan P. Joyce, online job search expert and editor of Job-Hunt.org and WorkCoachCafe.com.
Since job requirements vary from employer to employer, you never want to walk in with a set number in mind of what the job should pay. What's important is that you know what you are willing to accept.
To manage your expectations, research what jobs pay at Glassdoor, Payscale and Salary.com, as well as the Economic Research Institute. For government jobs, check the U.S. Office of Personnel Management. If you are interested in a nonprofit, check out the organization's latest online tax filing (Form 990) to see how much its key employees and executives earn.
So, how do you answer questions about your salary without turning off a prospective employer during the screening process? If a job application asks you about salary, you can:
1. Enter the salary you'd be comfortable accepting. If you can add more details, consider qualifying that figure by adding something like, "The minimum salary requirement specified is based on anticipated job responsibilities and workload and does not account for other forms of compensation."
2. Give your base salary only. If you get in the door for an interview and salary comes up, explain that you provided your base salary and mention other ways you were compensated.
3. If the job description specifies a desired salary range, enter a wide range such as $55,000 to $85,000. Be honest with yourself, though, that the low salary amount is something you can live with and would consider accepting.