Handling Salary Questions during Your Job Search

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During our recent 'Building a Successful Job Search' webcast, there were a number of questions related to salary that we didn't have time to address.  In this tip learn about five best practices when it comes to addressing the salary question.


Here were the questions: How do you handle the salary question? How can you make sure your salary requirements do not block your resume from being considered?

When it comes to presenting your target salary, and negotiations overall, here are a few factors to consider and recommended actions/exercises to help you with this process:

1. Understand your market worth.

Before you actively start job searching, it's a good exercise to understand your market worth, so you don't price yourself out of jobs. There are various tools available for determining this; one we particularly like is Payscale. Invest 20-30 minutes of your time to do Payscale, or a similar tool, on the front end. Also, consult with other individuals in your network to determine the salary range that companies are paying for your skill set/tenure. You could ask past peers who've recently been in the job market, consult with local user group/community leaders, ask a technical recruiter who specializes in supporting your skill set, and/or keep a pulse on what different job postings are advertising.

2. Remember, there are a lot of factors that make up a total compensation package.

There's more to the equation than just your base salary, especially as more and more organizations implement financial perks such as individual and team performance-based bonuses, profit sharing, 401(k) contributions, additional discounts, and contributions towards benefit costs. Also, what does the group or company offer in terms of tuition reimbursement, paying for technical conferences and/or certification reimbursement or support? Lastly, factor in the savings you'd incur if there's the potential to work remotely!

3. Identify your package “wish list.”

As mentioned above, there are quite a few things to consider when evaluating different opportunities. Every individual has different motivators and “job consideration criteria,” and they also vary depending on the level you're at in your career. If you're more entry level, determine the learning potential and who you'd be working alongside. If you'd have the chance to work with tenured technologists with an extensive knowledge base, that could be a great opportunity! For example, what training and mentorship opportunities exist in the company, and do they have committees, a sandbox environment, or other ways you can develop your skills? Spend some time reflecting on what matters to you, in addition to the base salary/rate you're seeking.

4. Determine a range.

When you start applying for jobs, have a range in mind that you will provide to HR/Recruiters, but clearly explain your main motivators. If money isn't your main motivator, share that, but also what is truly important to you in an opportunity, and what you'd be flexible for. Outline the range, and what other aspects are part of your “consideration criterion” when evaluating jobs. For example, if you're making $54,000 now with a 45-minute commute and have been at that compensation for one year and want to factor in a 5-10% raise for your next starting salary, but working from home is a huge perk, you could communicate that you're looking for a base of $56,700-$59,400, but are flexible down to $56,500 for a position that offers 50% or more remote work option!

5. Understand long-term potential.

While starting salary is important, it's also essential to understand what your financial trajectory would be at the organization. Determine what their performance management process looks like, promotion cycle and criteria, what a typical raise looks like year over year, etc.

Next Steps

Consider the above 5 factors during your target salary determination, offer evaluation, and negotiation processes!

  • Take measures to truly understand your market worth and what companies are paying for someone with your skills/expertise!
  • Determine what's truly important to you, outside of money, and flush that out as your 'Opportunity/Company Wish List.'
  • Figure out what range you'd be targeting in new positions.
  • Start applying and interviewing for jobs. During the interview process, get an idea of what the company offers related to your Wish List.
  • Evaluate any offers against your Wish List. Don't be afraid to request a follow up conversation with HR/Recruiter and/or the Manager to discuss additional information you haven't received that would be helpful in making your decision.
  • If the salary they're offering is below what you're targeting, don't be afraid to negotiate! Ask them what their flexibility is, and use some of the market data you've collected to back up a request for a higher starting salary/rate.

If an HR representative or Recruiter asks you “what salary are you looking for?” (in reference to the second question asked during our live webinar) prior to discussing and interviewing for a position you're interested in, here are a few recommended reactions/responses to help ensure you don't get ruled out before having a conversation with the hiring Manager!


  • “While money is important, it's not the most important thing to me. I'm most concerned with the functions of the role I'd be in, the team I'd be working with, the technical stacks I'd be working with, and the learning and growth potential!”
  • “I don't have a set target salary in mind, although I'm interested in a package that aligns with someone with my level of experience, i.e. someone with 10+ years of experience in SQL development.”
  • “I'm currently making about $125,000 a year in terms of total compensation package, which includes an annual performance bonus, but I understand I might need to be flexible. I want to ensure you, along with the Manager, that salary isn't my primary motivator. There are other factors, such as flexibility, training, benefits, and retirement contributions that I factor in when making my overall decision.”
  • “My current salary is $60,000 a year. Without any other information around benefits, profit sharing, bonuses, benefits contributions, etc., I'd be looking for a range of $62,000-$68,000.”
About the author
Erica Woods has nearly a decade in the IT staffing world, an MBA, and is a member of the Professional Association of Resume Writers and Career Coaches.

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About the author
MSSQLTips author Cate Murray Cate Murray is responsible for managing the nationally-based talent acquisition strategies of the Apex Systems PMO and Business Analysis Practice and holds her PMP certification from PMI.

This author pledges the content of this article is based on professional experience and not AI generated.

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