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How to Share Your Salary Expectations

Updated: Oct 25, 2022

When it comes to sharing salary expectations, you don't want to quote a high figure and push yourself out of the budgeted salary range. You also don't want to quote a low figure and cheat yourself out of what you are worth. (unless you desperately need a job and willing to compromise).

The best approach is to do some research to get a number—learn as much as possible about the position and comparable salaries from local industry sources and job sites. See if you can get any insider information, too. Try looking for salary information on the company’s website or understanding from the recruiter about market salaries and if there is any scope of negotiations.

You will likely come up with a range, and you should put the highest number in that range, based on your experience, education, and skills. And yes, that’s a little aggressive, but continue to read on.

Ensure you use the words “(flexible)” or “(negotiable)” next to your number. This way you’re certain you can find a way to satisfy both yourself and your prospective employer.

You are now setting the stage for negotiations.

Professor Adam Galinsky of the Kellogg School of Business at Northwestern University has explained the anchoring phenomenon this way:

Items being negotiated have both positive and negative qualities—qualities that suggest a higher price and qualities that suggest a lower price. High prices selectively direct our attention toward an item's positive attributes while low prices direct our attention to its flaws.

By stating a salary requirement that is lower than your prospective employer might be willing to pay, you not only cheat yourself out of more money, but you might come across to the employer as very economical and with possible shortcomings. By stating a salary higher than they might be willing to pay, you risk little harm, so long as you indicate that your salary requirements are flexible. And at the same time, you are communicating that you already know your skills are valuable.

You have also given yourself enough room to negotiate if you are offered the job.

Research has proven that people are happier with the outcome of a negotiation if their bargaining partner starts at point A, but reluctantly concedes her first couple of requirements before saying “yes.” So, by stating an initial salary that leaves room for negotiation (keep room for at least three negotiations, or back-and-forth conversations), you’re more likely to get what you actually want.

By far the best advice on making an aggressive opening offer is that contained in Galinsky’s short article, " Should You Make the First Offer? " The three major takeaways are these:

Don't be afraid : Galinksy’s research shows that people typically tend to be fearful of the opposite partner walking away in response to an initial quoting/offer, and that most negotiators make first offers that aren’t aggressive enough.

Focus on your target salary: Determine your best-case-scenario outcome, and focus on that. Negotiators who focus on their target price make more aggressive first offers and ultimately reach more profitable agreements than those who focus on the minimum amount they’d be satisfied with.

Be flexible : Always be willing to concede your first offer. In doing so, you'll still likely get a profitable deal, and the other side will be pleased with the outcome.

Remember, there’s little to risk if you put the highest number you can justify, but there’s a lot to lose if you don’t.

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