The Desired Salary Question: What’s the Magic Number?

On the list of questions that job candidates dread in an interview, the desired salary question ranks right near the top. Queries like, “What’s your biggest weakness?”, “Why should we hire you?”, or “What is your spirit animal?” can be vexing. But, “What is your desired salary?” proves to be a particularly tricky tech interview question because the wrong answer could cost you a job offer –  or cost you thousands of dollars in salary if you do get the position.

Candidates don’t get to opt-out of answering by providing some vague and ambiguous non-answer like “I’m flexible.” The interviewer is asking the question because they want a number or at least a range. But how do you know what that magic number is that will neither price you out of a job nor shortchange yourself for years to come?

To solve this conundrum, first, speak to your contact at the experienced technical staffing company you’re working with. Then, take time and do some research and preparation so you have a figure in mind when the desired salary question inevitably arrives.

Look at the Market to Answer the Desired Salary Question

Tech employers in Dallas, Phoenix, and nationwide don’t make salary determinations in a vacuum. Candidates for in-demand IT positions shouldn’t formulate their salary expectations in a vacuum either. Employers want to attract the best tech candidates by paying salaries that are competitive with or higher than other companies in their sector, but they don’t like to offer more than they need to.

Candidates should have a sense of the market so that their answer to the desired salary question is within the range of typical salaries for similar technical positions at similar companies in similar locations. Do some online research about average salaries in your particular information technology career field. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics is a good source of wage data by area and occupation. Other websites also offer salary calculators and tools to help you come up with a sweet spot number.

Stick With Ranges Instead of a Specific Number, At First

Once you’ve done your research, you’ll have a sense of the salary range for the type of position you seek. If you are in the early stage of the hiring process, such as a screening call or first interview, stay with a range instead of a specific number. By providing a range, you answer the question without looking evasive while also showing some flexibility that the employer will appreciate when deciding whether to make an offer and at what salary.

Have a Desired Number Ready if You Are Far Along in the Process

If you make it far enough in the hiring process, the tech hiring manager or recruiter will get down to the nitty-gritty, including what number you need or want in order to take the tech position.

At this point, you should have a better sense of the specific position, the responsibilities and demands involved, and the other perks and opportunities that may accompany the opportunity. Along with the general information you learned during your preliminary online research, factor the specific characteristics of the job into coming up with a particular figure that you think appropriate.

Importantly, phrase your answer to show that you based your figure on thoughtful analysis, not just what would make you happy or you think you deserve. For example:

  • “I’m really excited about this opportunity, and I’ve given a lot of thought to the responsibilities involved and the number of employees I will be managing in this position. Based on that, I think $X is a fair salary.”
  • “This is a great position, and I think I’m the right person for it. I think that $X seems like the right salary for this big role.”
  • “I’m thinking that $X makes sense based on my experience, past success, and the demanding nature of the role. I strongly believe that I can be successful in this position and add significant value to the company.”

Don’t Lie When Answering the Desired Salary Question

The truth always comes out, whether about your education, experience, performance, or past salary. Untruths and exaggerations, once discovered, will disqualify you from most opportunities. If the desired salary question comes with a past salary question, be truthful in your answer.

GTN Technical Staffing Helps Tech Workers Get Their Desired Jobs and Gets Tech Companies Their Desired Candidates

GTN Technical Staffing has earned a reputation throughout the tech industry for connecting the right talent to the right companies in Dallas, Phoenix, and nationwide. We are, without question, an invaluable resource for IT professionals seeking their next opportunity.

Contact us today to learn more about how we can help you find the right technical job

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