Question: How Do I Determine My “Salary Expectations”?

A senior asks:

A few of the jobs I am looking at ask for “salary expectations” to be sent along with my resume and cover letter. Do you have any other advice on how to go about this? 

There are a number of resources available to help you figure out what’s a reasonable salary range for the job.

  • The Living Wage Calculator will help you to determine how much it will cost you to live wherever the job is. It’s not an answer to the question, but it can help you to determine what your absolute minimum is.
  • Glassdoor.com has crowd-sourced information about salaries at specific companies. This information can help you determine what a reasonable salary might be. It also has a “know your worth” calculator.
  • Not all locations for all companies are listed on Glassdoor. You can find general expectations by industry for your area with this job seeker’s salary calculator.
  • This cost of living calculator can help you further contextualize the numbers the other calculators come up with.

However, your “salary expectations” can also reasonably vary depending on your enthusiasm for the job. If you are genuinely concerned that you lack the desired qualifications for the job you really want, then it might be helpful to calculate a number below the low end of the range that could make you a more attractive candidate for a job that’s something of a stretch. On the other hand, if it’s a job that you’re well qualified for but aren’t excited by, it might be worth calculating the salary that would allow you to feel enthusiastic about the position even if the number is at the high end. Both of these strategies involve risk — that you’ll be offered less than they might have otherwise considered OR that you’ll price yourself out of a job that you’d otherwise be offered.

Here’s a useful article on the vexed issue of salary disclosure.

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