What to do when asked for salary requirements

April 29, 2010 at 11:46 am Leave a comment

Several email correspondents have been faced with this dilemma recently: After an interview (or several), a hiring manager asks them for references and “salary requirements.” That’s generally good news — they must be really interested — but the dilemma for these mid-career folks is how much they should say they expect to earn in the job. If you go too low, you’re potentially cheating yourself out of a salary you deserve (see Jan. 29 post, “Don’t undersell yourself in job negotiations”)  but if you aim too high, you might be pricing yourself out of further consideration for a position you really want.

This is a tricky situation, especially these days, where salary is a definite consideration before an employer will move to the final rounds of the hiring process — that’s why they’re asking what you want to make. With budgets still tight for many organizations, they often have a set amount they are paying for a position and hiring managers may have little flexibility to budge from those guidelines.

But if you want this job and are willing to put some time and research into this stage of the process, there are some ways you can effectively address the salary requirements issue. Here are some tips:

*Make it a conversation. When asked about your salary needs, try to discuss this with the hiring manager in person, or at least on the phone. An email response (even if they ask you in an email) seems more cut-and-dried, and you want to be able to negotiate. Offer a range, but also an explanation, with your current position or the last position you had as a starting point. Say something like, “While I made $70,000 a year in my last job and I would like to aim for that amount in this job, I am willing to be somewhat flexible and could accept from $65,000 to $70,000, especially if there are opportunities for advancement in the near future. Is this in the ballpark?” Seek to find out from them what the job will pay. Then, if it’s really too low, you can decide whether to take yourself out of the running. You might also be able to determine in a conversation whether the hiring manager has any flexibility with salary.

*Do some research. If you know what jobs at this level in the organization typically pay, you’re much better able to respond effectively with your salary requirements. Try to gather as much information as you can on this topic (see Nov. 3 post, “Talking about money.”) While current employees there might feel uncomfortable discussing what they earn, former employees likely won’t — and may be able to give you some idea about what the position you’re seeking has paid in the past. (Make sure their information isn’t too dated — or factor in inflation if it is.) There is some salary information available at job sites on line (glassdoor.com has good information for a variety of positions, some even media-related) — check it out, but remember, each organization has its own specific job descriptions and salary ranges for those positions. Arm yourself with information as a starting point in salary negotiations.

*Try to determine if there are ways to raise the starting salary if the hiring manager seems put off by your range. For instance, if you say you want a starting salary of $80,000 to $90,000 and it’s clear the organization has budgeted $75,000 annually for the position, but you really want the job, ask when you might be eligible for a raise. If they would be willing to review your salary in six months, it might be worth coming in lower (especially if you’ve been laid-off — sadly, there is still a “layoff discount” perception out there; see Dec. 1 post, “When to consider taking a pay cut”) to get the job. Also, see if there is freelance or contract work available at the organization (perhaps at a “sister” publication under the company’s umbrella) that could make up the difference. Or perhaps they would be willing to give you some flexibility to continue working on some free-lance projects you’ve lined up on the side. While you don’t want to come in at a salary well beneath your expectations — it’s never a good idea to start a  job feeling like your new employer is taking advantage of you — you also need to be realistic about what salary you can command in what’s still a hotly competitive job market.

*Freelancers already know that getting paid is one of the toughest parts of making a career (even temporarily) from freelance work. This piece in the Wall Street Journal, via mediabistro.com, explores that issue and offers a few strategies for combating the “check-is-in-the-mail” line from freelance clients:

Freelancers are having trouble getting paid, the Wall Street Journal reports.

*And here’s some good job and internship leads to consider today:

*PBS in Arlington is looking for a senior editor for news and public affairs; sounds like a terrific opportunity for the right journalist:
Sr. Editor – News and Public Affairs
PBS – Arlington, VA
POSITION TITLE: Sr. Editor – News and Public Affairs… in Journalism or related field, such as Communications, Public Affairs or History SKILLS/ABILITIES…
From PBS4:25 PM

*GWU’s Medical Center in D.C. has an opening for a director of Web communications:

Director of Web Communications
GWU – Washington, DC
and communications experience Proven success managing several large-scale web communications projects and development, design, and/or communications teams…
From washingtonpost.com

*The Department of the Navy has an opening in D.C. in its Naval Facilities Engineering Command (NAVFAC) Headquarters, Public Affairs & Communications Office for a Web communications manager:
Assistant for Administration, Under Secretary of the Navy – Washington, DC
Public Affairs & Communications Office. The Public Affairs & Communications Office is responsible for planning and executing multi-faceted communication… $89,033 – $115,742 a year
From usajobs.gov

*If you know of college or graduate students still looking for an internship for this summer (or for local students, next fall), Discovery Communications in Silver Spring has openings for (unpaid) digital media interns:

Digital Media Interns
Discovery Communications, Inc. – Silver Spring, MD
the above, a Digital internship at Discovery Communications is for you! We’re looking for quick learners… Discovery Communications, Inc. is an equal…
From Discovery Communications, Inc

*The World Bank in D.C. has an opening for a social development specialist:
Social Development Specialist
The World Bank – Washington, DC
country teams, prepare corporate briefing and communications for the regions management, help in managing… written and verbal communication skills in English…
From The World Bank

*This could be a good opportunity for a transitioning journalist; the Pew Environment Group is looking for a communications officer to deal with climate and energy issues:

The Pew Environment Group is hiring a communications officer for our climate and energy work.   We’re seeking a dynamic individual with activist/campaign experience and a strong knowledge of traditional and new media.    The communications officer will work with our climate team, which has served to broaden the policy debate on climate beyond the traditional science and environment aspects to include economic and national security factors.  In the past year, we’ve worked with former Senator John Warner (R-VA) and several prominent retired military officers to put the spotlight on how climate change creates new risks for national and global security; we’ve also published detailed reports on how investments in clean energy are faring in the fifty states, and  in each of the G-20 economic powers.  Both reports received, and continue to receive, nationwide and global attention.  Most recently, we published a report in mid-April on the US Defense Department’s steps to move to clean energy.

The communications officer will report to the deputy director (Peter Dykstra) and senior officer for communications (me); he or she will work on an everyday basis with Phyllis Cuttino and the climate/energy team in strategizing and executing communications plans to raise the profile of the security and economic elements of climate and energy work.   Requirements:  Strong communications skills; a commitment to the goals of the campaign and the organization; Strong experience in related fields; ability to work well both within a large structure, and with a small, dynamic team; and familiarity with web, advertising, video, social media, and traditional news communication.

For more on our climate-security and clean energy work, visit:

*Project Hope in Millwood, Va., has an opening for a research and writing specialist:

Job Description:

This position will be responsible for research, development and preparation of technical proposals, conduct background research, write pieces of proposals and concept papers and coordinate with other writers in headquarters and field offices for timely completion of technical proposals. Additionally, will also edit the proposal and ensure that the technical proposals follow the proposal outline (including page limits), strategic frameworks and are responsive to the stipulations of the procurement document. He/she will also analyze the competition. He/she will also work with the strategic communication department to develop specific marketing documents.

The qualifications for this position are as follows:

• Must have a Master’s in Public Health with at least three years of experience in research and writing public health related documents.
•Prefer candidates with overseas program implementation experience will be given preference.

go to http://www2.recruitingcenter.net/clients/projecthope/publicjobs/ and put “Virginia” in for the location.

Happy hunting!



Entry filed under: Uncategorized.

Ways to stop procrastinating on your job search What new (and old) grads should know about job hunting

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