Question:What should I do when I am asked what my salary expectations are when applying for a job? Is responding by saying they are "flexible" or "negotiable" appropriate, or is it seen by the employer/recruiter as evasive? Should I just simply "name my price" and hope that I haven't overpriced or underpriced myself?
-- Joe, Chicago
Joe:"Negotiable" is indeed an appropriate response, although, yes, some employers may deem it evasive. When applying, particularly in writing, the initial information is used by employers to screen out candidates. At this early stage of the game, your salary truly is negotiable. You don't have enough information to make a thoughtful decision about your expectations.
Until you discover the details of the position with all of its opportunities and drawbacks, along with an understanding of the full benefits package, you really aren't in a position to name your price. So resist the temptation to blurt out any amount early on. Once you put it out there, it is hard to renegotiate. If you are out of the company's range on the high end, you may never get the interview that would allow you to make a convincing and compelling case for your candidacy. If you come in low, trying to negotiate up becomes an awkward, backpedaling routine.
Beyond indicating that your requirements are negotiable on applications, you can continue to keep the door open in the interview by meeting an interviewer's question with a follow-up question: "My salary expectations would be based on consideration of the full salary and benefits package. What is the compensation level for someone with my skills and experience?" Express your interest in the position up to this point and remain upbeat, diplomatic and sincere. Dance with flexibility and negotiate with confidence when the time comes.
(Note: Handle your relationship with recruiters differently. A trusted recruiter needs detailed information, including salary expectations, to represent you.)
-- Ms. Koen responds to questions each week in the CollegeJournal.com Careers Q & A column. Ms. Koen is a vice president of Career Development Services, a Rochester, N.Y.-based, nonprofit career-management organization that helps individuals and organizations grow through change. She designed and currently manages the CollegeJournal.com telecounseling program, drawing on her experience in business, education and the nonprofit sector. Ms. Koen earned an M.A. in counseling from Colgate University and a B.A. in political science from Utica College of Syracuse University.
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