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Truly understanding your desired salary

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At some point during the job search process, discussions about salary is going to come up. Many people tend to ask about the salary range to ensure they don't price themselves out of consideration. However, we strongly advise against this approach as although the company has set a budget, it might not actually align with what you need.


By placing all your attention on the budget and disregarding your personal considerations, you fail to recognise the crucial role you play in the decision-making process.


Understanding your desired salary will help you determine which job opportunities align with your expectations and avoids wasting your time. Although it may be a bit challenging at first, this article will guide you through the following aspects:


1. How to calculate your desired salary range.

2. What to put in the salary section of application tracking systems.

3. Common mistakes to avoid when discussing salary.


Let's delve into each of these points to provide you with a comprehensive understanding.


Step 1: Research

Websites such as PayScale, Glassdoor, and have revolutionised salary research, making it easier to access information for different job roles. By visiting these platforms and searching for your desired position, you can explore industry-specific, location-based, and skill-dependent salary averages.


In cases where there is limited data available for your specific area, you may need to invest more time and effort in your search. Experimenting with different search terms and exploring multiple resources can help you uncover valuable insights into market averages.


Step 2: Seek Insights from Professionals

After conducting preliminary research, it's time to validate the numbers by networking with professionals in your desired role. Be open and transparent about your intentions to understand more about salaries in the market. You'll be surprised by how many individuals are willing to share their current salaries if you approach them respectfully and ensure confidentiality.


Additionally, expand your network beyond your immediate contacts. Connect with specialised recruiters, participate in forums, and engage with a broader community to gain a comprehensive understanding of the market value for your skills.


These first two steps should provide you with a clear understanding of the current market rates and a salary range to consider. Now, let's explore your current salary.


Step 3: Consider Your Current Salary

Having obtained a solid market average, it's important to evaluate your current salary (skip this step if it's your first role in the industry). Assess whether your current salary aligns with the market average. If you find yourself on the higher end of the scale, it might be an opportune time to explore roles that offer higher compensation, allowing you to further develop your skills and increase your salary.


Step 4: Account for Personal Circumstances

Remember that market averages are just averages. Your personal circumstances may require you to aim for a salary higher or lower than the average. Allow your research to guide you, but don't let it restrict your decision-making process. If you are targeting above-average salaries, be transparent with recruiters and hiring managers from the start to avoid wasting time for both parties.


Following these four steps will provide you with a clear picture of your target salary range based on market rates, your current salary, and personal needs. Armed with this information, you can confidently enter the job search process and negotiate from an informed perspective.


Now let's discuss a trick to bypass the salary section in application tracking systems (ATS) and highlight common mistakes related to salary discussions.


What to Put in the Salary Section of Application Tracking Systems

Most organisations use applicant tracking systems (ATS) to streamline the hiring process. These systems pull information from your CV, cover letter, and other provided details to create a profile. Usually, there is a field in the ATS labelled "desired salary." Leaving this field blank may trigger the system and prevent you from applying.


When filling out the salary field, it is advisable to use terms like "Negotiable," "Flexible," or "Competitive" if text is accepted. In cases where a numerical value is required, you can consider using figures like "111" or "555," or even an unrealistic number such as €100. This approach allows you to complete your application while signalling to the recruiter or hiring manager that the salary discussion should be addressed during the initial call.

Common Mistakes to Avoid When Discussing Salary


To help you avoid mistakes made by others, here are a few noteworthy points:


Insufficient research on market rates or personal circumstances when determining the right salary for you.

Relying solely on a single website's market average without engaging in real conversations with industry professionals.

Sharing your desired salary in the ATS before learning about the specific job opening.

Failing to negotiate when you truly desired to do so.

Lacking supporting information to justify your salary request.

Changing your salary expectations without providing a valid rationale during the process.


Gaining a clear understanding of your desired salary range right from the start of your job search is crucial for successful negotiation and attaining the compensation you seek. Follow the four-step process outlined in this article to establish your range, and keep these tips handy for future reference. By being well-informed and prepared, you can confidently navigate salary discussions throughout your career journey.


If you believe someone in your network could benefit from this article, please share it with them and let’s collectively bring simplicity to the chaos of recruitment.


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