Main image of article Salary Negotiations: How to Know What to Ask For

Picture this: You’ve applied for a new job online, and the recruiter emails to set up a time to chat. That discussion goes well... until they ask your desired salary for a new role.

Your response: “uhh…”

Salary is often the trickiest part of any new job discussion, and it’s a critical piece of the puzzle. Salary expectations can set a tone for the interview process, and clue you into how much the company values the position – and by extension, you.

Keep in mind that recruiters resist divulging the available salary for the position because they want you to lob the first salvo. If you go low, they’ll stay there with you; too high and you risk losing out on that cool new job. It’s a clumsy first step in what is often a long dance. (And that's why it's often a good idea to wait until the recruiter or hiring manager tosses out a salary number, then negotiate from there.)

But how much should you ask for? If the position is a lateral move, you have a great idea of what you should be making. You have an even better idea of what you want to make, and the core competencies of the job.

More to the point, how can you know what salary to ask for in these early discussions? There are a few considerations to keep in mind.

First, geography. If you’re moving from Minneapolis to Silicon Valley, please don’t accept a job at your current salary. We like Bankrate’s cost of living calculator to parse what's equitable when moving to a new location.

Second, the job itself: A project manager shouldn’t be paid the same as their reports. An engineer at a large tech firm will probably make more than at a startup, meaning you should request the best salary possible when interviewing at larger companies.

Dice’s Salary Calculator is probably the most granular tool for discovering what you should ask for in a new job. It accounts for location, job title, years of experience, and how skills may affect your income level. As with all prediction tools, it relies in part on self-reported data from users, giving you an idea of what the community is earning.

Glassdoor is also a great resource for self-reported income data, as it has one of the largest databases around for salary (and people reviewing employers). We’re also fans of Paysa, which is a lot like Glassdoor, but with a heavier focus on income; it takes in a job title and location, then returns pay ranges on a bell curve so you know the average as well as what top earners make.

Between the time a recruiter emails and you have that first talk, do your homework using these tools. It’ll help you know what to expect, and sound confident that you know your own worth. It might even help you avoid hours of unnecessary interviews if you and the recruiter (or hiring manager) just aren’t on the same page.