Potential employer asked for my income requirements...help!

Here is some background on my situation:

I have had an in person “coffee” chat with the owner of the company that I want to work for where we went over my portfolio and talked about my experience. Things went well and now she wants to fly me out for another more formal interview and to meet with her team. In the mean time tomorrow I am supposed to have a telephone interview with her business partner. In an e-mail prior to this phone interview he has asked me what my salary requirements are so he can know if “we are in the same ballpark”.
My question is- how do I respond to such a question?

I was hoping to not have to say a number and just wait and see what their offer was. How can I give them some answer without risking pushing them away or missing out a a chance for a raise?

After all- this new job will be more responsibility and brings skills to their company that they do not currently have. ( the owner told me that herself ) Plus, they are the ones that contacted me to see if I was interested initially. Also, this job will require a change in cities- but it is a change I would love to make.

Hope this is enough background- love to hear any ideas! Any questions, let me know.


I would start by referring to the coroflot salary survey, based on your new position and region start there but keep in mind those are anonymous averages yet tend to be most accurate for our field.

If you have a salary history, start with that and add 10-15% if you feel comfortable. Also, if this is a small company and you are coming from a large corporate job, you should expect to not bump up or even take a small pay cut if you are taking a similar position. There are non-monetary aspects of compensation to keep in mind such as work environment, location, schedule, vacation, etc to consider. Going from a grey cubicle in the 'burbs to a sweet urban community space could be considered a “raise” as well.

Make sure that you are honest in your request, stating that you feel you are worth $X yet take into account everything else as valuable. If they low ball you, and you feel the job is worth it, I’d ask for a review after 6/12 months with the understanding that your salary will increase based on performance. After that time you’ll have a good idea if you actually like the job and a year is long enough that it won’t hurt you to leave for something better. After all, any real experience is more than valuable these days.

Give us a few more details (region, experience, your role (junior, senior, lone design cowboy) and I’m sure some others can chime in with helpful advice.

A couple tips:

1: Look at the Coroflot Salary Survey - it is a great indication of the ballpark range for salaries in different regions of the US.

2: What are you making currently, or are you fresh out of school? If you already make $XXXX then $XXXX + 5-10% is always another good ballpark if they are interested.

For a junior design position in Kansas you certainly don’t want to show up and say “I want $100k”, and likewise a job in NYC you’d have a very tough time accepting 30K (unless you like living off shoe leather is your idea of living).

Those are probably the only tips you’ll be able to get, but use this as a guide and see if you can’t also negotiate around a #, plus them covering all or part of your relocation expenses. I had a # in mind when I interviewed and actually wound up very close to that number without any negotiation.

This is a pretty standard question and when I first started to get asked it I was always hesitant to answer, but since I’ve learned that it’s a very valid and important question.

  1. Give a range. Also mention that it depends on other factors such as benefits, relocation, cost of living etc. This will cover you and give you a lot of room to still re-negotiate. Those “extras” can add up to as much as 25% or more of total compensation, so you are still giving yourself lots of room. For example, you might answer $50,000-$60,000 depending on benefits, and those benefits could be anywhere from $5-10K worth, so you essentially have a wide range of $40-70K.

  2. be honest. Answer what you think you are worth given your experience. It’s often viewed as a question to lowball employees, but really it’s as you say to “see if you are in the right ballpark”. A company doesn’t want to start the interview process if you want $100K and they have a budget of $50K. Likewise, you wouldn’t want to waste your time interviewing if you want $100K and they only can offer $50K, right?

  3. Do your research. You should have a good idea what the range may be for the position level you are seeking, the approx. cost of living where you are looking (ie. NYC vs. middle of nowhere Iowa), taxes (ie. different countries/states may have radically different tax rates).

  4. Also be prepared to have a number to answer if they ask you your current salary (many do). Again, answer honestly and be prepared to also add up the benefits (ie. relocation, bonuses, cost of living, taxes, benefits, etc.). Again you can always offer this number with a caveat such as “but cost of living is less in Y than X”, “I got X weeks of holidays”, etc.". Still, keep in mind the % increase you are seeking. Depending on the level of position, I’d say anywhere from 10%-30% increase if you are moving up (not horizontally) I think is fair. Half of the question is to see if you have any idea what the market is like and what your expectations are. If you come back with a crazy answer, even if you accept a lot less they will think you are out to lunch and will want crazy increases as your expectations are not in line with reality.

  5. As I mentioned in another thread, when negotiating or presenting a counter offer, also keep in mind that often it’s easier to increase benefits and indirect costs (relocation, bonus, car, etc.) than direct salary. TOTAL compensation is the bottom line and very often is easier to move forward than direct salary as this is often related to hierarchies, salary and budget caps, etc. Also it is often the case you can make an agreement to a lower than you’d like salary with a review after a period of time for potential agreed increase, though of course it’s not at all guaranteed and the company can make any number of excuses not to give it, but it can work to your favor if you feel you can “prove yourself”.


Give us a few more details (region, experience, your role (junior, senior, lone design cowboy) and I’m sure some others can chime in with helpful advice.[/quote]

thanks for all the advice- yes the first place I thought to look was the Coroflot survey. I am in the southwest region so the number of people replying to the survey is a little lower.

Plus, I am really looking for info on the “style of negotiation”. That is where I am a novice!
How can I keep from telling them what I currently make?

This above info is really helpful- thanks! Here is a little more info as asked for above…

My current role is one that was my first design job out of school as an employee. I had previous intern and contractor experience before my current job. I graduated with a BS in Industrial Design in 2007. My Current company is a large corp. (with rows and rows of cubes over two floors) where they get multiple resumes every day for entry level people- so it is great to get a job there out of all the applicants, but they are not known for paying much at all.

The new job would be working with very similar product- so my experience is directly related. But the company is different. Their design team only has one creative director ( owner), one sr. designer with over 10 years experience who is not digital- but more “sharpie” based and one jr designer who is straight out of school and according to the info in my interview “needs following” throughout a project. I would be coming in as the mid-level person and bringing lots of info on process and starting the entire job of bringing their designs to the digital world. Also, since this is a much smaller company I am thinking I will be wearing a variety of “hats” when compared to my current large company. Also, I know this new job would require some travel where my current one does not.

hope this helps fill in the situation- thanks agin for all the advise!

Do not low-ball your salary. I’m tired of how devalued this industry is, well at least in Canada. Industrial Designers seem to be willing to work for nothing, even though our skill set is worth much more. State what you think you are worth. If you aren’t on the same page, then find someone willing to pay you what you are worth. Employers today want everything for nothing.

DON"T SETTLE FOR LESS, you are worth more.

just remember you can always negotiate the salary lower, not higher from your initial ballpark

Thanks for filling in the blanks! It seems as I suspected that you are moving into a position that will be potentially more rewarding, challenging and full-filling beyond your paycheck. I would definitely keep that in mind (but don’t low-ball yourself, I agree BARTOK24). Why are you against revealing your current salary? If it’s low and you don’t want to reveal how much of a pay increase you are asking for, I’d reconsider asking for that much OR, as Richard suggested, be ready with your salary+benefits/caveats when they ask.

You have to be comfortable with your pay, and your new employer should WANT you to be happy with your pay. Why would anyone hire a new employee who is disgruntled before he even starts? Be honest, discuss it, and don’t try to play games. Good luck!

Keep this nugget in the back of your mind when you discuss your salary… if they want you, they will negotiate.

It’s only business and a huge part of business is negotiation… being aware of this is something that I feel should be taught in University because the better you are at it, the more successful you can be.

usually with corporations there is a salary range for the position of $7-10k… they will probably have room to move around.

With smaller companies, I’m always really surprised how hard some companies resist more flexibility with salaries… it sounds like a lot in the yearly rate, but $5k more per year is only $100 more per month. Also, the difference of a couple thousand a year is really not that much when if you consider the cost for benefits, overhead, etc of an employee is almost double the salary (at least that’s what I’ve been told for corporate jobs)

Good advice above by all. I always shoot very straight with this question. I look up the cost of living difference (available on a bunch of websites) between where I live now and where I’m going, communicate this, how much it will take to move, and my current salary and all benefits, and let them know that comparable to that +10%+ would get it. Someone has to show the cards first to get the conversation rolling.

I’d say don’t bother giving a range. Everyone knows everything is negotiable, so tell them one number. $XX,000
If you give them a range, all they hear is the bottom number anyway, why would anyone pay you the 50 of 45-50?

That’s been my experience, too. The bottom number is always where they start, so if you do give a range, make sure you’d be happy with the low end of it.

Thanks for ALL the advice. You know designers- they have to make a chart and get research from all sides to make any type of decision! I think the best answer will be honesty is the best policy. I also think I have come around to the conclusion that there is no “magic” way to get the new employer to pay what you want other than to just ask for it. I do think my current pay is on the low side and have been told that before by outsiders- but I just need to provide reasons why I am worth more. I for sure want all sides to be very happy in the new set up~! I’ll let you know how it goes! Hope to hear something soon.

One other thing to remember, if your current pay is low and you aren’t happy with it. Mention this when giving your salary reply as one of the reasons you are looking for a new position. It’s a quick signal to the company that you need more or won’t be happy/accept. Of course you have to back it up with the skills and experience that the company wants and with realistic demands, but putting it all out there is totally kosher.