Somewhere along the road to getting a new job, you may be asked what your salary expectations are. Employers can either do this on the application form or during the recruitment process.
When you're faced with a blank box and "salary dependent on experience", it's tough to put a value on your own skills and experience. You have to balance your value as an employee with how much you want the job – you don't want to sell yourself short or get rejected for a figure that's too high.
Here are a few things to think about before you put a figure in the box:
When working out what your salary expectations should be, particularly if it's your dream job, you may be tempted to put the lowest number possible to increase your chances of getting the job. This isn't always a good idea, however, as it can reflect what value you think you'll add to the company.
If you don't have an indication of the salary range, be careful about giving too much away. Every position is different and you can only be expected to give clear information on this once you have a better understanding of the conditions of the job and the total benefits package that comes with it.
As you might imagine, research is very important at this stage.
Research the industry, job role you're applying for and skills employers are looking for. You could scour job adverts to give you a sense of salary levels for the area of work you're applying for. The National Careers Service job profiles section of the website has information on lots of jobs and the average salary you could expect.
Once you've done some research into your chosen industry, it's important to remember public and private sector organisations operate in different ways. In the public sector, budgets are set across the organisation for recruitment so it's often harder for them to be flexible with the salary.
Overall most employers would like to pay towards the middle of the salary band they have indicated. However, private sector companies have more flexibility in paying top of the scale for the candidate they deem as a right fit for the role, organisation and team.
Consider your skills and current salary
Try and work out your skillset, your transferable skills and experience relevant to the job and your level of education.
Career changers may have to revise their salary expectations in line with what new employers feel they have to offer. If the occupation you're moving into is something you have long-term plans for, perhaps opportunities for promotion and development once in post could be part of discussions and can help shape long-term salary ambitions.
You'll also need to think about your current salary, as this is also normally a required field for applications. Your current salary does have an impact on your future salary, as it is a clear indication to the employer of your self-worth.
However, employers also understand that in this current, difficult job market, many candidates have taken a drop in salary to gain work or change career paths. If you perform extremely well at interview and can communicate the impact you would make in your role and for the company, you can usually get near enough the salary you aim for.
Once you've come up with an expected salary on your application, it will depend on the organisation as to how your expected salary figure will be used. It's normally referred to after the shortlisting to make sure there isn't a huge discrepancy between what can be offered, and what a candidate is expecting.
At the job-offer stage, your expected salary figure is likely to be referred back to during negotiations.
The information should certainly be recognised in any salary negotiations. A candidate would be justified in assuming that a recruiter is aware of any salary expectations they had written, and thus that the recruiter is happy to progress the application on this basis. But I suspect this may not always be the case.