Before You Name Your ‘Salary Requirement,’ Get Real!


We see more disturbing patterns when it comes to the workforce since the Great Resignation. One new issue is the salary requirement.

Whenever I apply for a job, one of the questions I hate answering is the “salary requirement.” I consider it a loaded question.

You can — and should — do research before you apply to determine a realistic salary demand. But What determines what is realistic, however, can vary from company to company and region to region. Your level of experience can also determine the appropriate salary to ask for.

Some employers throw in the question just to see if they’re at least in the ballpark of the applicant. There have been times, though, when an applicant lists such an outrageously high amount that their application goes to the “circular file” without even a phone call.

So let’s say you determine that a reasonable salary for a particular job in a particular area would be $32,000 to $45,000. If you only have a couple of years worth of experience, $45,000 is not going to be reasonable.

It might feel reasonable to you. You can bet it won’t feel reasonable to that would-be employer who will laugh as they trash your application.

You may well decide you want or even expect that $45,000. That would-be employer will expect to find someone with a more reasonable salary requirement.

This post in my LinkedIn network caught my eye.

A recruiter made a valiant effort to find a job for an applicant with what definitely seems like a thoroughly unreasonable salary requirement.

This applicant has between one and two years of experience at a local television station and “a few months” at a “recently closed network.” This person wants a senior role in a top 10 to top 20 market making between $80,000 and $100,000.

The recruiter called the post “perhaps scary and definitely eye-opening” and asked those in his network if they knew of any possibilities he could refer this applicant to.

It was nice of him to make the attempt.

Just to clarify, when we talk of “markets” in television, we’re referring to a ranking of metropolitan areas served by television stations across the country. You will find a total of 210 markets in the United States. The largest, as you can probably guess, is New York City. Los Angeles is the second-largest market. Glendive, Montana is the smallest, ranked at 210.

I won’t bother listing all of the top 20 markets, but you should at least know that they include major cities like Chicago, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Atlanta, Dallas, Houston, Washington, D.C., Denver, Orlando and Cleveland.

Big cities. Yes, higher costs of living.

The issue here isn’t so much the asking price. It’s demanding that price with such a low level of experience. Like most industries, you will have worked your way up to a salary like that. Like most industries, it will have taken quite a bit of time to reach that figure.

“One to two years” isn’t that amount of time.

I don’t know of any instance where someone reached the senior level of a role that this person seeks with a mere two years of experience in a market that large.

I would go so far as to say that in most cases, they shouldn’t reach that high of a rank with that little experience.

One reaction actually ticked me off.

I scanned through the comments on that post. One irritated me. Someone congratulated this person for “knowing his worth and not being afraid to ask for it.”

I’m afraid I can’t agree with that sentiment.

You might feel like applauding someone who has the guts to ask for that kind of salary. I can understand applauding that level of chutzpah.

But in terms of “knowing his worth,” well, there I have to respectfully disagree.

I know my worth. Just like you, that figure is more than either of us is likely going to be offered. Unless we wind up with enough cash to live in the same neighborhood as folks like Bill Gates, Tim Cook or Elon Musk, we’re not going to actually receive the money we want.

Imagine three different sums of money: what the job pays, what the worker would like to receive (the salary requirement) and what the worker thinks he’s worth. You will almost never find a job in which all three figures are an exact match.

Before this Great Resignation foolishness, all three figures were different. The lowest of the three, generally, was the actual salary. The “what the worker wants” was almost always higher. But that third figure, what the worker thinks he’s actually worth generally was higher than what the worker wanted. Some of us looked at that as an “endgame” salary. If I was applying for a job where I wanted $60,000, I would probably say I was worth $80,000.

There was no official rule to this; it’s just that it seems this is the way that used to work.

Now, however, that middle figure has now risen to be right on par with the “self-worth” figure.

That’s not reasonable. I don’t know anyone who thinks they’re actually paid what they’re worth. That’s normal. There’s something in our wiring that tells us that no one will value all of the little things we do even when they go unnoticed. We keep track of those things. No one else generally does.

But you have to be realistic when you’re listing that salary requirement. If the salary you require matches the figure you think you’re worth, you might want to rethink things.

I’m afraid you’re going to have a hard time finding something that will make you happy. That’s just my two cents.

the authorPatrick
Patrick is a Christian with more than 30 years experience in professional writing, producing and marketing. His professional background also includes social media, reporting for broadcast television and the web, directing, videography and photography. He enjoys getting to know people over coffee and spending time with his dog.