Dear Sam: I, unfortunately, find myself searching for a new position following a company reorganization. Given the impact of the pandemic on the foodservice industry, I have to pivot into a new role outside of the institutional foodservice environment from which I came. I am aware of salary norms in an institutional setting but unfamiliar with compensation in other spaces. I am doing my research online, as you have suggested in other columns you have written, but even so, I am not comfortable listing a specific salary expectation when asked to do so in an application. What different ways can I answer this question without being disqualified from the process? – Jay

Dear Jay: Great question! I’m so pleased to hear you are doing your research to gather insight into compensation trends. When you are asked for a salary requirement, there are a few standard approaches, five of which I have detailed below. Remember that none are considered risk-free, but some of the response options will provide additional maneuverability in your negotiations.

Response One: Tell the hiring manager what you want to earn. If you have a base salary requirement, state it to tell the hiring manager that you probably expect a little more. The risk in using this approach is that you will be immediately disqualified because your amount is too low or too high.

Response Two: Give the hiring manager a wide range. Most employers have a range for each position, and the hope when using this strategy is that your ranges overlap at some point. You can either state that you want compensation in the “mid-50s” or are seeking compensation from “$50-60K.” The challenge here is not presenting a range where your lowest amount is their highest available compensation or vice versa. You could secure a job earning $50K instead of $56K because you put your range as $50-60K. Hence the second strategy of “Mid 50’s” might work more in your favor.

Response Three: Avoid the question by stating that you seek competitive compensation for someone in your field or are flexible about your total compensation package. Doing this avoids answering the question and disqualifying yourself because of a number, yet you answer the question to a certain degree. By using this approach, you also tell the hiring manager that you realize that there is more to a compensation package than just your salary.

Response Four: Communicate that you would love to discuss your salary requirement once a mutual interest has been established. This approach allows you to assess the functions of the position to which you are applying and fairly evaluate what you should be compensated for such an engagement.

Response Five: Don’t respond. Many candidates take this approach and hope their experiences, accomplishments, and skills pull them through despite avoiding the question entirely.

You have to decide which strategy you want to employ and whether the risk involved is the one you are comfortable taking.