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I am in conversation with the CEO of a profitable software services based organization for one of the senior position. I'd be directly reporting to him in the job.

During one of the final interview questions with him (done over email), I am asked about the salary expectations (to be paid fully in cash). Quoting him verbatim:

What is the salary that you’d prefer for this job?

I have a figure, say $X per month, in my mind which is along the lines of the salary paid for similar position/experience by organization of this kind and scale.

I would really like to answer it in the most polite and professional manner. How do I word the answer?

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Offer a direct and honest expectation. Make clear both your expectations for salary (your monthly cash compensation) and total compensation (salary, bonus, and any non-cash compensation). Additionally, make clear your compensation growth expectations. Ask about benefits in addition to compensation and be ready to adjust your required compensation if benefits are less than the norm.

E.g.:

I'm expecting $_____ in total compensation, with at least $_____ as salary, and annual increases of __% assuming our work is going well. Let me know if this is similar to the compensation planned for this position.

Your tone in the overall conversation has more to do with how your response will be received than the specific wording. Additionally, you may find it easier to be polite and friendly in person or over the phone so consider moving your conversation off of email.


It's likely that you and your future employer will agree on compensation without negotiation - be sure to propose a level of compensation you would be comfortable with.

Avoid any negotiation strategies that would cause you to make requests you wouldn't otherwise bring up in the discussion.

If you're unsure of what typical compensation is for your role you could use online databases or reach out to friends/colleagues in similar roles. You should also check with any undergraduate or graduate institutions you have a connection to - many operate databases with just this kind of information for alumni.

  • "Avoid any negotiation strategies that would cause you to make requests you wouldn't otherwise bring up in the discussion": I don't understand this at all. – TonyK Jul 7 at 22:23
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  1. Before you throw out a number, make sure you fully understand the structure of the compensation package: benefits, pensions or 401k match, commuter compensation, bonus, equity, PTO, accrual of PTO overt time, etc. This stuff adds up easily can make a huge difference even for two packages with the same base salary
  2. I think you already have a number in mind. If you are the first one quoting a number (which is fine), add at least 10% to X as negotiation room.
  3. No need to be super careful or polite about this. It's perfectly professional to give a direct answer to a direct question. Something like "Based on my research and past experience I was thinking around Y per month (where Y = X*1.1)". "Around" indicates that you are willing to negotiate and come down a bit.

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