Tackling Salary Questions in a Job Application
The real issue is to clinch a deal with the best bargain possible. Even within the recession, nobody wants to sell himself or herself short, and for many it is better to remain unemployed and keep seeking for the right job, than to accept any that comes along with a beggar's choice. Generally, the mentality of the potential employer can be gathered from the wording of the job advertisement or job requirements to some extent, and it is better to pay extra attention to how the employer has phrased the job requirements.
While it may seem perfectly ordinary, employers, who have a low budget, or would want to recruit as cheaply as possible, stress on your last salary more than on your quality or qualifications. Employers with visibly better culture ask for your salary expectations first, and then require information about your last salary. While the first kind of employers would never agree to anything beyond a 10%-15% increase above your last salary, the second kind of employers would ask you to justify only if they see too big a discrepancy between your stated salary expectations and your last salary. Unless you are really in a tight spot, it is better to steer clear of companies that only want to know about your last salary, and do not care about what salary you expect to be paid for shouldering the duties of the offered job.
Anyway, the problem is that an employer expects you to state some numbers, which should match the employer's estimated budget closely enough to get you an interview call. Since you have no possible way to know about the employer's estimated budget for the offered position, mostly you are left guessing. However, information about salaries in similar jobs at the employer's place or in the same locality are a safe indicator of the salary that might be expected for the job. So, successful background research is extremely helpful for preparing your salary expectations.
Sometimes, and quite often nowadays, candidates suffer from the fear that the figure of their last salary may be higher than the budget of the employer and would act against their prospects of securing a job. In these cases, it is essential to modify the statement of expected salary and mention that the candidate is ready to negotiate or discuss the salary after the interview according to job position and responsibilities. Usually, if other parameters were met, this would result in an interview call. Saying something like ''I am willing to negotiate, or discuss if my salary expectations are higher than the hiring range for this job,'' would actually put the ball entirely in the employer's court and make it sure that you receive even less than what was estimated by the employer.
So, do some thorough background research before stating your salary expectations, and be sure to avoid mentioning it in a cover letter unless the employer specifically asks for it in the job application.