What To Do When Asked For Your UX Salary Expectations

What To Do When Asked For Your UX Salary Expectations


It’s a common tactic in job interviews, and the pressure is on to make ourselves an appealing candidate. But what is the best way to respond? In his second article for our ‘Ask Anyway’ column, Joe Natoli explains.

Question: I was asked for my salary expectations during the 1st round of interviews and I didn’t know what to say. They said to get back to them with a ballpark estimate soon. The company is a high growth company that recently got out of the startup phase. The position specifically would be doing all the UX/UI/user research without any other designers. This would also be my first “real” job.

I’m curious what people would say in these situations… would you give a number at all? If so, how would you work it out? Thanks.

You should absolutely give a number, and it should be specific and firm. If you give them a range, they will almost always choose the number at the low end. Keep in mind, also, that most companies are willing to pay you more than what you’re asking for. Quite often the reason they’re asking you to go first is because they’re betting your number will be lower than theirs.

To figure out what that number is, start with the going/average salary for that work in your area. This article provides some solid insights for people working in the US-market as well as links to other sources: https://www.springboard.com/blog/ux-designer-salary-guide/.

You want to be in line with “going rates” for someone doing this work, with your level of experience, and you also want to be able to defend what you’re asking for. Also consider what you’re making now; never make a lateral move in terms of salary. With every new job, you always want to increase what you’re making by some meaningful percentage.

If the salary they’re prepared to offer you is too low for your liking, you want to find out as soon as possible. And do not fall for the “we’re a startup, we have no money” line. Their financial issues (whether they do or don’t exist) are absolutely NOT your problem. Don’t accept offers of low salary + equity stakes. This only pays dividends for one in 10,000 people, and the odds are likely much worse than that. 

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Above all else, be confident and remember that you are interviewing THEM as well. You have every right to be paid what you’re worth, what the market will bear. There are more open positions for UX folks than at any point in recent history. Remember that the advantage is yours;they need you. You are allowed to negotiate, and you are allowed to ask for a higher number than what they come back to you with. Do not forget this — never be afraid to negotiate the number.

The only employers that will ever walk away from this and say “forget it” are those that are abusive — and you do not want to work for those people, no matter what they pay you. I say all that because you should not ever feel bad about asking for what you think is appropriate.

And lastly, for everyone else reading, if you’re looking for a job, do this research now. Before your first interview. You want to go in prepared with an answer to this question in your first interview; otherwise you’re operating from a position of weakness. I completely understand how hard it is to answer this question, honest :-) But in the scenario here, you’ve given up some of your power by exposing that you don’t know what you’re worth.

‘Ask Anyway’ is a monthly column exploring collaborative teams, career survival and the heart and soul of good design practice. The only way to learn is to find the courage to ask. Send in your questions and we’ll answer them here!

Written by
Joe Natoli
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