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One of the most dreaded interview questions, possibly even more dreaded than the "Biggest Weakness" question, is the "What is your desired or required salary?"  There's many ways to ask it, but it all boils down to the same thing, how much do you think you're worth?  It's tough because there can be so many factors that go into that answer.  You don't want to low ball yourself, and end up getting less than what you could have, but you also don't want to exclude yourself from the potential candidate pool by aiming too high.  So where's the sweet spot?  As usual, the answer is somewhere in the middle.

First, you should take a look at your current personal finances and income.  Determine the minimum salary or hourly rate you need in order to cover the essentials.  This is also a great time to reflect on your lifestyle, and ask yourself if you could pull back in some areas, which can help make your income requirements a bit more flexible.  The number you come up with here, isn't necessarily the salary range you'll end up asking for, but you'll at least be prepared enough to know that if a job cannot meet those minimum requirements, then it's not the right fit for you.

The next step is to look at industry averages for the position you're applying for.  It's always important to remember that geography plays a huge role in this, because the cost of living varies greatly based on where you live. is a great tool for researching salaries based on location; it will give you the average salary of a position, and also two ranges.  The first range shows what 25%-75% of workers in this field are making, and the next range shows what 10%-90% make.

You should also consider your experience at this time.  While the average salary for a Medical Assistant may be $27,647, if you only have 1 year of experience in the field, you will likely sit at the lower end of the range.  In the case of the Medical Assistant, the low end of the scale is $23,521, which means that 90% of Medical Assistants are at or above that salary.  A worker with little experience would likely fall much closer to the $23,000 salary point than the $27,000 point.

After comparing industry averages, your experience, what you currently make, and your personal income requirements, do some research on the company you're applying with.  You can sometimes find information about what average wages look like at companies using Google, but your best bet is to consider the size of the company and the industry they work in.  If you are applying for a Business Support position, such as Human Resources or Promotions Manager, income can vary greatly with the industry you work in.  For example, a Customer Service Manager in the manufacturing industry will likely have a large difference in salary than a Customer Service Manager in the telemarketing industry.

Another huge factor when considering the company you're applying with is the size of the company.  A start-up company, consisting of 3 employees, may have a harder time competing with the wages and benefits of a Fortune 500 company that has thousands of employees.  That's not to say that one of those companies is a better place to work than the other, though.

For many folks culture and environment is more important than pay, if this is the case for you, you may be willing to accept a lower salary if it's a position and environment that you think you'd be really happy in.  Or maybe great benefits are more important to you than pay.  Determine what's most important to you, and make sure you give that the most weight when determining what you're willing to accept for pay.

So now that we've shared all of that information, let's go over a brief example of how you might carry this out.

Minimum salary to meet personal financial commitments (pay bills, groceries, gas, etc.)$12/hr
Hourly rate at current position$12/hr
Average pay for position applying for in the city the job is located in$14/hr
Low end of salary scale$10/hr
High end of salary scale$18/hr
Size of companySmall - may land slightly below average pay
Industry working inPay is slightly higher when compared to other industries
Most important factor when consider new employmentCulture is more important than pay
Desired salary$13.20/hr

Based on the above considerations, I would recommend telling the employer that ideally, you'd love to start around $13-$13.50/hr, but if you can be flexible, I'd also highly recommend letting the interviewer know that you are flexible on that number based on other considerations, such as culture, growth potential, and benefits.