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Arm yourself with comparables, confidence

There’s a point in every job search when you have to state your salary requirements: a form field on a job application, a question by an interviewer. You know the employer has a salary range in mind. You don’t want to ask for too much or sell yourself short. So what do you say?

The easiest way to tackle the question of salary requirements is to know your answer before the subject ever comes up. Follow these steps to figure out the right salary requirements for your job search.

1. Research ranges in your field

Not sure where to start? Try these resources:

• The job listing

• The company’s career webpage

• The Bureau of Labor Statistics, bls.gov

• Employer review websites, such as Glassdoor and kununu

• Salary information websites, such as Salary.com and PayScale

Average salaries vary depending on factors like the seniority of the position and the geographic location of the job. Your research will help you identify an acceptable salary range for the job you want where you live.

2. Choose a range

Offering a salary range, rather than a specific number, is always a good idea. Doing this helps to ensure there’s a comfortable figure in there for all parties.

Start with your “walk away” figure — the lowest number you’d be willing to accept. Make sure your low-end salary requirement is enough to cover all your expenses and savings needs.

Next, determine your ideal salary. What amount would you love to earn based on the services you provide and what you think you deserve?

Remember to be realistic with both your low and high salary figures. Base your salary range on the research you did in step one, factoring in the market, cost of living and what others in similar positions are making.

3. Practice negotiating

An employer’s starting offer might be on the low side, but she doesn’t expect you to accept it. She expects you to make a counteroffer, and she expects to negotiate your salary requirements.

Before you can decide whether a salary offer is fair, you must understand the job responsibilities and expectations of the position. You also need to find out what other benefits and perks the company will offer you. A salary on the lower end of the range might be acceptable if you receive profit units, annual bonuses or the option to work from home once a week.

During negotiations, remember to:

• Advocate for yourself

• Ask for what you deserve

• Be polite, but firm

• Be professional

If you’re not used to negotiations or the thought of making demands makes you nervous, take some time to practice with a friend or family member.

4. Be open to discussion

Although you state your salary requirements early in the hiring process, negotiations occur later. When an employer offers you a job, then it’s time to negotiate the details of your compensation.

If you think a salary offer is too low, say something like: “Thank you for choosing me for this job. I’m thrilled to be joining the team, and I can’t wait to get started. My only reservation is that salary is a little low. I was expecting something like (salary figure). Is that a possibility?”

The worst they can say is, “No.” If the employer is stuck on a specific salary figure, take the opportunity to discuss other perks, like flexible hours or a performance bonus.

At any rate, you won’t get what you want unless you’re willing to ask. And if an employer won’t budge on her too-low salary offer, you may be better off finding a job with a company that understands what you’re worth.