Dear Matt: Why do employers ask "what salary are you looking for?" when they know what they want to pay? How do I present my case and get what is fair?

Matt says: What type of salary are you looking for? Most people dread that question, but it doesn't have to be something job seekers fear. In fact, it should be a very open and candid conversation.

Employers are looking for honesty in this answer says Rob Duncan, lead recruiter of CorTalent (, a Minnetonka-based recruiting and human resources firm. The best way to answer it? "Here's where I'm at now, and here is what I would love to have."

Provide a range for potential employers with your current salary as the starting point and a "love to have" number as the ending range. Always mention that you are open to the entire opportunity so you can continue the discussion even if you're a little bit higher than their desired compensation range.

"Future compensation is always going to depend on market value and where your previous compensation has been," said Duncan. "When someone receives a new job offer, they are typically not going to get a huge increase from their last position. If you're on the low end of market value, it's rare to receive a huge jump to the high end. "

Keep in mind that more goes into your compensation than just your base salary alone. If you are receiving commissions, bonuses, or overtime and company-paid benefits, add it all up and present your compensation number as your total compensation, said Duncan. If you start by saying, "My base is $45K and I receive bonuses and commissions on top of that," the 45K number is what the employer is going to remember. If you instead say, "My total compensation is $60K which includes quarterly bonuses that I have achieved for the last 6 years straight and monthly commissions," that is a more accurate representation -- and the higher number will stick in their mind.

One thing managers don't want to hear is this: "This is what I think this job is worth based on my research of" or or Be careful when looking at compensation data online, as there are too many factors that go into how those numbers are figured -- and they are not always accurate.

"Employers are expecting and hoping to hear the truth," said Duncan. "When job seekers are not willing to discuss compensation, it's a red flag. Even though it's uncomfortable, it helps manage expectations for both the candidate and the employer. "