What does competitive salary mean on a job advert?

Updated 10 October 2022

When you're looking at job adverts, you often see the salary described as being competitive rather than clearly showing an amount. What's considered a competitive salary varies between jobs, industries and locations. Understanding the meaning of competitive pay and what counts as competitive for your role and industry helps you ensure you receive fair compensation for your work and level of experience. In this article, we explore what defines a competitive salary, how to negotiate a better one and what you can do to stay informed in this area.

What does a competitive salary mean?

One of the first questions you might have when looking at job adverts is 'what does a competitive salary mean?' Competitive salary means that the salary the employer is offering is equal to, or greater than, the average salary for the same or similar roles in the area. Knowing this means you can get a general idea of what the salary for the role might be. For example, if the average salary for a job is £30,000 per year, a competitive salary is one that's around this amount or slightly higher.

Why do employers use this term?

There are a couple of reasons an employer might use 'competitive salary' in the job advert instead of specifying an amount. They may use it when they're happy to negotiate the salary. Setting a figure in the job advert makes it more difficult for both the employer and candidate to negotiate a different amount. The employer might decide on a final salary offer based on the chosen candidate's salary expectations and experience. If this is the case, they wait until they've chosen a candidate before discussing the details of the salary.

Another reason for describing the salary as competitive is that some employers have confidentiality policies around salaries. If company policy prevents discussions about salaries, advertising the salary as competitive means that the exact pay for the role remains private. For roles with high salaries, describing the salary as competitive also helps employers target candidates who are genuinely interested in the job rather than those who are only looking for a high income.

Examples of competitive salaries

There are a few different examples to help you better understand what qualifies as a competitive salary. If you see this term in a job advert, you can do some research to find out the average salary for that role in the area you live in. It's important to note that other factors such as the role's seniority level also affect the salary. Knowing this helps you decide whether the salary is appropriate for you and your level of experience. Some examples are:

  • The average salary for a teacher in London is £18,889 per year. Competitive pay for this role in Greater London is around £19,000 or slightly more.

  • The average salary for a plumber in Birmingham is £29,299 per year. A competitive pay rate in this area could range between £30,000 and £32,000.

  • The average salary for chefs in Glasgow is £23,542 per year. Therefore, a competitive salary for this role could range between £24,000 and £26,000.

Related: What is the average UK salary by industry, age and education?

Where to find out what's competitive in your area

If you want to find out what a competitive salary is in your local area, you can look at adverts for similar jobs to get an understanding of what other companies are offering. If you have any contacts who already work in this field, you can ask them for information about what your salary expectations might be. If you already work in the same field and have a similar role, you can look at your current wage and how this compares to other jobs to get an idea of what qualifies as a competitive salary.

Another option is to find salary checker tools online. These tools help you find out how much you may earn for similar roles in the same area. These tools can also be helpful for checking if your current salary is competitive and could help you with asking for a pay rise if you think you deserve one. Using a salary checker also means you can more confidently give an answer if an interviewer asks about your salary expectations.

Related: How to ask for a pay rise (with script examples)

Frequently asked questions

Here are some frequently asked questions about competitive salaries:

Can I ask for more information?

It's understandable to want to ask for more information about a salary that's listed as competitive. Sometimes the interviewer brings the subject up to allow you to ask any questions you may have. If you want to be proactive about asking for more information, it's important to find the right moment to bring the subject up. It's acceptable to want to know more about what you can expect, so an employer understands you asking. Keep in mind, asking about a competitive salary too early could give the impression that you're only interested in the money.

If the interview process involves a second interview, you may wish to use this time to ask questions about salary. You're further along in the process, and the employer has a clearer idea of your experience and interest in the role. If they have described the salary as competitive, it's likely because it's negotiable. It's more likely that they can give you an indication of the salary they're willing to pay you by this stage. If your interview is fairly informal, you can ask questions about salary earlier.

What to do if the salary is lower than expected?

If they list a salary in a job ad as 'competitive', there's a possibility that it's lower than what you're expecting. If this is the case, you can use the information you've found through using a salary checker tool or looking at other jobs to negotiate if you're offered the role. Many employers allow some room for negotiation and can be flexible about the salary for the right candidate. Be reasonable with what you ask for but remember that there's a good chance the employer can offer slightly more money if you have the skills and experience they're looking for.

How to negotiate your salary

If you want to negotiate the salary that the employer offers or the salary you currently have, there are a few tips to help you do so. Do some research to get an idea of what other companies are paying as a good first step that shows your industry knowledge. There are a few other tips to help you get a successful outcome from your negotiations:

1. Consider the benefits available

When negotiating or communicating your expectations, be mindful of other perks and benefits the company offers. Some employers offer a lower wage but offset this with more generous employee benefits. Think about the benefits that the job offers to help you decide what's reasonable to ask for in terms of salary.

2. Demonstrate your value

If you want to negotiate a higher salary, demonstrate your value and show them why you deserve it. If you have a track record of exceeding sales targets and increasing profitability, have the figures available to prove this. If you can illustrate how the employer benefits from hiring you, it's more likely that they can be flexible about the salary. If the employer understands what an asset you are, they're also more likely to meet the salary expectations you state, as long as what you request is reasonable.

3. Be positive and professional

Always have a positive and professional attitude throughout salary negotiations. If you're applying for a job at a new company, you want to start on good terms. The goal is to find a pay rate that gives you the compensation you deserve but also works for the company and fits within their budget. It's a good idea to listen, make reasonable requests and engage in discussion rather than make demands.

Related: How to negotiate a better salary

4. Know when to decline the job offer

Part of negotiating is knowing when to decline the offer altogether and move on. If you have the data to prove that you deserve a higher salary, but the employer still thinks otherwise, it's acceptable to end negotiations and instead look for more lucrative opportunities. In this situation, some employers might come back to you with a final offer. You can either accept this offer or start looking for other jobs with salaries that more closely match your expectations.


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