Despite seeming to be a relatively innocuous question it tends to throw many people off. This is especially true of new graduates. "What are your salary expectations?" is actually quite a daunting question no matter how experienced you are, as people generally do not like to discuss money, especially when trying to impress a potential future employer. Nevertheless, it is a question interviewers are asking more and more during interviews! But with a bit of advice, you can ace the question and put yourself ahead of the pack.
How Should I Reply?
In some countries questions about salary expectations are standard during interviews. Even in the UK and Ireland they are becoming increasingly popular. The question is not necessarily designed to test you and monitor how you cope when 'put on the spot'. Most interviewers are interested in finding out where you stand on salary and benefits.
There are two ways to answer this question. First you can actually give them an answer with a monetary value. Or second, you can try to deflect the question and get the interviewer to tell you what they are actually offering.
Giving an Honest Reply
Choosing to give a monetary value can be risky as you don’t want to price yourself out of the job by giving them an amount which is too high. Neither do you want to give them an amount which is too low as they may just accept it and you will have missed out on the opportunity to earn a lot more money. The key to answering in this manner is preparation. Make sure that you do your research and instead of saying what you want, find out what you are worth in the current market and geographical area. You may be worth £40,000 in the UK but in France you might only be worth €30,000. Make sure not to give a salary that you are not happy with or the salary at the lower end of the range. If you do then the employer will almost certainly offer the lowest salary.
Deflection is The Best Defence
If you choose to deflect the question, which I would view as the best option, then again the key is preparation. Prepare several answers to the question such as 'My salary is negotiable based on my qualifications'. Or ‘I’d rather not commit to that quite yet. I’m really open to your thoughts on this as I’m sure you will be consistent with the market.’ Just keep smiling while you give these answers and maintain positive body language. You definitely don’t want to appear negative about money. The interviewer may decide to keep pressing you for a figure, if so, specify that it is the job you are most interested in but the salary you would need to meet as a minimum would be xxx. They will understand you have bills and rent to pay.
For both methods it is important to practice your answers out loud so that you know them well and can appear confident in the interview. The more prepared and confident you are the interview the better it will go.
Questions about your salary expectations may be unpleasant; however, they do not have to be a disaster. With a little preparation and practice you will be able to answer the question with no problem. In fact you may even be able to get the salary range from the interviewer if you deflect the question properly.