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How to Answer 'What Are Your Salary Expectations?'

A young woman in an interview sitting opposite two hiring managers in a conference room
Dima Sidelnikov / Shutterstock.com

Your interview couldn’t be going any better. You’ve successfully got through all the tricky questions, bridged your employment gaps and left a great first impression on the hiring manager. You’re about to say your ‘goodbyes’ and ‘thank yous’ and head out the door when they suddenly ask you: ‘what are your salary expectations?’.

Your heart starts pounding, your mouth suddenly falls into your lap, and you’re left with no idea how to answer. If you aim too high, you might miss your chance of securing the job. If you aim too low, on the other hand, you’ll only undervalue your skills and experience, which does no one any favours.

So, what do you do?

That’s where we come in.

We’ve put together a little guide for you that aims to equip you with the knowledge on how to answer this tough question confidently and fairly and help you bag the job of your dreams.

 


 

The Purpose

Hiring managers often pose this question to candidates for two main reasons.

The first is to determine if they can really afford to hire you. If you’re not willing to negotiate a salary that’s more in line with their budget, then they’ll most likely not consider you for the role.

The second is to see whether you’re overqualified for the position or if you value your self-worth and are confident enough to ask for what you want. If your salary expectations are well outside their price range, then they’ll most likely find someone with less experience to fill the position.

 

How to Answer the Question

Although there’s no one correct way to answer this question, there are certain tactics that you can follow to deliver the appropriate information about your skills and reasoning for your expected salary.

Below are some useful tips to help you get started – but be sure to always practise your answer beforehand so that it sounds as natural as possible.

1. Defer from the Question

If you’re not comfortable discussing figures yet, you can deter from the question and get back to it later in your interview. You could say that you’re more interested in securing a suitable role that ties in with your interests and skills, and that you’re sure that the salary will reflect your worth.

2. Stick to a Salary Range

If the hiring manager pushes for an exact figure, then you should stick to a salary range. When offering a range, bear in mind that employers will tend to go with the lower end of your preference; so, only give a number that you would be willing to take.

3. Offer Options for Negotiation

If you’re willing to negotiate, you can say something along the lines of: ‘If this is the right position for me, I’m sure we can come to an agreement’. This will show that you’re flexible and can be just what it takes to make sure you stay in the running for the position.

4. Do Your Research

Many jobseekers make the mistake of not researching their worth, based on their years of experience and qualifications. Never skip this step, as doing so will only do you more harm than good. When you do your research, you’ll ensure that you receive a fair and competitive offer – and when you don’t, you’ll likely find yourself looking for a job again in a year’s time!

 

 

5. Look at the Bigger Picture

When receiving an offer for a new job, you should look beyond the salary and into the overall package. You may be offered additional bonuses, healthcare benefits, discount cards, gym memberships, a company phone or a company car. These could make up for an otherwise low salary, and they can even help you save money elsewhere (for example, if you’re paying out of your own pocket, gym membership in the UK could cost you £240 a year).

6. Be Honest

Above all, it’s important to be honest about your salary expectations. Think about the best and worst-case scenarios and decide that you’d be happy with before you enter those interview doors. You can also specify whether any additional incentives or bonuses will sway your decision on accepting an offer with a lower salary.

 

Sample Answers

These sample answers can be adapted depending on your own specific situation and should only be used as a guide when formulating an answer.

  • Based on my past experience, qualifications and market research, I believe that a salary of $30,000–$35,000 per annum would be a suitable amount for the job role.
  • I expect to be paid a salary that is line with the industry standard for a mid-level candidate looking to join the company in this position.
  • Based on my research and the information you have provided, a salary of $2,000 per month, with two-week annual leave and additional benefits would be acceptable.
  • Although my salary range is flexible, I trust that I’d be compensated fairly for my skills and experience. I am willing to discuss specific numbers once we have talked through the details of the position.

 

Mistakes to Avoid

1. Discussing Your Current Salary

Occasionally, hiring managers will ask what your current salary is to determine what to offer you. They may even match your current salary, as they might think it’s something you might accept. If you’re asked about your current salary, be honest about it but be sure to specify that you’re looking for an advancement when moving companies.

2. Refusing to Answer the Question

Refusing to answer the question can kill any chance you had at securing the job. For one, it shows that you have something to hide or that you’re difficult to work with and, two, it doesn’t leave room for further discussions regarding your salary.

3. Appearing Uncertain

Being asked about your salary expectations in an interview can catch you off guard, and this can be a sticky situation to find yourself in. Even if you haven’t thought about an exact amount you want, don’t spend too much time showing uncertainty. Instead, throw the question back at the interviewer and ask them what the going rate for the salary is or what they are willing to offer for the successful candidate.

 


 

Don’t live to regret your answer to the all-important salary question. Use the tips above to prepare yourself for the somewhat awkward discussion it entails and to secure the salary you deserve.

Have you ever been asked to give your salary expectations in an interview before? How did you answer the question? Let us know in the comments section down below.