Discussing salary expectations can be challenging during job interviews. You might feel uncomfortable talking about finances in general, even more so with potential employers, making the conversation awkward and stressful for both sides.
Candidates also commonly hesitate because they don’t want to undervalue their skills and experience, which could result in a lower salary offer. Or as a candidate, you may worry about overvaluing your strengths and potentially pricing yourself out of a job opportunity.
Navigating these concerns while trying to negotiate a fair salary can be a delicate and complex task. In this article, we’ll help you navigate the question, “What is your salary expectation?”
We’ll look at why this question is important, provide steps for responding, and give examples. Plus, we’ll share advice for negotiating your salary during your next job interview.
Why answering the salary expectation question matters
Tackling the salary expectation question is a crucial part of the job interview process as a candidate. This discussion helps hiring managers and recruiters determine if your salary expectations align with the company’s budget and whether your skills and experience justify the salary you’re seeking for the new job.
When you answer the question effectively, you demonstrate you’ve done the proper research, have a clear understanding of your worth, and are open to engaging in salary negotiations. This can make you more attractive to potential employers because it shows a level of professionalism and self-awareness.
However, providing unrealistic salary expectations can have negative consequences. The hiring manager may disregard you for the position, as they may assume you lack knowledge of industry standards or have an inflated sense of your market value. The employer might also offer a lower salary than you want, which could lead to dissatisfaction and potential issues down the line.
How to prepare for this interview question
Preparing for the salary expectation question involves researching industry standards and company compensation practices to establish a benchmark for reasonable and fair compensation.
Some sources of salary information include:
- Online research. Use websites like Salary.com, Glassdoor, and Payscale to better understand the starting salary or minimum salary you can expect for your job title and skill set. These sites offer comprehensive salary data based on various factors, such as experience, location, and job title. Upwork also has a helpful hourly rate guide for a wide collection of in-demand jobs.
- Industry peers. Connect with colleagues and professionals in your field to get insights into their salary history, current salary, ideal salary, and any negotiation strategies they’ve used. They can provide valuable context, career advice, and a more accurate baseline for your salary expectations.
- Salary surveys. Look for industry-specific salary surveys, which can offer detailed information on salary ranges and trends. One of the best resources is the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), which has salary survey data for positions in various industries and specific geographic locations. These surveys can help you gauge a fair salary for someone with your experience and skills.
- Job postings. During your job search, review job postings within your industry to identify the average salary ranges or starting salaries offered by various companies. LinkedIn is a good resource for finding active job listings and getting an idea of both the high and low ends of the salary spectrum for your desired role.
- Cost of living. When researching salaries, consider the cost of living in the area where the job is located. A higher salary in an area with a higher cost of living may not be as advantageous as a lower salary in an area with a more affordable cost of living.
5 steps for answering “What is your salary expectation?”
We provide steps to help you handle the job interview question, “What is your salary expectation?”
1. Thank the interviewer
Start by thanking the interviewer for bringing up the topic and acknowledging that it’s important to discuss compensation and salary requirements. This shows your professionalism and starts the conversation on the right foot.
Here are some examples of what you can say:
- “Thank you for asking about my salary expectations. I appreciate the opportunity to discuss compensation, as it’s an important aspect of the job search process.”
- “I’m glad you’ve brought up the subject of salary expectations. It’s important to have an open conversation about compensation, and I’m looking forward to discussing it with you.”
- “Thank you for addressing the topic of salary requirements. I believe that discussing compensation is crucial to finding the right fit, and I appreciate your willingness to engage in this conversation.”
2. Use a delaying tactic to deflect the question
Approaching the salary expectation question must be done tactfully, particularly if it comes up early in the interview process. Employing a delaying tactic can help you buy time and gather more information.
Some delaying tactics you might consider include asking for more details about the position, company, or responsibilities and inquiring about the company’s benefits package, perks, growth opportunities, or other relevant factors.
We offer some sample answers to give you ideas:
- “Before diving into salary expectations, could we discuss the role’s responsibilities and challenges further? This will help me better understand the position and allow me to provide a more informed response regarding compensation.”
- “I’d be happy to share my salary expectations, but first, could you tell me more about the company’s benefits package and growth opportunities? Having a complete picture of the overall compensation package can help me discuss specific numbers more effectively.”
- “I understand that discussing salary is important, but I’d like to learn more about the company culture and the team I’d be working with. This can help me better evaluate the role and provide a more accurate salary expectation.”
- “I’m open to discussing my salary expectations, but first, could you provide some insight into the work-life balance at your company? Understanding the overall environment and expectations can help me better assess the appropriate salary range for this role.”
3. If the interviewer insists, provide a salary range
If the interviewer insists on a specific answer, be prepared to provide a salary range based on industry standards, your experience level, and the company’s compensation practices.
Justify the salary range by highlighting your qualifications, achievements, and skills, such as relevant certifications or degrees, years of experience, or specialized knowledge.
As for the desired salary within the range, it’s generally best to aim for the middle or slightly higher. This gives you room for negotiation while still demonstrating that you have realistic expectations. Keep in mind that companies might initially aim for the lower end of the range, but being prepared to negotiate can help you achieve a more favorable outcome.
Check out these sample answers for a better idea of what to say:
- “Based on my research and considering my experience and the job description, I believe a salary range of $60,000 to $70,000 would be appropriate for this position. I have X years of experience in the field and have earned a relevant certification, which I believe adds value to my candidacy.”
- “Considering industry standards, the company’s compensation practices, and my skill set, I think a salary range between $80,000 and $90,000 is fair. My background includes a specialized degree and proven track record of success in similar roles, which supports this range.”
- “Given the job description and responsibilities, my experience level, and the competitive market, I’d expect a salary range of $45,000 to $55,000. I understand that benefits and paid time off are also part of the overall compensation package, and I’m open to discussing these during the hiring process.”
4. Provide a specific number if pressed
Provide a specific number with caution, as doing so can limit your negotiating power. However, if the interviewer insists, you might need to give a precise figure.
To arrive at a specific number, consider factors like the role’s responsibilities and your years of experience. Conduct industry research to help you establish a well-informed number.
These are some good examples of things you can say during this part of the discussion:
- “After researching the industry and considering my experience and this role’s responsibilities, I believe a fair salary would be around $65,000. I’m open to discussing this further as we move along in the hiring process.”
- “Based on my understanding of the position and my years of experience, I think a salary of $75,000 would be appropriate. I’m willing to negotiate and consider other aspects of the compensation package.”
- “Given the job’s requirements and my background in the field, I would expect a salary of $52,000. I understand this is just one aspect of the overall compensation, and I’m open to discussing other factors like benefits and growth opportunities.”
5. Show flexibility and openness to negotiation
Even if you provide a specific number or salary range, expressing your willingness to discuss salary and other compensation expectations is crucial. Demonstrating flexibility and openness to negotiation shows you’re reasonable and easy to work with, making you a more attractive candidate.
For job seekers, showing flexibility and openness to negotiation during the hiring process can be a valuable strategy. It helps create a collaborative atmosphere and allows for a better chance of reaching a satisfactory agreement on the job offer.
Some examples of answers you can give:
- “While I’ve mentioned a salary of $65,000, I want to emphasize that I’m open to negotiation. I’m very interested in this position, and I believe that salary is just one important factor to consider when evaluating a job offer.”
- “I’ve provided a salary range of $80,000 to $90,000, but I’m open to discussing this further based on the overall compensation package and other factors. My main priority is finding a role where I can grow and make a meaningful impact.”
- “Although I’ve stated a desired salary of $52,000, I understand that other aspects, such as benefits and opportunities for growth, also play a role in overall compensation. I’m willing to be flexible and work together to find a mutually agreeable arrangement.”
Best practices when negotiating salary
Keep these things in mind during salary negotiation:
- Do your research. Understand the industry standards and typical salary ranges for the role you want. This information can help you make a strong case for your desired salary during negotiations.
- Know your value. Be aware of the skills, experience, and qualifications you bring to the table. Use these factors to justify your salary expectations and demonstrate your worth to the employer.
- Be confident but realistic. Approach salary negotiations confidently, but also maintain realistic expectations based on your research and the company’s compensation practices.
- Focus on the big picture. Remember that salary is just one aspect of the overall compensation package. Be open to discussing benefits, growth opportunities, and other factors that can impact your overall job satisfaction.
- Be collaborative. Negotiation is a two-way street. Work with the employer to find a mutually beneficial arrangement and be willing to make concessions when necessary.
- Have a clear bottom line. Determine the minimum salary you’re willing to accept before entering negotiations. This can help you remain focused and prevent you from accepting an offer that doesn’t meet your needs.
- Practice your pitch. Prepare and rehearse your reasons for requesting a specific salary, as well as any supporting evidence or accomplishments. Being well-prepared can help you communicate more effectively during the negotiation process.
- Be patient. Salary negotiations can take time, so be patient and avoid rushing the process. Give the employer time to consider your requests and respond accordingly.
- Listen actively. Pay attention to the employer’s perspective and concerns during the negotiation process. By understanding their point of view, you can better tailor your responses and find common ground.
- Show enthusiasm. Express your excitement for the role and your eagerness to contribute to the company’s success. Demonstrating genuine interest can make you a more appealing candidate and strengthen your negotiating position.
- Be willing to walk away. Be prepared to walk away from the opportunity if the employer cannot meet your salary expectations or offer a suitable compensation package. You want to find a role that aligns with your professional goals and financial needs.
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This article explored how to effectively answer the “What is your salary expectation?” question during job interviews and provided best practices for negotiating salary.
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