How to Answer “What Are Your Salary Expectations?”

What Are Your Salary Expectations?

There are many ways in which a job interview can go. Whichever way it goes, some questions are most detested by candidates. One of them is the question, “What are your salary expectations?” And it is loathed for a good reason.

This question can stop your right at your tracks. It might seem like one of the most straightforward questions in the whole interview, but coming up with an honest answer is complicated. What makes it difficult is what to say and what not to say. You want to get a job that is a win for both you and the firm.

Answering this question wrongly can cost you a prospective job. It can also place you in a situation where you are not happy with your job because you take a low salary home.

Why does the interviewer ask?

When employers ask this question, they want to know whether or not they can afford your services. You might come across as too expensive for them if you set the bar too high. They also want to know how much you value yourself and your work.

Doing a bit of research beforehand will help you show your employer that you are flexible with your expected remuneration. You will also show them that you know your worth.

How is this question asked?

This question usually come out in one of two different forms;

  • How much are you targeting to make?
  • What is your current salary?

Each of these questions has different challenges and outcomes. Interviewers can either ask them during the earlier screening stage of the interview or later on after you’ve answered the behavioral, skill, and past credentials questions.

When you look at it literally, we can say that it is good to have this question in the interview. It indicates some aspect of interest in actually having you on board.

On the flip side, though, if you are not prepared, it is easy to make a grave mistake that might cost you a lot.

Some job applications actually have a section where you can fill in your salary expectations. You can simply skip this part and answer it during the interview. However, if it is marked as compulsory, skipping it can paint a bad picture of you. You don’t want them to think that you are not good at following instructions. Some online job applications won’t let you move to the next section until you answer this question.

So now, what do you fill in in case? You can use these points;

  • Fill in a salary range based on your salary research
  • To demonstrate your flexibility, write “negotiable.”
  • Avoid writing a specific salary, for this might show that you are not open to negotiation and close any possible windows.

How to research job salaries

Guessing your salary could prove to be fatal. Approximating too high could lead to your disqualification, while being too low could lead to you being underpaid.

The good thing is that researching job salaries is more comfortable now more than ever. This is due to the availability of real data online as well as job salary tools. It is vital that when answering this question, you provide a figure that you are comfortable with as well as accurate in the job market.

By using online tools, you will be able to find the average earnings for the position you applied for. An advantage of this is that you get real data since this information is based on people’s reports in the same field. As these websites cannot verify every person’s report, take this data as an estimate instead of an exact.

Also, consider that this information may vary based on several factors. These factors include geographical location, career level, and company. When doing your research for a specific career position, consider the location of the role and the cost of living in that area. For example, a job based in a big city like New York will most likely pay a much higher salary than the same position in upcountry Texas. In whichever tool you choose to use for your research, be sure to use the location filter.

This will help you know how the salary range in that area compares to the national average. You can also see the salary of the same job in other nearby companies and the average salary in other neighboring states and cities.

Other factors to consider when deciding your salary range include seniority, educational background, experience level, specialization, and other unique skills. This might help differentiate you from other candidates.

How to Answer these Questions

When the interviewer asks, “What is your salary expectation?” or “What was your past salary?” you can answer in a few ways. Below are some of the methods you can use:

Show that you are flexible– If you don’t find the range option suitable for you, you can say that you are flexible by offering a broad answer. This answer should show that you are open to negotiations.


“I believe we can both reach an agreement if this is the right job for me. My salary expectations are based on my qualifications and experience. I fell that a salary within the range of $67,000 and $72,000 annually is fair. However, I am flexible and open to hearing about the company’s expectations concerning this position’s compensation.”

Offer a range– Giving a specific amount is advised against. Offer a range instead. In this case, you must keep in mind that the employer might go with the lower figure. So, make sure that you keep your target as close to the bottom number as possible. Also, keep your range within a variance of no more than $5,000 and $10,000.


“I would like to comprehend more about the details of this job, which I look forward to during this interview. However, I do understand that this position in this region pays within a range of $50,000 and $55,000. Factoring in my educational background, skills, and experience, I would expect to receive something within the range of $55,000 and $60,000.”

Include your negotiation options– Other than the basic salary, there may be other additional perks, benefits, or types of compensation that are as important. You can include these options as a means of negotiation too. For instance, the company’s budget may not be in a position to accommodate your salary but may be willing to offer you equity in the company to make your remuneration package more attractive. Example;

“I am open to discussing what you think is fair for my salary. However, based on my previous salary, knowledge of the industry and geographical area, I’d foresee a salary within the range of $70,000 and $80,000. Again, I am open to negotiations in regards to any form of bonuses, benefits, stock options, equity, and other opportunities.”

Delay the question– If you are still in the early stages of the interview, you might want to deflect the question until later on in the conversation. This is because you might require more time to learn more about the role specifics and expectations. Even as you factor in more information, it is equally important to have a specific range in mind. You must be prepared in case the employer presses you to talk about your salary expectations.


“With all due respect, I don’t have the answer to this question as per now. To answer it, I need to know more about the job roles, which I don’t know as of now. I want to know what you expect from me as your employee. I would also like to know what my work week will be like. Will I be required to travel for international work commitments? If so, will the company take care of my visa and other travel requirements? Since I don’t have all this information right now, I would like to leave it unanswered. We can, however, get back to it when I am more enlightened and discuss further on the same.”

Be Gracious- While you are confident in the interview, you don’t want to come out as a bit too demanding or ungrateful. Being gracious is the remedy for that. You need to show some courtesy and be appreciative and understanding, no matter the outcome.


“Thank you for this opportunity. Concerning my qualifications, skills, and experience, I find that a salary within the range of $63,000 and $68,000 is fair. Right now, however, my main focus is on ensuring that I am the right person for the role. Creating value is a priority to me. I believe we will be able to work on a beneficial figure for both of us.”

Throw the ball in their court– This is a great strategy to dodge the question while showing that you are still flexible and willing to negotiate. Further, you won’t sell yourself short.


“I am looking for a position with competitive pay, but to me, that means much more than the salary. I am willing to negotiate the pay, including other benefits such as bonuses. The package means much more to me.”

Go all in– This strategy is applicable if you are willing to lose it all. You can go the hard way if you are yet to agree on the salary by the time the job offer rolls. This can make the employer up their offer to reach yours. However, you run the risk of scaring them away.


“After careful research and consideration, it seems that the commuting cost and logistics will be problematic with that figure. I, therefore, have to decline your offer.”

Tips to Decide and Communicate Your Salary Expectations

The conversation on your salary expectations might be quite uncomfortable because you are not used to the question, or this is your first job interview. We have a few additional pointers that will make the process seamless and leave you with a fair salary.

#1: Be confident– Some employers are not only interested in your answer but also how you package and deliver the answer. If you are self-assured and display confidence, it will show that you know your self-worth. You are also not likely to accept less than you know you are worth, even if you are open to negotiation. Be careful not to end up undervaluing and short selling yourself to move forward. You don’t want to be receiving a small salary.

#2: Aim high– After the research has led you to know the average salary in your position, pad your expectations. In most cases, employers will start you off at the lower end of the range you provide. When you aim at a higher figure, you make sure that even if they offer the smallest number, you will be meeting your expectations. For instance, if you want to make $55,000, say that you are expecting between $55,000 and $60,000.

#3: Explain your reasoning– You don’t need to get into every single detail of how you determined your salary expectation. However, it is not a bad thing to explain a bit about how you arrived at that figure. Mentioning your educational qualifications and experience can justify your expectations. You should, however, be careful not to go way beyond the amount, or you’ll be considered overqualified.

#4: Give yourself a raise– Consider your former\current salary. What would you consider as a satisfactory raise from your current employer? That will be a high starting point. You can raise your current wage by between 15% and 20%, which will still be fair for your experience and position.

What to Avoid

Now that we’ve shared how to tackle these questions and tips to make the negotiation smooth, let us look at things you should avoid:

#1: Avoid giving a specific amount– The talk will be in your favor if you avoid mentioning a set figure. It is wiser to let the employer say their expectations first.

#2: Don’t go overboard– Be realistic so that you don’t price yourself out the job. If your research shows that you should earn an average of $50,000 in your position, don’t ask for double the amount.

#3: Don’t be negative– At times, the employer’s expectations might come out as a bit insulting. If that is the case, decline politely and ask if there is room for negotiation.