Strategies for Answering “What Are Your Salary Expectations? ” in an Interview

Crawford also recommends thinking beyond base pay alone. “Ask yourself: What do you value?” This might include stock options, paid time off, a yearly bonus, commuter benefits, or childcare benefits. Think about how the presence or absence of these would affect your salary expectations. For example, you might decide tuition assistance or the ability to bring your dog to work is worth more to you than another $5K a year. On the flip side, major gaps in benefits—like the lack of an employee health insurance plan—might raise your salary requirements drastically. Check the job posting or the company’s website or Muse profile ahead of all your interviews to get a sense of what benefits and perks each company offers.

How to answer: ‘What are your salary expectations?’

The way you respond to this question can be a real factor in whether you get the role, and the way that you’re paid if you do. Aim too high without backing it up and you may lessen your chance of landing the role, but go too low and you may send the message that you don’t know the value of your work. But a little research and preparation can help you to hit the right mark.

Employers want to know how well you know your worth—or level of skill and experience in the industry. They also want to ascertain if you are at the level that they are looking for. But the main reason employers ask about your salary expectations is to ensure that they’re not wasting anyone’s time, says Leah Lambart, career and interview coach at Relaunch Me.

“There’s usually no point progressing with the recruitment process if the candidate’s salary expectations are way outside the salary range that has been budgeted for the position,” Lambart says. “In most cases, the hiring manager won’t have a lot of room to move outside of the range, unless the role is highly specialised and it’s likely to be very difficult to find a suitable candidate.”

“If this question is asked in the initial screening call, it’s likely that the recruiter is trying to gauge whether you’re at the appropriate level for the role. If your salary expectations are way under the range, then it’s an indication to the recruiter that you may be too junior for the role. In the reverse, if your expectations are way above the range, then this is an indication to the recruiter that you may be over-qualified.”

Give a Salary Range

Responding to questions about salary with a single number limits your ability to make something work with the company, Crawford says. Her secret recipe for successful negotiations is to “come from a place of collaboration and service.” By giving a salary range, you show that you’re willing to be flexible and work with your prospective employer.

And by giving any numbers at all you’re “voicing the value you bring to the table,” Crawford says. Showing that you’ve done your research and you know what you’re worth tells an interviewer that you’re serious about your skills and what you can bring to their company.

Of course there are some drawbacks to giving salary numbers in an early round interview. Waiting until you have a job offer could give you more leverage to negotiate, Fink says. You might also fear leaving money on the table by going too low or losing the opportunity by going too high. But if you’ve done your research, going too low is less likely and going too high means the job wasn’t right for you.

When giving your salary range in an interview, “try to keep the bottom of your range toward the mid-to-high point of what you’re looking for,” Fink says. For example, if you’re personally looking for $85,000 to $100,000 and your best guess of what the company has budgeted is $80,000 to $95,000, you could give a range of $92,000 to $100,000, so that even if the company negotiates below the range you stated in your interview, you’re still happy.

In your answer, “it’s usually worth pointing out that the salary is only one component of what you’re looking for, and that you are considering salary as part of an overall opportunity,” Fink says. You might also want to reiterate what you bring to the table for a prospective employer when formulating your answer to support the range that you’re giving, Crawford says. The company is getting something for their investment—a great employee.

How to research job salaries

When preparing an answer to a question about your ideal salary, it’s crucial you provide not only a number you feel comfortable with but the appropriate compensation for the job based on real data. Luckily, it’s easier than ever to find this information.

to find the average pay for the position you’ve applied for. These salary estimates come from data submitted anonymously to Indeed by users and collected from past and present job advertisements on Indeed.

can also help you get an idea of what other employers are offering for similar roles—75% of new jobs posted directly on Indeed include salary information.

Keep in mind that salaries vary not only by career level and company but also by geographical location. When researching the typical salary range for a position, remember to consider where the role is located and the cost-of-living in that area. For example, a job located in a big city like Los Angeles will likely pay a higher salary than the same position located in rural Texas. When using Indeed Salaries, be sure to select the location from the drop-down menu.

This page will tell you how the salary for the position in your geographic area compares to the national average, the salary for the job at various companies nearby and the average salaries in other cities near you.

This data can help inform your answer to questions about salary expectations, but this isn’t the only criteria to consider. Your salary expectations should also factor in your seniority, experience level, educational background and any specializations or unique skills other applicants in the field may not have.

How to deliver your answer

Be confident

Being self-assured when talking about your salary expectations can signal to the interviewer that you know your worth. If you’ve done your research and feel confident in the experience you would bring to the role, say so.

State your expectations with a clear, calm voice. If you’re feeling nervous, take a deep breath before answering. Maintain good posture by sitting up straight, and try to reduce fidgeting. One of the most reliable ways to feel confident is to prepare your answer. Have your reasons written down and with you so that you can be prepared to justify your salary expectations.

Share your reasoning

This can include citing your years of experience, education level or unique skill set that only you bring to the role. Giving an honest informed response can help the interviewer better understand whether your expectations align and if you both determine you’re the right fit, what salary is appropriate.

Learn the Art of Salary Negotiation

  1. When negotiating a job offer, keep things positive – even if the offer is one you’re having a great deal of difficulty drumming up enthusiasm about. Show gratitude for the offer and enthusiasm about the potential of the position before you dive into negotiating mode.
  2. Make your counteroffer one that is fair, well-reasoned, and thoughtfully presented. CBS Money recommends providing a salary range as part of your counteroffer – indicating that companies will often avoid offering the lowest range in an effort to avoid seeming impolite. Though if you do provide a range, make sure the bottom number is one you can live (and work) with. Providing a salary range also gives the employer the impression that you’re flexible – a trait they often prefer in employees.
  3. The third tip, and perhaps the most important when it comes to your long-term career goals, is this: be willing to walk away if the offer isn’t right for you. It’s hard to do, especially in a competitive job market. If you’re not desperate to put food on the table or a roof over your head, it may be better, in the long run, to wait for the right offer, rather than simply taking the opportunity that’s available right now.
  4. Finally, keep in mind that some companies may have a limit on salaries they can offer, but that doesn’t mean they can’t offer compensation in other ways. If you get pushback on a higher salary, try negotiating for other benefits that could sweeten the deal for you:
  • Performance bonuses
  • Signing bonuses
  • Future pay raises
  • Additional vacation days
  • Company stock
  • Retirement contributions
  • Health benefits
  • Flexible work hours


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