How to Answer “What are Your Salary Expectations?”

by | Sep 18, 2020 | interview questions, salary

“So, what are your salary expectations?” 

This is a job interview question that has a lot of job seekers feeling like they’re a deer caught in the headlights. 

Even professionals who’ve been in the workforce many years can feel uncomfortable answering this question and say something that can be detrimental. 

The salary expectations question will often come very early on, through a third-party recruiter or even in your initial phone screen with human resources. 

Your goal is to defer the question as long as possible. Because the first person who puts their cards on the table, the other person can read and has that information to go from. Don’t let this be you! 

Here is a three-step strategy for handling this question:

Defer the Question 

Assuming you’re early on in the job interview process, first try to defer that by saying, “That is important. However, I’d really like to learn more about the role before we start talking about salary. Can you tell me more about the position priorities and scope?” This general response can work to buy you some time to learn more.

Answer the Question with a Question 

If they continue to press you, then you can answer that question with a question. Ask, “What’s budgeted for the position?” or “Can you tell me what’s the range for the role?” Maybe they will divulge that salary range to you first, so you’ll have more information to work with. 

So if the range is acceptable, then you can say something like, “That generally aligns with my salary expectations, so if I’m the finalist candidate, then I’m sure we can come to terms.”

If the range is much lower than you expected, then you can decide whether you still want to move forward. If you’re making a career change, an industry shift, or find an entry point into a company you’ve always wanted to work for, then under those circumstances you may be willing to take a pay cut. And you may find that other benefits may help balance a lower salary.

Give an Educated Range 

A lot of times–especially a third-party recruiter–really wants to know whether you’re affordable before they present you to their client. But other human resource reps and hiring managers may also want you to be specific.

So if they press again, be ready to provide a well-researched salary range based on your skills, experience level, and geography. Use at least two different salary calculators such as salary.com and payscale.com to learn the going rate. Additionally, ask a trusted peer or mentor what they know.

From there, determine your low (the absolute minimum you could take to sustain your lifestyle), medium (pretty good), and high (what would make you jump for joy). 

Don’t mention the low end of your range. Rather, give your medium to high range, being realistic given what you know. 

This three-step strategy is just to get you started–to start thinking about doing your research and knowing your worth. 

The next time you’re asked, “What are your salary expectations?” you’ll have a strategy to respond and put yourself in a position that will pay off for years to come.

dalena bradley job interview coach career coach

I’m Dalena Bradley, job interview and career marketing coach dedicated to helping you communicate your value, stand out from the competition, and win the job!

Contact me to discuss how we can collaborate.


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