How to Answer “What is Your Expected Salary?” and Get the Salary You Want

Salary discussions during job interviews can be daunting, especially when negotiating a six-figure salary. I’ve had to negotiate a few salaries to advance my digital marketing career over the past eight years. As a result, I’ve learned how to answer the expected salary question to secure the compensation you deserve. This article offers strategic insights to help you approach this question with confidence and secure a salary of $100,000 or more per year.

Understanding the Importance of the Salary Question

The salary question isn’t just about numbers. It’s a complex negotiation that requires preparation, strategy, and timing. Employers use it to gauge if they can afford you, while you can use it to affirm your value.

Why Employers Ask “What is Your Expected Salary?”

Employers usually ask about your salary expectations for two reasons:

  1. To understand if your expectations align with their budget.
  2. To assess how you value yourself and your understanding of the job market.

It’s important to give an answer that shows your interviewer that you are aware of the company’s needs, the value you bring, and the demand in the job market. Preparing your response will go a long way to ensure both parties feel like winners during the negotiation. 

Preparing Your Response

Thorough preparation before the interview can set the stage for a successful salary negotiation. Do your research to determine the average salary for the role you wish to fill, then reflect on your needs, experiences, skills, and career goals to arrive at an acceptable starting point for salary negotiations.

Research and Benchmark

Start preparing for your salary negotiation by researching the average salary for the role you want to fill.

  • Utilize salary surveys and online resources like Glassdoor and Payscale to understand the average compensation for your role in your location.
  • Consider factors like your experience, skills, and the industry standard.

Reflect on Your Needs and Goals

Consider what you would need to feel satisfied with your compensation package. 

  • Determine your minimum acceptable salary based on your financial requirements and career goals.
  • Factor in additional benefits and perks that may influence your flexibility on salary.

Strategizing Your Answer

Your response to the expected salary question should be a strategic blend of transparency and flexibility. You want to be honest with your answer, but you also want to leave a respectable amount of room for negotiation that allows both parties to feel like they won. You can accomplish this by offering a salary range or delaying your answer.

Offering a Salary Range

A salary range allows you to control the starting point of the negotiation. Use it to your advantage by making the bottom end of your range a figure you’d be excited to receive.

  • Providing a range based on your research shows that you understand the industry and are open to negotiation.
  • Ensure the bottom of your range is a figure you’re comfortable with, in case negotiations start there.

Deferring the Discussion

Sometimes the most strategic way to answer the expected salary question is to delay your answer. If you can delay your answer until after you’ve received an offer of employment, you give yourself a little bit more leverage to ask for a higher salary.

  • If possible, suggest that you’re open to discussing salary later in the interview process after learning more about the role and its responsibilities.
  • Example response: “I’m keen to understand more about the role and how I can contribute to the team before discussing salary. Could we revisit this once we’ve gone through these details?”

However, you will need to have the conversation eventually. Here’s what you can do during the negotiation to make sure things go your way.

During the Negotiation

Once the conversation about salary starts, maintaining poise and confidence is key. Communicate your value with confidence and approach the conversation as a collaborative effort to arrive at a mutually beneficial outcome.

Highlight Your Value

You bring a unique combination of skills and experiences that can help your potential employer grow. Communicate that value with confidence during your negotiation.

  • Emphasize the unique skills and experiences you bring to the table that justify your salary expectation.
  • Share specific examples where you’ve added significant value in past roles.

Be Open to Dialogue

The tone you bring to the conversation will influence the outcome. Be mindful of how you approach the discussion.

  • Approach the discussion as a collaboration to find mutually beneficial compensation.
  • Express your enthusiasm for the role and the company, showing you’re seeking a fair arrangement that reflects your worth.

However, no matter how you approach the conversation, you should expect a little pushback from your interviewer. Be prepared for when it happens.

Navigating Pushback

If the initial offer or counteroffer is below your expectations, be prepared to navigate this scenario gracefully. Reaffirm your value to the company and be open to other types of compensation if you need to make adjustments.

Reaffirm Your Value

Understand the unique value you bring and how you can solve your employer’s problems. Then, calmly communicate that with your interviewer to help them understand the price of your services relative to the value you bring.

  • Politely restate your qualifications and how they align with the role’s demands.
  • If applicable, mention competitive offers or industry standards to support your case.

Consider the Entire Package

Sometimes it’s appropriate to accept compensation that isn’t necessarily financial. Consider all options during your negotiation.

  • Remember to evaluate the total compensation package, including benefits, work-life balance, and growth opportunities.
  • Sometimes, non-monetary benefits can compensate for a lower salary, especially if there’s room for future advancement.

Once you’ve arrived at an outcome, it’s time to close the conversation and move forward on a positive note.

Closing the Conversation Positively

Regardless of the outcome, conclude the salary discussion on a positive note to maintain a good relationship with the potential employer. In most cases, sincerely expressing your gratitude is enough to maintain a positive interaction.

Expressing Gratitude

Express sincere gratitude. Your authentic gratitude will leave a good impression on the interviewer and sway the hiring decision in your favor.

  • Thank the interviewer for considering your expectations while you reiterate your interest in the role.
  • Example closing: “Thank you for discussing my compensation expectations. I’m genuinely excited about the opportunity to bring my skills to [Company Name] and contribute to your team’s success.”

Secure Your Worth

Answering the “What is your expected salary?” question is a crucial step in the job interview process, particularly when aiming for high-paying roles. By thoroughly preparing, researching, and employing strategic negotiation tactics, you can effectively communicate your value and secure the salary you deserve. Remember, the goal is to find a compensation package that reflects your expertise, supports your financial goals, and aligns with the potential for career growth and satisfaction.