Interview questions about your salary expectations (and how to answer them!)

If you’re in the process of searching for the ideal job, or your resume impressed and you’ve been invited to come along for a chat, you may find yourself faced with interview questions about salary expectations. It can be awkward or unsettling when they come up. On the one hand, you don’t want to ignore the question. Yet, it may be difficult to know how to answer it properly. You don’t want to turn off a prospective employer with the wrong answer. So let’s delve into how to handle those anxiety-inducing salary questions.

Why interviewers ask about salary expectations

Why does the interviewer ask about salary expectations? Do they really want to know how much you will work for, or is this a trick question? It is not a trick question most of the time, although it may seem tricky to you. The employer gauges whether hiring you will fit within the budget they have prepared for that position.

Most likely, the hiring manager has a salary range in mind for the position, and as long as the amount you provide is within that range, you’ll be safe. By researching salaries and being prepared for the question, you can answer appropriately and secure the position.

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Winning move: Go in with a plan ready.

Answering salary questions during the interview

Salary questions are never easy to answer in a direct manner. Let’s face it — these questions can be complex because you never know what the person on the other end has in mind. It’s vital to go into the interview knowing how you’re going to respond to the question if it comes up, so you can have some level of confidence. The worst thing to happen is that you come across as unprepared, unsure, or stumbling in your answer.

You might think that providing a low salary amount will help you win the job. A “low” salary might be more than what you are making now, so, in your opinion, it’s an upgrade.

However, if you put the salary too low, meaning out of the typical salary range for that position, the hiring manager might think you don’t possess the skills or experience to do the job. Or they might think you don’t value your abilities. Either way, it’s not likely to help you secure the position.

On the other hand, you don’t want to give a salary amount that is too high because you take the chance of putting yourself outside the employer’s budget for that position, thus eliminating you from the list of potential candidates.

Research what typical salaries are for the job position and get an accurate range. Also, be sure you’re checking the salary for the geographic location of the job — sometimes, the amount changes based on the state/city. Then, when you go into the interview, you’ll be armed with the right information.

Dos and Don’ts on Handling Salary Questions

These dos and don’ts should help you avoid any major missteps when it comes to dealing with salary questions:

  • Don’t leave any questions blank about salary when filling out an application. It might be tempting to ignore those questions, but that might give the impression that you’re careless with following directions. Instead, write something like “negotiable” or list a salary range.
  • You can consider your current salary when providing a specific range for the interviewer. As mentioned above, you want to research the average salary for the position, but you also need to be sure you aren’t going to be cutting yourself short. You most likely expect to get a slight raise when changing jobs. So, you could take your current salary and add 10% to 15%, then compare that against what your research is showing you.
  • When giving a salary range, you can always preface this by saying you are flexible or willing to negotiate. This lets the hiring manager know there is room for change.
  • Always respond politely, even if the amount is below what you’re willing to accept. You can decline the offer, ask if there is any room for negotiation, and if not, thank them for their time.
  • Don’t settle for something you can’t live with. If you know the job is worth more than they’re offering or you can’t get by on the amount offered, don’t take it just for the sake of having the position. There will be other interviews and job offers that are within your salary requirements.

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No matter how intense it feels, don’t bite your nails.

Salary Question Answers — Examples

These example answers give an idea of how you might respond during an interview when asked about your salary expectations.

Example 1

My salary range is flexible. I am sure we can agree on fair compensation for my many years in the industry. I’m open to discussing a specific salary amount once we’ve gone over the specifics of the job.

Why Use It: This response is good because it highlights the applicant’s experience and shows flexibility regarding salary requirements.

Example 2

My salary requirements are negotiable, but I do have extensive experience in this industry. I look forward to discussing the job responsibilities of this position in more detail, and I’m confident we can decide on a salary that will be fair for everyone.

Why Use It: This approach is helpful because it keeps things moving along as you ask for more information about the job. It also implies that the hiring manager will be fair and you’re willing to negotiate, which puts the ball in their court but leaves room for negotiations.

Example 3

I’m open to going over the job requirements and what you believe to be a fair salary for the position. However, based on my previous salary, my experience in this field, and my research of this geographic location, I’d expect the salary to be between $X to $Z. However, I’m willing to discuss these numbers with you.

Why Use It: This lets the hiring manager know you’re open to discussions, and also that you know your experience in the field has inherent value. On top of that, it demonstrates that you did your research to the point where you can quote a salary range. It’s not a “locked-in” number, so it shows flexibility, too.