How to Answer: What Are Your Salary Expectations?

There is no trickier question in the interview process for most candidates. Believe me when I say that companies are not trying to trip you up when we ask this question and I often broach this topic in the initial phone interview. What we really want to know is, are you within our salary range? Many organizations have fixed salary ranges and we want to avoid getting too far down the line only to find that we can’t afford you, while also leaving you disappointed.

Why is this such a tricky question?

If you aim too high, you risk putting yourself out of the company’s range completely and thus, out of consideration. If you target too low, the company could lowball you leaving you dissatisfied. Depending on when this question is asked, it could also be difficult for you to gauge your salary expectations without fully knowing what the job entails.

It’s best to do your research ahead of time so that you feel confident going into the interview.

Research competitive market data

Going into the interview, you should have a clear idea of what someone in this role is earning. There are lots of resources available online including Payscale.com, Glassdoor.com, Salary.com, and LinkedIn which now provides salary insights. And be as specific as the data will allow you to; industry, location and any additional details will all provide more targeted and accurate results.

Tip: take the data with a grain of salt and when in doubt, go with your gut. The salary data from these sources should give you a rough idea to build on but they are not the be-all, end all.

Know your worth

While it’s good to be armed with competitive market data, you also need to know the worth of the skills, knowledge, and experience that you bring to the role and that differentiate you from other candidates. No one knows your skillset and its value in your industry better than you! While you do not need to communicate it, know what your bottom line is going into the conversation and be prepared to back it up by highlighting your skills.

Share a range, not a number

When answering the question, I always recommend providing a range (think 10-15k) rather than committing to a specific number that could be too high, could be too low, and could also limit your ability to negotiate later in the process. Never provide any numbers you wouldn’t be happy with, even the lowest end of your range should be a salary you’d be content with.

Be flexible

In addition to salary, there may be other monetary incentives, benefits or perks that you consider valuable, and you can use these as opportunities for negotiation. For example, if you have the salary conversation and find you’re slightly above what the company has budgeted, they may be willing to offer incentives to try to close the gap.

Example Responses:

“While I am flexible, I am looking for between $65,000 to $75,000 annually.”

“Based on market data I’d expect somewhere between $50,000 to $60,000 annually, but I’d like to learn more about the specific responsibilities of the role.”

“I’m open to discussion but based on my current salary and my knowledge of the industry, I’d expect a salary in the range of $80,000 to $95,000, depending on the total compensation package.”

“I would ideally be looking for a salary between $60,000 and $75,000 annually. It’s in line with the industry average and it reflects the skills and experience I would bring to the role. That said, I am flexible and open to hearing more about the company’s range for this position.”

Key Takeaways

  1. Do your research
  2. Know the value of the skills and experience you bring
  3. Express your flexibility
  4. Never provide any numbers you wouldn’t be happy with
  5. Provide a range and not a number
  6. Know your bottom line
  7. Be prepared to negotiate

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