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How to Answer Salary Expectations In an Interview

Imagine an interview going exceptionally well. You answer all the questions confidently, and the interviewer seems impressed. However, suddenly the interviewer asks you the question, “what are your expectations in terms of salary?” Almost anyone can get caught off-guard and not know how to answer salary expectations, and it’s completely understandable. It is a blunt question that can make just about anyone feel uncomfortable or tested.

Why do interviewers ask for salary expectations?

Are salary questions truly necessary during an interview? Can’t it just be in writing in the form of a job offer that you may or may not accept? Unfortunately, you cannot avoid encountering salary-related queries during an interview.

Your interviewer has two possible agenda as to why they ask you this question. The apparent reason is that they simply want to know whether or not they can afford your service. Every company is different, and some organizations have financial restraints that do not allow them to give high compensation, such as startups.

The less-apparent motivation behind asking about your salary expectations is to know how much you value your work. This agenda is a double-edged sword. Pricing too high may give them an impression that you think too highly of yourself while setting too low can signify that you doubt the quality and worth of your work. 

Learn how to answer salary expectations confidently

Salary is a sticky subject. There seems to be no right answer. If you aim too high, they might no longer consider you for the job as they might feel that they can’t afford you. Conversely, aim too low, and they may negotiate for an even lower offer, making you poorly-compensated should you accept the offer.

The good news is that there is a way to prepare for salary questions, and you can learn how to answer salary expectations confidently without hurting your application or your chance at a well-paying job.

Be flexible

With this type of question, it is entirely acceptable to be indirect. You can say things like “I am open to negotiate a fair salary,” or “I’d like to learn more about the expectations and responsibilities to gauge an acceptable salary,” or even “I hope to be fairly compensated for my years of experience and skills.”

The critical takeaway in this tip is to express that you are flexible and open to negotiate with them. This will open another avenue for conversation so that you can come up with a compensation scheme that you and the employer will be happy with.

Avoid setting an exact amount.

In connection with the previous advice, try to avoid setting an exact figure. Naming your price is just as straightforward as the question, but it also implies that you are not open to discussing further. The hiring manager might get the impression that you are giving them a take-it-or-leave-it offer.

Think of a range

Although you are not encouraged to name an exact figure, you can think of a range that you feel comfortable with. Having a range will allow you to assess whether you are going to be happy with their prospective offer or not. Also, some employers might push you to give numbers. If that is the case, giving them your salary range maintains your flexibility while still clearly answering the question.

how to answer salary expectations in writing

Consider your current salary.

How do you determine your desired salary range? One aspect to look at is your current salary. It is a reasonable basis that you can easily justify for the range you provide them with; unless, of course, if your previous company low-balled your compensation.

This strategy is useful if you are making a unilateral move in approximately the same industry. If you are applying for a managerial position in a toothpaste company after being a manager in a similar business, you can vie for roughly the same compensation. Still, you need to factor in other costs, such as if you’re moving to a new state with higher living costs and will acquire relocation costs.

Do your research

If you are applying to an unfamiliar industry or are moving up into a higher position for which you have no clue about the salaries, it would help to do some research. There are several resources available online to help you determine the fair wage for certain positions.

One helpful resource is the Bureau of Labor Statistics, which has salary data for a broad range of occupations. You can even find out salary differences between geographical locations for a particular position. On top of salary information, the site also offers other data such as qualifications, job outlook, and work environment for the different occupations.

Give yourself a raise.

Even if you are making a lateral move into a similar position, it will not hurt to aim a little bit higher when it comes to giving a salary range. You can do a bit of background research into the company you are applying for to gauge their capacity. Additionally, aiming a little bit higher than your expected salary will give you a little bit of room to still win in a negotiation.

Highlight your skills

To correctly answer salary expectations, it is helpful to stress your value. You can do this by highlighting your skills and capabilities. You can also mention your level of expertise through your years of experience, primarily if you’ve worked in the industry for a significant amount of time.

Practice Negotiation

You don’t really have to negotiate there and then during the interview. You can hold it off until you have a formal job offer with a specified salary and compensation package. However, it would help if, as early as possible, you learn to become comfortable with asking for more once you receive the offer. Don’t be intimidated and afraid of coming off as arrogant or demanding as long as you practice proper and ethical business communication


Be prepared to tackle other tricky interview questions with this online course. Improve your confidence and find out the secrets to wow your interviewers and experience interview success.

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