Answering “What Are Your Salary Expectations?” In an Interview [2020]

When an interviewer asks you about salary expectations, it’s best to be prepared with a formal answer. And knowing how to explain your reasoning for why you’re asking for a particular salary range or exact salary figure. Determining the appropriate average salary range to answer with is fairly simple.

The most common place for this job interview question to be asked is during an in-person interview or a phone interview. The interviewer or hiring manager might ask you this question to make sure that both yourself and the potential employer are aligned on compensation.

Tip: Be sure to recall what you put on your job application under “desired salary” or desired compensation. Answering salary expectation questions in an interview when you put a different number on your resume might look as though you’re making up a number on the spot.

Determining Your Salary Range

To be prepared to answer this job interview question, it’s important to research what salary range is going to be acceptable to answer with. There are a few methods for doing this.

The first method to answer with your salary range is to use your current base salary and add 8% to that, equaling a range you can answer with. Always use the high end of the salary range as your preferred salary so you don’t end up with a lower salary than desired when you get a job offer. Meaning, to ask for a higher salary than you might expect.

Never use your previous salary from your last job in your salary discussion.

The second method is to determine the average salary for the job title based on your geography. You can do this by going to websites like or and looking up your job title and location. This will provide you a salary range, salary information, and salary history for the job you’re applying for.

Using your current salary or job market average salary are both acceptable methods for answering this job interview question.

Avoiding Salary Negotiation

When you provide a salary range or exact salary to the interviewer, recruiter, or hiring manager you can avoid having to negotiate salary at a later date. By not being prepared, you leave the expected salary range to your employer. As a job candidate, you’ll have to wait until you receive an offer to see what the compensation package looks like. This is less than ideal. Because it would then force you to have to negotiate your salary after receiving the job offer.

Answering “What Are Your Salary Expectations?”

As a job seeker, when the interviewer asks you the salary question, it’s important to answer with brevity, confidence, and explain how you got to your ideal salary. Explaining to your interviewer that you performed research to determine your answer is the best method for answering with honesty and integrity.

Here is a sample answer using PayScale:

“I looked up the average salary range for this job title using PayScale. And I’ve determined that the pay range and starting salary for this position would be somewhere between $85,000 and $95,000. Based on my experience level, I would be looking for $93,500 as an employee.”

Here is a sample answer using your current salary:

“Based on my current salary and job position, I’m adding around 9% to it and determining the appropriate salary for myself. My current salary is $100,000. Which means that I would be looking for something in the $105,000 and $110,000 range.”

Tip: Your prospective employer should ask questions regarding salary early in the interview process. If they don’t, you may want to ask the recruiter or hiring manager yourself. It can help to expedite your job search as you can eliminate going on in-person interviews that might waste your time.

As you can see, it’s always better to give a unique number when you decide to answer with an exact figure to the salary expectation question. Add $500 to your salary sum in order to make the number more unique. For example, don’t use $95,000. Use $94,500. This will feel more calculated to your potential employer and support the fact that you performed research to determine the appropriate compensation expectations.

author: patrick algrim
About the author

Patrick Algrim is an experienced executive who has spent a number of years in Silicon Valley hiring and coaching some of the world’s most valuable technology teams. Patrick has been a source for Human Resources and career related insights for Forbes, Glassdoor, Entrepreneur,, SparkHire, and many more.


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