What Are Your Salary Expectations (Answers, Expert Method)

what are your salary expecatations

What are your salary expectations? This is the question that leaves many job seekers in shock. You feel like you’ve been put in a spotlight. With a request to answer a question that can directly affect your livelihood within 30 seconds. It can be the most stressful interview question. The question for many job seekers is, “How do you answer it effectively?”

The answer is with empathy, sincerity, and confidence. And strategic positioning to ensure you receive the highest compensation package the employer has to offer for that job title.

When You Might Get Asked About Salary Expectations

The interview question, “What are your salary expectations?” can be asked in three places: during your phone interview, during your on-site interview, and after your on-site interview.

The best way to be prepared for this interview question is to have your answer in mind before you begin any interviews. Be prepared for it to be brought up early in the discussion of potential employment.

By your employer asking you this question early it saves them time by ensuring you both are on the same page in terms of compensation expectations and average desired salary for the job title.

Why Salary Expectation Questions Can Be Difficult

Salary expectation questions are common. Even when your employer has a set number in mind, there’s more than a 90% chance they’ll ask you about your expectations of compensation.

This can be difficult for both you and the employer. It is a sensitive subject. And for many, causes visceral and emotional responses because it feels as though it is directly affecting the livelihood of the employee.

For the employer or interviewer, they recognize this is a sensitive subject matter. And this can cause the conversation to feel awkward or lose the chemistry of the discussion if not approached correctly.

How To Calm Your Nerves Before Answering

Speaking about salary can be stressful. In order for your employer to feel more confident about paying you a higher salary range (which is ultimately what you want), your delivery needs to be confident.

To have more confidence in your delivery, focus on these tips.

Have comfortable body language. Be sitting in a comfortable position, legs crossed, don’t appear uncomfortable.

Take a deep breath before you answer. There’s no need to answer your interviewer right away. Take a moment to think about your answer.

Preface by saying salary discussions can be difficult. A simple preface, alluding to the fact that salary discussions are difficult can buy you a moment to contemplate your answer and show mutual respect for the discussion.

Focus On Your Tone of Voice and Delivery

The delivery of your message is more important than the message itself. If your interviewer asks you about salary expectations and you answer with an arrogant response. How do you feel your interviewer will interpret that? Not well.

In fact, they could not want to pay you the salary you proposed merely because your delivery felt like it may allude to you being difficult to work with.

Your tone of voice needs to be calm, confident and delivered with empathy. Meaning you show appreciation and respect to the other party for a willingness to potentially pay you any sum of money to perform the job.

Practice your delivery with a friend or family member before your phone interview or on-site interview.

Don’t Answer With Something Different Than What You Put on Your Job Application

The best way to fill out your expected salary requirements on your job application is with a “99999” response. This means "unknown". Or “negotiable” if you need to. But ideally, an nth-number like “99999” will be more beneficial.

This will indicate to your employer that you desire to speak with them regarding salary. Prompting and promoting the interview question to be asked.

If you answered with a specific salary amount on your job application, it will take some work to change your answer if you need to. If you feel like you answered with a fair figure on your job application, then respond with that figure when the interview question is asked.

If you want to increase the figure, be sure to preface your interview answer with something like the following: “During this conversation I’ve learned of new duties and responsibilities I wasn’t aware of. It has been a wonderfully effective conversation regarding your expectations for the position. With that said, I’d like to change my answer for desired salary..”

How to Answer Salary Expectation Interview Questions

Before you answer, you should know your current salary, the average national salary range of the job title as directed by PayScale or Salary.com and the proper increase in salary you should give yourself as your ultimate answer.

Let's say your salary was $120,000 per year. Give yourself a 10% raise. Which would make it $132,000 per year. Meaning, your expected salary range would be $130,000 to $140,000 per year, in your answer.

If your salary range goes outside of the national average salary within the U.S., as mentioned by PayScale or Salary.com, then be prepared to support the reason for your salary range. This could be work experience, work achievements, or personal achievements that make you a more valuable asset for the company.

Now that you're prepared with your figure, here is how you answer:

1. Provide a salary range to your employer, always start with a higher figure than you might expect.

2. Preface by saying you’re flexible and would love to learn more about the company benefits.

3. When the interviewer replies mentioning a number that’s lower, ask them if there’s any room to move it higher.

4. Always be polite when you ask, don’t sound greedy but portray confidence in your request.

5. Settle on a number that feels right to you. If you need more time, tell the interviewer that you’d like to review your personal finance requirements and get back to them.

6. Never explain why you need compensation packages. For example, mentioning you have a family or personal needs. You don’t need to explain this to your employer and it puts you in a weaker position.

Always Ask If There’s Room For More Salary

This is the best piece of advice in this article. If you want the highest salary possible, always ask if there’s more room to compensate you higher. Here’s how your conversation will most likely play out.

Interviewer: What are your salary expectants?

You: I understand that salary discussion are often sensitive and difficult. But thank you for asking this question. I feel based on the job requirements and my previous experience a fair compensation package would be somewhere in the $130,0000 to $160,000 range. Though, this might change based on performance bonuses or benefits. And of course, I’m flexible with these figures as well.

Interviewer: Great, thank you. We only have a $120,000 annual budget for this position.

You: Is there any room to increase that 5% or 10%?

Interviewer: Let me get back you and ask the Human Resources team as well as the leadership team.

The act of asking for 5-10% more in terms of compensation works very well. Especially if you feel there was positive chemistry within the conversation.

From the employer's perspective, 5-10% more in annual salary is worth it if they feel you’re a great fit for the position. And if you’ve been able to position yourself as a driver of results.

Salary Expectation Example Answers

Here are some example answers when asked, “What are your salary expectations?” in your in-person interview or phone interview.

Example #1

“Salary discussions are always hard. And I appreciate you asking this question. My previous compensation package was $130,000 annually. Though, I’m looking to move into a new position with slightly higher responsibility. That’s why I’m seeking a position that has anywhere from $140,000 to $150,000 in an annual budget for the responsibilities. Though, I’m flexible and would be happy to move that range around based on benefits or bonuses.”

Example #2

“Thank you for asking this question. Salary discussions can be hard. Based on this conversation, I’ve learned more about the type of success you want to see from the position. And I’m grateful for that. Based on the conversation I would be aiming to be somewhere in the $90,000 to $100,000 annual salary range. Of course, there is flexibility on this depending on your budget, benefits, and any additional compensation methods you provide to employees.”

Tips for Answering

Always say you’re flexible. Providing insight on your flexibility can be beneficial to the interviewer or hiring manager. They’ll perceive your flexibility as a desire and passion to be with the company.

Have your current salary in mind. Know what you’re currently being paid. Unless you are unhappy with your current position and simply need out of it, always ask for more compensation than what you are currently paid.

Know the average pay for your job title. Tools like PayScale and Salary.com can be helpful in understanding national average salary ranges. This information is insightful because it will ground your answer. If you ask for a salary range that’s too high, you’ll have to compliment or show reasons for why you’re worth that figure. Alternatively, if you answer with a national average salary range and your potential new employer wants lower than that, you might know it’s a good time to decline the position.

Always ask for more. Always ask if there’s 5-10% more wiggle room. The method described in this writeup is effective. The worst thing your future employer can say is no. There’s no reason not to ask.

Don’t settle on a figure in the meeting. Never settle on a figure in the meeting, even if your interviewer is pressuring you to do so. You’ll regret your answer. Always tell the interviewer you will review your personal finances and budget, then get back to them within 48 hours.

Always be appreciative of the offer, even if you don’t feel like you should be. Never sound unappreciative. That would be a great way of losing the working relationship you have with your interviewer. Always show appreciation for their offer even if you don’t feel it was a fair one.

Always offer a range. Never answer with a set dollar figure. This can put you at a disadvantage in the conversation. What if you mentioned a number that was too low? Or too high? Both circumstances make you look bad. Instead, offering a salary range not only answers the interviewer's question but promotes them to be more specific with their expectations of salary as well.

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, Recruiter.com, SparkHire, and many more.


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