Salary expectations: How to answer this question in a job interview

June 08, 2022  •  Reading Time: 9 min.

“What are your compensation expectations?”

You are likely to encounter this question in any hiring process. Salary negotiation is a vital part of the job search, and before potential employers make a salary offer, their hiring managers will most likely ask the job candidates for salary information or what type of compensation package the applicant expects.

So, what does it take for you to ultimately accept a job offer?

  • Would you like to start your new job with more than your current salary?
  • Do you know the average salary for the position?
  • Do you already have a reasonable range you want to go into salary negotiations with?
  • Is a good work-life-balance more important to you than a higher salary?
  • Can you settle for a lower salary if you receive other benefits in the new position?

Have you thought about these questions yet? If not, don’t worry. In this article, we give job seekers guidance on how to convey their salary expectations and maybe even walk out of the job interview with more money than they expected!

Why does a hiring manager ask about salary expectations?

Many hiring managers are tied to a certain budget. When they ask about a candidate’s salary expectations, it is often because they want to know if their counterpart’s expectations match the amount already calculated for the position. It is also important for many employers to recognize that the candidate knows their own value. You should therefore be able to communicate this confidently, drawing on your expertise, experience and professional accomplishments.

Person calculating a reasonable salary in front of a laptop with a calculator

Why are interview questions about salary expectations often tricky?

What to do if the hiring manager asks about your salary expectations early on in the interview process? Yes, you have read the job description and gained an overall impression of the position during your first interview. However, you still don’t know everything about your job duties and responsibilities, and this is a crucial point in determining an appropriate salary request.

Another problem could arise if you have aims that are too high or too low. If you ask for much more money than the company can offer, they might consider other candidates before you. If your targeted compensation is too low, you give the employer more room to go even lower. This could lead to you being unhappy because you are not getting an adequate salary.

The matter of compensation is definitely not an easy one. However, there are ways to adequately prepare for the salary expectations question and end up getting exactly what you want!

How to determine your salary expectations

If you follow our tips on how to determine your compensation expectations, you will be well prepared for any upcoming salary negotiation during the hiring process for your new job:

⒈ Research the industry average

What are the average salaries in your field?

In order to determine your own market value, you need to have a look at the job market. It is best to base your salary expectations on solid data. Salary figures can come up very soon in the interview. That’s why you should already start researching salaries in your industry from sources like the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics when applying to various companies. By the way, there may also be a good online salary calculator that you can use to determine an appropriate figure.

Career advice: The company size matters when it comes to compensation! Larger firms may be able to offer higher compensation than employers with only a few workers.

⒉ Set a salary range for yourself

What are your salary requirements?

Now is the time to set a reasonable salary range for yourself. Many candidates only look at numbers when it comes to salary data and simply write down one or two figures. However, it’s important to determine a fair salary range that you want to go into negotiations with. That said, it’s also important to define a specific number. Do this for your ideal salary and then set a floor: What is the lowest salary you could live with?

⒊ Decide if you want to disclose your salary history

Are you willing to reveal your current salary?

Some employers still ask about salary history or how much you earn in your current job during the hiring process (read more about where a salary history ban does and does not apply). What you should consider for yourself: Your worth definitely does not depend on how much your previous employer paid you. So, if you are asked about your salary, you may refuse to provide this information. It’s best to consider disclosing your salary beforehand. Be aware, however, that you are not obligated to do so, and that it probably won’t make you any less money if you don’t tell.

⒋ Think of the benefits you can negotiate during the interview process

Are you willing to accept a lower salary for higher benefits?

Always remember: Salary is not just the number in your bank account. For many professionals, compensation also includes perks such as health benefits, retirement plans, paid time off or even tuition reimbursement. Typically, you have some freedom of choice in these benefits and can select just what you need. Perhaps you can get extra vacation time or the right to work remotely this way.

Business woman talking to colleagues on online video call, doing teamwork on project planning

How to answer salary expectation questions in job interviews

Are you ready to take on the challenge of discussing salary expectations now? We’ll give you a few more tips on how to approach these types of questions in the interview with your prospective employer:

⒌ Delay answering the interview question

Can you refuse answering interview questions regarding your salary requirements?

Absolutely! If the hiring procedure is at its very beginning, start by providing a compensation range. A prospective employer who asks for a salary range before discussing the job in detail cannot demand a more specific answer. In fact, at this early level, you have the option of turning the question around: “I’d like to know more about the job, the duties, and the team before I talk about money. May I ask what pay range you are considering for this position?”

Now you own it. After all, if the employer’s salary range is in the span you were considering, or even beyond that, you can directly confirm that the number falls within your scope. If it’s less, you can say that it’s on the lower end of what you were hoping for, but that you would still be happy to discuss the job or even similar positions.

⒍ Specify a number in final salary negotiations

The job offer is within reach?

By your second interview, you have probably learned everything you need to know about the job, and you have indicated the pay range you are considering. The only thing that remains to be determined is your specific salary for the position and whether the employer will pay that amount. Now it’s time to come up with a number! Take everything you learned during your research into account here. Also important: What benefits and bonus opportunities are included in the salary package?

Then state your expectation as follows:

  • “I’m thinking of $70.000. The new position comes with great responsibility. But it is also one with which I am already familiar and for which I am very well suited. I managed a similar team at my previous employer, and we achieved all the goals we set.”
  • “I respect the fact that you have to work with a certain budget. Therefore, I would like to suggest $65.000 as a starting salary. The tasks in this position are quite demanding and I have all the necessary skills.”

Examples for answering questions about salary expectations

Let’s look at a few more examples that will help you negotiate a fair salary for your new job without leaving money on the table:

✅ State a range: “I am seeking a position with an annual compensation between $65,000 and $70,000.”

✅ Provide negotiation capabilities“I am looking for a job with an annual salary between $65,000 and $70,000, with a willingness to negotiate pay depending on benefits, bonuses, and other opportunities.”

✅ Deflect“Before I give you an answer, I’d like to ask you a few more questions to get a better idea of what the position entails. That way I can set a more realistic expectation.”

✅ Highlight experience“I am definitely flexible, but would like to make between $82,000 and $85,000 annually. I think this is a reasonable range for my work, based on my skills and experience.”

It is important to always explain and support your arguments. Let your counterpart know how you came up with the range or figure. For example, you can justify your pay range very well based on your education or experience.

✅ Feel free to include your industry knowledge“The average salary for this position for a professional with my experience is between $100,000 and $110,000. For this reason, this would be my compensation expectation.”

Conclusion: Set salary expectations and communicate them professionally

When asked about your compensation expectations, a well-worded answer can ensure you don’t under- or over-estimate the market value. An honest answer based on sound knowledge can help your interviewer better understand whether your expectations are in alignment.

Therefore, be sure to provide a fair, well-reasoned, and thoughtful offer. If you specify a salary range, ensure that you are also able to live with the lowest figure.

Keep in mind that sometimes companies have a lower budget for a particular position, but may offer you other compensation options, such as future raises, additional vacation days, health benefits, or flexible hours.

One final tip: Be willing to walk away from negotiations, if you don’t really like what you’re being offered. After all, it may be better in the long run to wait for an opportunity that is just right for you.

Woman on piles of coins with arrow up infographic

Salary expectations – FAQ

How to answer salary expectations?

When asked this interview question, it’s best to give a range to your potential employer. This allows for more leverage for both you and the employer to negotiate. You can talk about numbers and the exact pay when the job offer is just around the corner.

What are examples of salary expectations?

If you want to earn $60,000 to $70,000 in your new position, you can specify a range of $65,000 to $75,000. You could also say: “I am looking for a salary between $65,000 and $75,000 for a 35-hour work week, but this number can be adjusted depending on whether I can work remotely.”

What are good salary expectations?

Always give the employer a range in which you would like your salary to be. Tip: Try to keep the range narrow and not stretch it too far.