How To Answer “What Are Your Salary Expectations?” (With Examples)

By Chris Kolmar - May. 9, 2021
Articles In Guide

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You’ve finally made it through your interview. Everything is running smoothly until it all comes to a screeching halt.

The interviewer has just asked you one of the most dreaded questions during the hiring process:

What are your salary expectations?

Suddenly you panic and begin to wonder what the right way to answer this question is. Keep in mind that the hiring manager will be keeping a watchful eye on you and how you answer every single question.

We know this question can feel awkward and uncomfortable. Many even feel as though it is a trick question. What if you pick a number that is too high and come off as if you are trying to take advantage of the situation?

On the other hand, choosing a number that is too low might also risk showing that you lack confidence and self-worth. Hiring managers can tell a lot about a person by how they answer this question.

Before you begin to spiral, take a moment to breathe. This is not a tough question, as long as you’re well prepared before your interview. That way, you will be able to get a better idea of the salary you deserve.

When preparing for a job interview, you must consider every little detail, including your desired pay. It is only prudent for you to research the right salary for you and the position you are applying to. If you’re currently working in the same position as the one you are applying to, you can use it as a reference when answering the employer’s question.

Here you’ll learn more about why interviewers ask this question and how to best handle the situation.

Why Interviewers Ask About Salary Expectations?

When you’re put into this situation, keep in mind that the interviewer is simply trying to get a glimpse of how you value yourself.

Many interviewers ask about your salary expectations because their company already has a set budget for your desired position. Remember that business is all about supply and demand. An interviewer can determine whether the set budget for this position is too high or too low based on this question alone.

Asking for your desired salary can also help the interviewer determine your level of experience. If, for example, you say a salary that is considered to be on the lower end of the spectrum, a hiring manager might mistake you for being a novice and think that perhaps you need to gain a little more experience before you can be considered for the job.

On the other hand, if you choose a significantly higher than average salary, chances are they might think you are not on the right level required for this particular job and are overqualified.

Another alternative to why they might be asking this question is that they want to see if you know your own value. An applicant who has a good understanding of their skills and qualifications will execute any job with tremendous confidence.

Remember to ask for a salary based on your level of work, experience, and skills. Keep in mind that an interviewer will know the appropriate amount to pay an employee for the role they are applying to.

How to Find the Right Salary for the Job

Once you’ve been invited for an interview, it’s time to research the role and make sure you have a complete grasp of the responsibilities.

Your first instinct may be to use an online search engine. This will result in multiple web pages showing you the average salary for your chosen profession. However, some might find this to be overwhelming.

Start by looking into our very own career research page on Zippia. This page will help you explore the job market more efficiently. It offers you the opportunity to find your desired position, what salary is the best suited for it, how to tailor your resume, the skills that would be ideal for this role, and more.

When researching a salary, you must always remember that location plays a key role, as the old saying goes, “location, location, location.” For example, an anesthesiologist’s average salary from Nevada may be slightly lower than one you can find in New York. This can also be determined by looking at the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

By doing the proper research, you will be able to use all of the information you have collected to formulate a well-informed decision about your salary expectation.

How to Answer “What Are Your Salary Expectations”

Understandably, you might find yourself feeling overwhelmed by the idea of having questions in regards to your salary expectations. You don’t necessarily need to answer this question right away. Let the interviewer know that you would first like to go over the position even though you are interested in discussing salary.

You can always take a moment and delay answering this question until the very end of the interview, or even after the interview. That way, you will have ample time to think about how to answer it while telling them about your skills, qualifications and why you would make an ideal candidate.

Another alternative is to turn the tables and ask the interviewer to share what they have in mind regarding your salary. Once you have a particular number in mind, ask the hiring manager what the company is willing to answer. By doing this, you can take the pressure off you and put it back on them.

If you cannot deflect the question for whatever reason, take a deep breath and calmly answer the question. One way to answer it is to provide the recruiter with a reasonable salary range.

Common Mistakes to Avoid When Answering “What Are Your Salary Expectations”

  • Giving a set amount. Coming up with an exact salary requirement on the spot is a mistake. Allow the hiring manager to give a number first, so that the future negotiation will be in your favor.

  • Going too high. When you’re asserting your desired salary, don’t give an unrealistically high number. Use your research to determine what an appropriate expectation is.

  • Not doing research. Failing to research salary data will make this conversation pretty one-sided. You need to know what someone in the same job title, with the same experience, in the same geographic location earns. That way, you can back up your expectations with hard data.

  • Being negative. Sometimes, you’ll be offered a salary that seems insultingly low. You can decline or negotiate with grace, but you should never come off as arrogrant or rude.

Tips for Answering “What Are Your Salary Expectations”

Here are some tips for successfully discussing your salary expectations:

  1. Research salary data. We can’t stress this one enough — if you don’t know relevant salary data, you’ll be at a serious disadvantage during this conversation. Don’t forget to take your education, experience, and location into account when you’re researching.

  2. Give a range. Giving one number indicates that you have rigid expectations, which is not what you want to do. Instead, give a range between $5,000-$10,000 to allow for some negotiation. Make sure that the lower number is still a bit higher than the lowest you’d be willing to accept.

  3. Be flexible (and vague). If you want to deflect this question temporarily or permanently, you can simply say that you expect a salary commensurate with your experience ad skill set.

    It’s not a bad answer, it shows that you trust the company to accurately define “competitive pay.” If they can’t, then they may not be worth your time anyway.

  4. Use your current salary. When you’re switching jobs, you should always look for a pay bump (unless you’re shifting your career wildly and are starting from a lower level). Of course, location also comes into play, so you may have to accept less money if you’re moving somewhere with a lower cost of living.

    Still, if possible, aim to give yourself a 10% raise from your current salary, or more, if you’re also getting a significant step up in responsibility.

  5. Toot your horn. A bit of bragging can make the negotiation more favorable for you. Something as simple as, “with my 10 years of experience…” can make a big difference in the hiring manager’s perception.

    Also, if you can bring in serious accomplishments that earned big-time revenue for your former employer, and indicate you can duplicate those results, you’ll have a lot more leverage.

  6. Negotiate. These conversations rarely end quickly, so be prepared to put your negotiation skills to the test. It doesn’t have to be scary and keep in mind that your starting salary has a big influence on your salary for years to come, as every raise will be based on that initial benchmark.

Example Answers to “What Are Your Salary Expectations”

‘To answer your question, I am looking for a position that pays somewhere between $60,000 to $65,000 annually. I believe that this is what this position is currently going for, and it is the amount I am comfortable with.’

You can also add that you are open to negotiations, never close the door on an opportunity. If, for any reason, they do not initially see eye to eye with you, let them know that you have gone into the interview with an open mind and are willing to talk numbers.

‘I am looking for a position that pays somewhere between $60,000 to $65,000 annually. However, I am willing to negotiate once I hear the additional benefits you have to offer.’

How To Answer The Salary Expectation Via Email

Because of the current pandemic, doing business from home has become a common practice. Hiring managers are now turning to the world of telecommunication to carry out business meetings and even virtual interviews.

Some aspects of the business may even take place via email. Hiring managers might prefer to ask you to answer your salary expectations through electronic correspondence because of their busy schedules.

Here are a few examples that can help you determine which is the best way to answer your salary expectations.

Example # 1

Dear Mr./Ms. [ Surname],
Thank you for taking the time to speak with me [yesterday/today] about the [Name of Position] position at your company. I enjoyed our conversation and the opportunity to learn more about the position.

To answer your question, I am seeking a position that pays somewhere between $70,000 to $75,000 annually. I believe that this is what this position is currently going for, and it is the amount I am comfortable with.

If you have any additional questions, please feel free to contact me. Thank you again for your time, and I look forward to hearing from you soon.

[Your Name]
[You LinkedIn Profile]
[Your Email Address]
[Your Number]

Example # 2

Dear Mr./Ms. [ Surname],
I hope this finds you well. I appreciate you taking the time out of your busy schedule to speak with me [the amount of time since you last spoke] about your company, and thank you for asking me about my salary expectations.

I am looking for a position that pays somewhere between $60,000 to $65,000 annually. However, I am willing to negotiate once I hear the additional benefits you have to offer.

I hope that we can meet soon to discuss this matter further at your earliest convenience. Thank you for your time and consideration.

[Your Name]
[You LinkedIn Profile]
[Your Email Address]
[Your Number]

Example # 3

Dear Hiring Manager,
Thank you again for taking the time to meet with me for dinner last night. I appreciate the gesture and enjoyed learning more about both the position of [Name of position].

To answer your questions regarding my salary, I am seeking a position that pays within the range of 50,000 to 55,000. From what I have gathered, this is the average salary for this role. Please keep in mind that I am willing to negotiate the terms, considering the benefits that would be included as part of the job.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

[Your Name]
[You LinkedIn Profile]
[Your Email Address]
[Your Number]

Final Thoughts

When deciding on which would be the best salary for you and the work you do, always remember to show your worth. If, in your current position, you feel as though you are being underpaid for this position, don’t be afraid to give yourself a raise.

Let the hiring manager know that, based on your research, the salary you have chosen is based on your professional level, skills, and qualifications.

Be careful, though — many people get carried away and say a price that is higher than the average salary. By saying a number that’s too high, you run the risk of not getting hired at all.

Remember to be willing to negotiate — just never settle for something that seems unreasonable.

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Chris Kolmar

Chris Kolmar is a co-founder of Zippia and the editor-in-chief of the Zippia career advice blog. He has hired over 50 people in his career, been hired five times, and wants to help you land your next job. His research has been featured on the New York Times, Thrillist, VOX, The Atlantic, and a host of local news. More recently, he's been quoted on USA Today, BusinessInsider, and CNBC.

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