How To Answer Salary Expectations Questions in 3 Simple Steps

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 27 September 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

As you prepare for your upcoming interview, you may expect to get a question about your financial salary expectations. This can be a tricky question to answer since you might try to find a balance between giving an estimate that's not too high or low. Learning how to engage with this question appropriately can help you secure the base salary that you desire. In this article, we discuss why employers ask about salary expectations, examine ways to search for job salaries, explore how to answer salary expectation questions in three steps and review helpful examples and tips.

Related: How To Discuss Your Salary Expectations (With Example)

Why do employers ask about salary expectations?

When an employer asks about your salary expectations, it's usually for three reasons:

  • They have a budget. The interviewer may check to make sure your compensation expectations align with the amount they've calculated for the job. If they find most candidates are asking for a great deal more than anticipated, it might mean requesting a larger budget for the position.

  • They are trying to gauge how well you know your worth. A good candidate knows how much their skill set is worth in the market and can share it with confidence. To determine appropriate market value, factor in your level, years of experience and career achievements.

  • They want to determine whether you're at the appropriate professional level. A candidate who asks for a significantly higher amount than others may be too senior for the role. Alternatively, answering with a salary expectation on the low end could indicate you're at a lower experience level than the job requires.

Ways to research job salaries

As you prepare to answer a question regarding your salary expectations, it's essential that you provide a number that you're comfortable sharing. Also, try to base your number on current compensation data and statistics. Here are some ways you can research job salary data:

Use a salary calculator

A salary calculator is a tool that provides you with a personalised pay range estimate. Some of these tools only require your job title and location and they can display an average salary range someone in your occupation typically makes. These estimates typically use several years of collected data and then combine that data with your personal information to give you real-time results.

Use Indeed Salaries

Consider using Indeed Salaries, an interface that allows you to get the average pay for a specific occupation based on your geographical location. You can also see the average base salary for a job title based on hourly, daily, weekly, monthly and annual estimates. These variations give you a better idea of how to quantify your salary expectations to the interviewer.

Analyse company reviews

There are many websites that feature company reviews, many of which provide anonymous reviews from current or previous employees. Most of them display what the person's salary was when they were with the company. After comparing several of these reviews for the same occupation, you can get a general idea of how much someone of your skill and experience is qualified to make.

Consider remote pay differences

Depending on the occupation you're researching, consider that it may be a job that has remote capabilities. Even if the job is the same, there may be pay variations between someone that works in the office versus an individual that works remotely. When you make your comparisons, consider those differences, as it may help to better inform you about how to assess your own salary expectations.

Look through a job search website

Consider using a website like Indeed to find roles online. You can look up different jobs and customise your search results based on job title, experience level, geographical location, company and remote compatibility. Many of these jobs display the exact or estimated pay range in the job description. Make comparisons between these job postings to help you align your expectations to what most employers are offering people in those positions.

Related: What Is an Annual Salary? (Plus How To Calculate It)

How to answer salary expectation questions

When a hiring manager asks, “What are your salary expectations?”, there are a few ways on how to answer salary expectations. Here are three steps you can try, with example responses:

1. Provide a range

If you don't feel comfortable providing a single number, you may choose to offer a range instead. Keep in mind, however, that the employer may opt for the lower end of your range, so make sure your target number is as close to the bottom number as possible. Also, keep your range somewhat tight with a variance of no more than $5,000 to $10,000.

Example: “I am seeking a position that pays between $75,000 and $80,000 annually.”

2. Include negotiation options

In addition to your salary, there may be other benefits, perks or forms of compensation you consider just as valuable. Including these as possible opportunities for negotiation is an option, too. For example, while the employer may not have budgeted enough for your ideal salary range, they may be willing to offer equity in the company to make the compensation package more attractive to you.

Example: “I am seeking a position that pays between $75,000 and $80,000 annually, but I am open to negotiate salary depending on benefits, bonuses, equity, stock options and other opportunities.”

Related: How To Negotiate Your Salary (Steps and Tips)

3. Deflect the question

If you're still early in the hiring process and still learning the specifics about the job duties and expectations, you may want to deflect the question for later in the conversation. Keep in mind you may still eventually have to discuss salary expectations. Either way, it's a good idea to be prepared with a well-researched number in mind, even if you're still factoring in additional information.

Example: “Before I answer, I'd like to ask a few more questions to get a better idea of what the position entails. That way, I can provide a more realistic expectation.”

Example answers for "What are your salary expectations for this position?"

Here are a few additional examples to help you contextualise how to respond to a salary expectation question after you research average salaries and identify the response the best fits your needs:

Experienced answer

Here's a sample answer for someone who has experience in the role:

Example: “While I am certainly flexible, I am looking to receive between $83,000 and $87,000 annually. Due to my skill set and experience level, I feel that this is a comfortable and appropriate range for my work.”

Salary requirement answer

Here's a salary requirement sample answer:

Example: “My baseline salary requirement is $94,500. I feel that the value and expertise I can bring to this role supports my compensation expectations. Is this in line with your thoughts?”

Comprehensive answer

Here's a comprehensive sample answer:

Example: “Let me start by reiterating how grateful I am for the benefits this job offers, such as generous paid time off and health benefits. That being said, I am expecting my salary for this position to fall between $45,000 and $50,000 annually. My rich background in client services specific to this industry can play a role in strengthening the organisation.”

Flexible answer

Here's a flexible sample answer:

Example: “Thank you for asking. I feel that an annual salary between $67,000 and $72,000 is in line with the industry average and reflects my skills and experience level well. I am, however, flexible and open to hearing about the company's compensation expectations for this position.”

Related: How To Provide Your Expected Salary (With Tips and Examples)

Tips to help you express your salary expectations

Sometimes it can be uncomfortable talking to an interviewer about your financial compensation. To ease the process, here are some tips to help you start a conversation about salary expectations:

Start your salary high

Once you understand what the average salary range is for your occupation or position, slightly raise your expectations. Employers may offer you a price point that's on the lower spectrum of the expectation you provide. Therefore, giving a higher ranger can potentially help you stay above your initial target. Make certain that the increase you start at is still modest.

Show confidence

Aside from the specific answer that you give, some employers are curious to see how you deliver your response. They may pay close attention to your tone and assertiveness and may use your displays of hesitancy to offer you a lower base salary. Be confident about what you expect for yourself and remain open to potential negotiations if they occur.

Describe your reasoning

An overly detailed reason probably isn't necessary to explain your salary desires, but it may benefit you to explain your tactic to a modest degree. You can highlight the experience you possess or mention your academic qualifications. If you have any certifications or licenses, you can mention those as well. Whatever details you do share, make certain they're truthful and verifiable. While you want to elevate your pay, try to remain modest.

Reference your previous or current salary

If your current or previous job pays you a certain amount that you're comfortable with, provide an expectation that is above that. If the employer counters you with a lower salary rate, mention what you were making at your previous job. This indicates that you're not accepting anything lower than what you were already making.

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