It’s becoming common for job applicants to face questions about their salary expectations, whether when filling out a job application form or during the interview process. While it’s a straightforward question, providing an honest answer about your expectations for your next salary can prove difficult. Communicating a specific number that represents your salary expectations can also be daunting, especially if you’re not sure whether your asking price is going to be above or below what the company expected to pay the person who will fill the role you’ve applied for.
If the salary expectation you set exceeds the company’s budget for the job, you may lose the opportunity to compete for the position simply because you weren’t sure how to accurately answer the question. You do not want to aim too high and demonstrate over-confidence in yourself or a belief that you’re valued more than you really are. In contrast to this, if your salary expectation is too low, some companies may low-ball their offer, meeting your expectations but ultimately paying you less than a competitive market rate for your role. A low salary expectation could also suggest a lack of confidence or ability for the job to your interviewer, which can be a major turnoff for hiring managers. As you begin to think about your salary expectations for your next role, you’ll need to land on the right range or number to continue the conversation.
Here are the best ways to answer questions about your salary expectations and ensure you nail your next interview.
Know the Salary Range
Before setting your salary expectation, you should always determine the market salary range for the job you’re interviewing or applying for. This analysis should take into consideration where the job is located and the kind of company you’re applying to, as these factors can have an impact on the market rate for the job. For example, if you’re applying for a job in a city with a very high cost of living, you may find that the market rate for that job is significantly higher than in other cities or towns with lower costs of living. Compensation-focused websites, including Salary.com, can help you collect and analyze information based on the job’s location, description, title, and other factors to get to the correct market rate. Typically, these sites will present a salary range for each job, as well as dollar value that represents the 50th market percentile for your desired role.
Assess Your Experience
Besides doing your research on the job’s market rate, you should do a self-assessment based on your work experience and professional ability, and then use that to inform your minimum salary requirements or starting salary. If you are currently employed and looking to make a switch to a new role, consider how much more money you’d need to make in order to make the switch worthwhile. While many recommend looking for 10% more in your next role, this may not be the right target for you based on the market rate for the role and the qualifications you bring to the table.
Sieze the Opportunity
Not every conversation during the interview process is the right time to talk about your salary expectations. Besides knowing when you should personally ask the question about salary expectations, you should also understand how to respond to the employer if they ask for your expectations.
Let's shift focus to talk about how to answer this question in the actual scenarios. In real life, the question of the salary expectations typically comes up in three situations:
If you need to provide a salary expectation with your resume or answer this question on the job application form, it’s best to write in a desired salary range if the question is mandatory. If the item is an optional question, then it’s best you skip the question so your salary expectations don’t distract from your other qualifications.
The telephone interview or phone screen
Telephone interviews and phone screens are an opportunity for you to be prepared in advance for questions pertaining to the role and the salary. If the question comes up, it is best to again give a range, or to ask the recruiter what their range is for the role so you can compare notes. However, you’re under no obligation to discuss salary in your first telephone interview or phone screen if the recruiter does not mention it. You may wish to pursue the opportunity further before bringing up the question yourself.
The face-to-face interview
Face-to-face interviews always make people nervous, especially when you have to discuss salary expectations in-person. When going onsite for an interview, make sure you’ve prepared your answer to salary expectation questions ahead of time. Instead of saying a specific figure, it’s best practice to say a broad range so there’s more room for negotiation. Under normal circumstances, the interviewer will default to the minimum salary that can meet your proposed range, which would then lead to negotiations if your expectations don’t align with theirs. You may find that you have the opportunity to negotiate not only your annual salary, but also your benefits package, bonus, or even company perks.
By following these tips above, you’ll be prepared to have a thoughtful, productive negotiation with your interviewer that will hopefully result in your ideal salary. This is an important chance to not only learn more about the job, but also receive the compensation you believe you deserve.
Looking to set salary expectations for an upcoming role? Our free salary wizard has up-to-date data points for thousands of jobs across dozens of industries.