Interview Questions About Your Salary Expectations

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No matter how great the job interview goes, an interview question about your salary expectations can stop you short. “What are you looking for in terms of salary?” is such a straightforward question and yet, the answer is so complex.

How to Answer Interview Questions About Your Salary Expectations

There are a number of ways to answer interview questions about salaries, and it’s important to determine how best to answer that question because more than likely it will be asked at your next interview.

You want to aim high, but what if you put yourself out of salary range? On the other hand, if your target compensation is too low, you leave the employer room to go even lower and you could end up feeling miserable with the lack of proper compensation.

It’s also very difficult to try to decide what you want for a salary before you even know what the job is. This often happens when you’re asked to disclose a salary range requirement on an application.

This is not an easy topic, but while there may be no right answer, there is a way to think about the question and get what you want.

Do You Have to Answer Questions About Salary?

As difficult as it may be to answer the question of what you expect to earn right away, it’s more difficult not to — especially if it's on an electronic job application. Try and skip the question and you may not be able to move on to the next page, or the field may only accept a number.

That’s when you need to make a good decision about how much you want to make at the job.

During an interview, you could try to skirt around the question with a broad answer, such as, “My salary expectations are in line with my experience and qualifications.” Or, “If this is the right job for me, I am sure we can come to an agreement on salary.” But the recruiter or interviewer will likely be looking for a number, so come prepared with a target salary figure, or at least a range, in mind.

You’ll need to think about your income requirements at the beginning of your job search. That means you should prepare for every interview, even if the interview is over the phone. If you’re caught off guard, without something in mind, you could lowball yourself or seem confused, which doesn’t make a good impression.

What if the interviewer asks about your current salary? In some cities and states, employers are legally prohibited from asking you how much you earned in your last job. However, they can still ask about your expectations for a new job.

How Do You Determine Your Salary Expectations?

Depending on your individual needs and circumstances, you can figure out a number to offer with confidence. If the new position is a lateral move in your industry, you probably have a sense of average salaries based on your own experience. Unless your last company was known in the industry for its low salaries, assume that your current salary is in line with market expectations.

What if you believe it’s time for a raise? Think about what you would consider a fair raise from your current employer and that could be a good low-end starting point for the new job. Or ratchet up your current pay by as much as 15 to 20 percent, which gives you ​an incentive to switch companies and is still within reasonable range for your industry and level of experience.

Remember, only offer a number that you find acceptable and gives you the means to support yourself, and your family if you have one.

For a potential move to a position with more responsibility or in a different industry, it helps to do some research on the position and its value in the career market. You can do that by going online and searching.

Researching Salary Expectations

Find one of the many websites that offer salary averages and estimates. Sites like, and all offer comparable data. They should be fairly similar but there may be some differences so If you have time to look at more than one source you may get a better perspective of range.

Another idea is to input a variety of job titles to see if the averages change significantly. The problem with some salary sites is that job titles can vary from company to company.

If it is possible instead get a sense of salary based on job responsibilities, you can come up with a more accurate number. Also remember to narrow your research to your region. Salaries for a job in Austin, Texas, may be different than those in New York City, for example.

If the research numbers seem off to you, just go with your gut. You don’t want to confront a hiring manager with unreasonable expectations, but you also want a salary you can live with. If a decent income isn’t there, the job is not right for you.

Sample Answers

  • I understand that positions similar to this one pay in the range of $X to $Z in our region. With my experience, I would like to receive something in the range of $Y to $Z.
  • I would like to be compensated fairly for my experience.
  • The research I've done indicates that positions like this one pay $X to $Z and something in that range would be acceptable to me as a starting salary.
  • My salary requirements are flexible, but I do have significant experience in the field that I believe adds value to my candidacy.

Of all the job interview questions and answers, the questions about salary can be the most difficult and most uncomfortable for your to answer. But if you do your homework and come up with a salary range that fit your needs, you’ll be able to answer the dreaded salary question with more confidence.

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