How To Answer Salary Expectations

Your interview could be going well and you’re starting to feel confident about next Monday being your first day on the job. Then, comes the question that makes every job interviewee squirm:

“What are your salary expectations for the job?”

It’s a question that’s been asked for decades by Hiring Managers. Most likely, you were asked the same question during your previous job interviews. You might have thought that as a veteran of numerous job interviews, you already knew the best answer to give.

Yet, here you are with sweaty palms again.

Why Do Hiring Managers Ask About Your Salary Expectations?

There are legitimate reasons why asking about salary expectations make job interviewees squirm and sweat.

  • You don’t want to price yourself out of the company’s budget.
  • You don’t want to price yourself so low that you end up with a miserable salary.
  • You don’t want to seem overconfident or arrogant by quoting a salary that’s more than what’s posted by the company in its job ad.
  • You don’t want to be seen as “weak” or “desperate” by the Hiring Manager for quoting a low salary expectation.

Likewise, there are a number of good reasons why Hiring Managers would ask you about salary expectations:

  • To get an idea if the company can afford you.
  • To be sure that you’re not over-qualified for the available position.
  • To find out if you know your self-worth.
  • To determine if you researched salary ranges before the job interview.

When a company posts a job ad that includes the salary for the position, there’s a possibility it’s just the proposed rate. There are job seekers who forego applying for the position if they believe it’s too high or too low for them.

If the rate is not far off from your current or previous salary, it’s perfectly fine to go through the application process and see if your resume will be good enough to land you a job interview.

If you do get the job interview and the question on salary expectations is asked by the interviewer, look at it as an opportunity to negotiate your rate.

How To Answer The Question About Salary Expectations

By the time the interview gets to the question on salary expectations, you can feel more assured that you’re near the finish line. After all, why would the Hiring Manager ask you about your expected salary if he wasn’t impressed by your interview?

Thus, this question shouldn’t make you feel nervous. In fact, it should make you feel more confident that you’re just a few questions away from earning an employment contract.

But first, you have to expertly answer the question about salary expectations. Here are a few tips you can follow to give a response that will impress the Hiring Manager.

Conduct Research on Salary Ranges in the Industry

Before you go to your interview, take a few hours to research the salary ranges in the industry for someone with your level of experience and qualifications. Summarize the salary ranges and come up with a market average.

You can visit a website such as Glassdoor which routinely updates its numbers on salaries paid out per industry. Glassdoor also shares information about the salaries that are paid by specific companies. The company you applied to might be in Glassdoor’s database.

You can also post inquiries on LinkedIn. Join a community that caters to your profession and start a discussion group. Get advice on how much you should ask from more experienced members.

Let’s assume the job ad posted by the company states the annual salary as US$60,000. You’ve carefully reviewed the job description and requirement and you’re confident that you fit the position to a tee.

You can give the following answers:

Answer 1: You feel the annual salary is slightly below what you’re expecting.

“In my previous employment I received a salary in the range of US$65,000 to US$75,000 which is at par with the industry average for someone with my qualifications – at least 5 years of work experience and professional credentials. I would prefer to receive a salary in that range. In this regard, may I have a better idea of the scope of duties and responsibilities for the position? This way, we can discuss if the US$60,000 stated in the job ad only covers a portion of the entire scope of work required of the profession.”

Answer 2: You feel the indicated annual salary is fair and acceptable.

“I note that the annual salary posted in your job ad is US$60,000. I believe this figure falls within the market average and is fair and above board for a person with my experience and qualifications. My mindset when applying for a job is to let my performance do the negotiating when it comes to salary. I’m confident that my performance will merit the consideration of future increases in pay.”

Consider the Additional Expenses You’ll Incur

Sometimes the salary offered by the company you’re interested in applying to might sound generous – until reality beats expectations. It’s always a good idea to make a forecast of how much money you’ll net if you accept the salary offered by the company.

Factor in the additional expenses you’ll incur if you accept the job. For example, if the job is located in another city, you might have to rent an apartment and set aside money for food, utilities, gasoline, and communication fees.

If the office is comparatively farther than your previous or current job, you’ll have to factor in gasoline, public transportation, parking, and toll fees.

Let’s assume that by accepting the job, you’ll incur more expenses rendering the position unappealing but you remain interested in working for the company.

When you’re asked by the Hiring Manager about your salary expectations, you can give the following answer:

“I believe the annual salary you’re offering is fair. However, because the office is located in another city, I’ll have to rent an apartment nearby. I looked at some apartments located near the office and the going rate is US$800 per month. If I choose to commute, I would incur additional expenses of US$1,000 per month for both gasoline and public transportation. I would like to suggest an adjustment of US$12,000 to US$15,000 to make the compensation workable. I think renting a nearby apartment would be the best option.”

Give a Salary Range

If you notice, we didn’t give a sample response that specifically indicated a salary but instead presented a range for the Hiring Manager to consider.

The reason for presenting a range is that this question opens the salary negotiation process. Professionals in the HR industry are aware that not all job candidates will accept the stated salary right off the bat.

However, they still went through the application process because they are interested in the job and are desirous of negotiating a salary that best fits their experience and qualification.

By giving a salary range, the Hiring Manager has elbow room to arrive at a price both parties can agree on.

Here’s another example of a response that gives a salary range:

“I expect to receive a salary that ranges between US$65,000 and US$75,000. Not only does my current level of experience and summary of qualifications meet the job description stated in the job ad but the range falls within the average paid by the industry. If your company sees my fit within your organization, a salary that falls within the range would cover the incidental expenses I would incur by accepting the position.”

Give a range that is slightly higher than the industry average. Otherwise, the company might offer a salary that’s at the lower end of the range. Just make sure that the range you propose is realistic and within acceptable limits.

Temporarily Deflect the Question

If the Hiring Manager asks you about salary expectations at the start of the interview or before you can get more information on the true nature of the available job, temporarily deflect the question.

“Before I inform you of the salary that I expect to get paid for accepting the position, I think it would be best to learn more about the job. I would like to learn more about the scope of the work, the summary of duties and responsibilities, and most importantly, your company’s expectations so I can have a better perspective of the amount of salary I hope to receive.”

Keep an Open Mind

A Hiring Manager might not ask you “What are your salary expectations?” outright. It’s possible that the person interviewing you for the job will move towards convincing you to accept the stated salary as is and discuss other benefits of the position.

For example:

“Our company is prepared to offer you an annual salary of US$60,000. I understand there’s a possibility this figure is below what you’re expecting. However, I wish to inform you that we offer benefits that other companies won’t. These benefits include 14th month pay, health insurance plus a health card, and 5 days extra paid leaves. In addition, there’s an option for availing of a work-from-home arrangement in your second year provided your first year performance meets our standards. With this compensation package in mind, would you be interested in working for us?”

A good response to this question would be:

“I note with interest your offer of US$60,000 per year and I am impressed with the generous benefits that come with the salary. While your offer falls at the lower range of the US$60,000 to US$70,000 industry average, your overall compensation package makes it quite attractive. Yes, I am interested in working for your company with these financial considerations in mind. I can assure you that my performance will merit any adjustment should it be considered in the future.”


The most important thing to keep in mind when invited for a job interview is to be prepared. On average, 250 job seekers apply for every open position in the market. An invitation to a job interview means you’re one of the few who impressed the recruitment team.

Keep the momentum going and improve your chances of getting hired by preparing well for the job interview.

Conduct research about the industry and the company you applied to. Make a list of possible interview questions and write down your responses. Practice your answers until they flow out naturally.

You won’t get tongue-tied or end up second-guessing your salary expectations if you can back up your answer with facts and figures.

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