How to answer “What are your salary expectations?”

By Robert Half on 1st February 2017

It’s the most dreaded question in any job interview: What are your salary expectations? Unfortunately, before accepting a job offer, it can't be avoided, especially when some online application systems make answering the question a requirement.

How do you answer salary expectations? It's good to know that the expected salary question is one you can easily prepare for and by doing so, you'll come across as flexible and knowledgeable in your answer to what your salary expectations are. Follow these five tips the next time you’re asked "What are your salary expectations?"

1. Do your research

To answer the crucial question, you need to know how valuable your skills are in today’s hiring market. So take a look at the job market to see how it's performing, how saturated it is and where there’s demand. If your area of focus is inundated with similar professionals, you may want to skew your salary expectations lower. 

Your assessment should also consider where a company is located, how many employees it has, and whether it is privately or publicly owned. Consult industry publications, such as the Robert Half Salary Guide for a benchmark of starting salaries in the market.

2. Be confident

If the question “What are your salary expectations?” pops up in a face-to-face interview, don’t be evasive. It’s always better to put off a salary discussion until you’re well into the interview, after you’ve had the opportunity to explain what you can bring to the table and learn a little more about what’s expected of the job you’re interviewing for. But if the interviewer insists, then give the salary range you’re comfortable with, based on what you discovered during your research.

3. Look at the bigger picture

When you work for a company, you’re not just receiving a salary. You’re also getting a full remuneration package that includes annual leave days and other benefits. If the salary is lower than you had hoped, you can ask for more benefits, from flexible working to a sign on bonus. Once you’ve learned the possibilities — and if the company is the right cultural fit for you personally — then you can decide whether these extras make up for the shortfall.

4. Know when to walk

If your answer to “What are your salary expectations?” causes your interviewer’s eyes to widen, maybe it’s not the right job for you. You should know from your research, based on market trends and demand for your skills as well as the experience you bring to the table, what you should be getting paid. When a company isn't willing or able to offer you adequate remuneration, it’s probably not one where you’ll be happy in the long run.  

The question “What are your salary expectations” can be tricky. If you go too high, you can take yourself out of the running. If you go too low, you may end up with a less-than-appealing offer. By preparing for this question ahead of time, you just might land the job of your dreams, with a salary to match.

Discover your expected salary

Another way to prepare for the salary expectation question in an interview is by researching the salary and benefits for your role in the current market. Access Robert Half Salary Guide for industry insights on your current role, or professional advice and salary guidance for a career change.

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