Interviews are never easy. You can spend hours preparing and still, there will be something that makes you nervous a few minutes before showing up or a question you did not expect that will come up in the first minutes. I’ve been interviewing people for years now and there are definitely multiple ways to make people comfortable in an interview but not every company and interviewer worries about that, unfortunately!

There is a question that is even more tricky than others: your salary expectations! In today’s article we are going to see how to deal with this one and what you can come up to make sure you don’t negotiate against yourself and at the same time, you give the interviewer a solid answer. Salary expectation questions are more important than what you think because, depending on the company, you will find situations where they try to take advantage of your answers, or they simply look at you in a different light just because of your replies. I am not a big fan of these questions but the reality is that they very common and something that companies love to ask.

Get prepared, research information about the company and their salaries

To answer this question effectively, ensure you have a clear understanding of the job requirements and expectations. If the salary range for the position is not in the job description, I would start looking at Glassdoor and similar websites to understand the potential ranges inside that org for your role. This is something easy to do but sometimes it’s difficult to find information for smaller companies or companies that are not based in the US. 

You should also consider reading other reviews and see if people mention anything about salaries. If salaries are low or tend to be on the low end of the market, you will see that mentioned in some interview feedback or reviews. A Google search for “COMPANY salaries” might also give you more to read: if it’s a large org there will be multiple people commenting on social networks or even writing articles about their experience in that organization.

Glassdoor salaries to understand salary levels inside the most important organizations worldwide

Practical Approach to Answer Salary Expectation Questions

Once you are finally interviewing, these are a few ways to manage the question about your desired salary. You will need to understand the best strategy based on the situation and how the conversation evolves, but these three options should be enough:

  1. Answer with a question: Consider asking the interviewer about the salary range for the role. If their response is lower than your  expectation, request some additional time to research and evaluate if the range aligns with your needs. If the range matches or exceeds your compensation expectations, express your enthusiasm. However, if the response is lower, prepare a thoughtful response and plan how to communicate it effectively.
  2. Delay: If you’re not ready to provide an immediate answer, you can express that while desired salary is important, the opportunity to learn and join the organization holds greater significance for you. You can mention that you will share your salary expectation at a later stage. However, be cautious with this approach to ensure you don’t undervalue yourself. It can be tempting to accept any salary offered when you’re in need of the job, so carefully consider the potential consequences of choosing this strategy. 
  3. Provide a salary range: Show them that you’ve done your research and provide a good range of salary. Offering a range rather than a specific number showcases your flexibility in working with the company and leaves room for negotiation once an offer is made. When providing the range, ensure that the lower end aligns with the mid-to-high point of your desired salary. For instance, if you’re aiming for $75,000 to $95,000 and suspect the company’s budget is around $70,000 to $90,000, you could propose a range of $80,000 to $90,000. This way, if they negotiate below your range, you’re still comfortable with the outcome.

Always remember that you bring valuable contributions to any company you work for. Recognizing and expressing the value of your salary will ultimately help you secure the compensation you deserve and feel satisfied with. While it’s important to avoid overconfidence in negotiations, it’s equally crucial not to underestimate your own value. 

My experience with salary expectation questions

The best people I’ve interviewed were 100% prepared for this, they have done tons of research of our company and were the first ones to ask what would have been the salary range for the position. When we asked them their compensation expectations we usually had two type of answers:

  • Throwing big numbers without much of an explanation: we simply had people giving us huge numbers and not adding ton of explanations of why they were expecting that. Companies are not stupid and if you give them a high number, they expect some sort of explanation of why you think you should make that salary. In all these cases I think we simply walked away with questions on the potential fit of that person in the team. Sometimes we also immediately addressed the issue explaining that we couldn’t consider that level of salary.
  • Provide clear explanations and ranges: from time to time we interviewed people that were clearly out of our range of salary. Still, the best people were able to explain why they had higher expectations: in some cases it was simply due to their skills and experience, in some other cases they explained why they couldn’t make less than that because they had a bigger family, specific personal commitments or other things. This is still the best way to address this concern: if you are clearly expecting a range that is not considered for that position, be honest about why you need it or would like that.

It was not usual, but we definitely ended up hiring people that had bigger expectations simply because we recognized they had a more senior profile and everyone in the interview process was a strong yes for us.

To give you a more practical approach in answering questions about your salary expectation, check these samples!

Examples of response when in personal conversation:

Sample #1: “I’m open to discussing the salary as I have a flexible range. Naturally, I’d like to be compensated fairly. However, I think it would be beneficial to know more about the specifics of the position first. I would like to know more about the responsibilities then we can have a more detailed conversation about the numbers that would work for both of us.”

Sample #2: “I’m open to discussing what you believe to be a fair salary for the position. However, based on my previous salary, my knowledge of the industry, and my understanding of this role, I’d expect a salary in the general range of $X to $Y. I believe this range is fair with the market standards and my qualifications. Nevertheless, I’m flexible and open to discussing these numbers with you. It’s important to me that we meet half-way that recognizes my experience and contributions to the role.”

Examples of response through email:

Sample #1: 

Dear [Interviewer’s Name],

I hope this email finds you well. I wanted to address your inquiry regarding salary expectations for the [Position] we discussed during our recent interview.

I want to express my flexibility when it comes to the salary range. It is important to me that I am fairly compensated, however, I believe it would be more productive to look into the specific details of the position before discussing precise numbers. Once we have established this foundation, I am confident we can reach an agreement that aligns with the value I can bring to the position.

I appreciate your understanding and look forward to continuing the conversation about the [Position]. If you require any additional information or have further questions, please let me know.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Sincerely, [Your Name]

Sample #2:

Dear [Interviewer’s Name],

I hope this email finds you well. I wanted to address the question regarding salary expectations for the [Position] that we discussed during our interview.

First and foremost, I want to express my openness to discussing what you consider to be a fair salary for the position. I would expect a salary in the general range of $X to $Y. Based on my research, this range appears to align with market standards and recognizes the value I can bring to the role given my qualifications. However, I want to emphasize that I am flexible and more than willing to have an open conversation about these numbers. My ultimate aim is to arrive at a mutually beneficial agreement that acknowledges my experience and the contributions I can make to the role.

I genuinely appreciate your consideration of my perspective in this matter. If there are any additional details or factors that you believe would be helpful for me to provide, please do not hesitate to let me know. I am here to assist in any way I can to facilitate the decision-making process.

Once again, I want to express my gratitude for your time and consideration. I look forward to our further discussions as we move forward in the hiring process. 

Thank you, and have a wonderful day.

Sincerely, [Your Name]

Examples of response when talking through phone

Sample #1: 

Candidate: Hello, [Interviewer’s Name]. Thank you for taking the time to speak with me today. I wanted to address the question about salary expectations for the [Position] we discussed.

Interviewer: Sure, go ahead.

Candidate: Well, I have some flexibility when it comes to salary. However, I believe it would be more effective to have a detailed conversation about the position itself before discussing specific numbers.

Interviewer: I understand. Could you provide a rough range?

Candidate: I don’t have an exact figure in mind just yet, but can you kindly discuss the expectations and the specific responsibilities of the role? After such, I would like to request an ample time to do my research so I can provide numbers that can hopefully work for both of us.


Sample #2: 

Candidate: Hello, [Interviewer’s Name]. I hope you’re doing well. I wanted to discuss the topic of salary expectations for the [Position] we talked about during our interview.

Interviewer: Of course, go ahead.

Candidate: I want to begin by saying that I’m open to discussing what you believe would be a fair salary for the position. I would expect a salary in the general range of $X to $Y. I believe that this range aligns with market standards and recognizes the value I can bring to the role. But, I want to emphasize that I’m flexible and willing to have a conversation about these numbers. We can definitely meet at the range that will work for us.

Interviewer: Thank you for sharing your expectations. We appreciate your flexibility and understanding. We will take this into consideration as we evaluate the overall compensation package. We’ll discuss this further as we progress in the hiring process.

Candidate: Thank you for your consideration. I’m excited about the opportunity! I can provide more details if you need more information from me.

If you search online you will find a lot more examples. My suggestion is to personalize them as much as you can and, most importantly, be yourself as you answer them: in the end you should accept something you are comfortable with and starting with a salary you are not 100% convinced of will not make things better.

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