what are your salary expectations
Interview Q&A

What are your salary expectations?

February 22

A common practice is for the recruiter, hiring manager or human resources person to ask you:

“What are your salary expectations?”

If you are embarrassed to talk about the salary, don’t worry. Most of the people feel the same. Just keep in mind that you are going to commit into a business relationship and salary is a main aspect. No employer expects you to work for free and there is no reason to act like you don’t care about it.

This question can be asked at any stage of the interview. Generally is wise to postpone this question as long as possible. Discussing about numbers in the beginning, before being able to demonstrate your competencies and value might not be in your interest.

If it is asked in the beginning  – prescreening phase – the employer maybe wants to know if it worthing talking to you or, most often in startup cases, he doesn’t have any idea what the position should pay. In case you cannot escape and the negotiator insists on the topic, try to give a big range of salary considering the amount you would be happy to consider at the low end. This will give you room for negotiation later on. A possible answer could be:

“Salary is important for me, but not a major criteria when deciding for a new job opportunities. Learning opportunities, friendly environment are important for me as well and play a decisive role. I am sure that you have a budget allocated for this position, could you share the salary range with me?”

Another scenario might be that the recruiter or hiring manager tells about the budget allocated for this position meaning how much they plan to pay you.  This will serve you as an input for the later negotiation.  

If the question is asked near the end of the process, this can only indicate good things. It might be a good indication that the company is ready to start negotiating. It is very important to understand that most often the person who represents the talent acquisition or HR don’t know how to make a competitive offer. This is the moment when you could lead them and help them to do so. But in order to do it right, read about the preparation steps you will need to make when negotiating a job offer.

If the interviewer has no interest in hiring you in this point, he won’t bother to ask you this question.

Instead of answering a question about salary directly, ask what range the interviewer is prepared to offer.  Here are the possible answers, you need to be prepared in order to know how to react.

Scenario 1: If range is about what you expected, here are our tips on how to continue the discussion.

Scenario 2: The negotiator starts with a higher range than you have expected .
Again, stay cool – don’t act to act too excited. But this is great … you might want to push it a bit more or you’re happy with it anyway :)

Scenario 3: The negotiator does not answer your question but asks you instead on your expectation. This is can be a good or a bad sign as well. Maybe the person wants to negotiate or subject to some hardball negotiating skills. Respond with one number – remember the high end of your range. If you’re expecting between $50.000- $60.000 answer with ‘ I am expecting $60.000 a year’. This will leave less room for lowball. Try to avoid expressions like ‘I would expect … , I am hoping for …, I would really like …’ These are buzz words which have the effect of weakening your statements.
Again, the response could be that the negotiator accepts it, negotiates it further or stops the negotiation. If you remain calm and professional your final salary might fall within your expectations.

Scenario 4: In the last case, if the answer is that the salary is not in the current allocated budget for that position then try the strategy described in the article: Negotiate a job offer when the amount is less than expected.

Read more about … Tips on Negotiating Your Salary

Read more about … About accepting or declining a job offer

Go back and read more about other Interview Questions and Answers

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