How to Answer Salary Expectations in an Interview

September 30, 2021

One of the most dreaded questions a job applicant has to face during an interview is "What is your expected salary?" Regardless of whether you excelled during the initial part of the interview or how much rapport you've established, being placed in the salary question spotlight may leave you speechless. You don't want to undervalue yourself, and you also don't want to value yourself too highly, prompting the interviewer to cut the interview short and usher you out towards the door. 

Being asked about your salary expectations can be stressful. With careful research and planning, you can have a meaningful and productive salary conversation with your potential employer. 

Why do interviewers ask about your salary expectations?

There are several reasons why interviewers ask about your expected salary. For most employers, it is about finding an ideal match, both professionally and financially. Here are some other common reasons: 

  • Your potential employer wants to know if they can afford you. Most employers have a set budget. By asking you about your salary expectation, they want to ensure that your compensation range is within the financial limit they've created. It would also help them adjust their budget if they determined that several candidates expect a higher amount than what they've allocated.

  • Your potential employer wants to determine if you know your professional worth. Many job seekers fail to price themselves correctly because they don't know exactly how much their skill set is worth in their industry. It is important that you do your research to come up with a competitive figure that demonstrates your overall professional value. 

  • They don't want to waste their time and yours. Hiring an employee is a costly and time-consuming process. Most employers tend to be up front with the compensation amount to ensure that they are interviewing a strong candidate for the position. If a potential candidate gave them a higher range than the other applicants' average asking price, that candidate may be overqualified for the job. On the other hand, if an applicant asked for a lower amount in the price spectrum, it could indicate that the candidate is underqualified for the job.

Depending on your answer and how you conveyed it, your potential employer can now either start with the negotiation process or end the interview. Therefore, you must answer this question carefully to show them you have a high market value and would be an excellent match for their company. 

How to decide your expected salary


To help you provide an informed answer to your potential employer, it is essential that you are aware of your ideal salary. Never make the mistake of answering a salary-related question without doing your research first. Keep in mind that salary inquiries are always tricky since you need to give a data-driven figure that you are comfortable with. You can begin by asking professionals working in your prospective company how much they are making. By doing this, you can get a decent idea of how much the company is willing to pay you. 

Another option is to check the salary trends in your industry, including government sites, for the ongoing wages for your profession. You can also visit third-party platforms to calculate your average pay range. When researching for your ideal salary, make sure to factor in your tenureship, geographic location, the size of your future company, career level, educational background, skill set, and specializations that could set you apart from other job seekers. In addition, you also need to consider your current lifestyle and future goals. For instance, if you need to relocate for this job, make sure that you consider the daily costs in your place and relocation-related expenditures. All of this information can help you devise a sustainable salary projection so you can respond appropriately to compensation inquiries. 

How to answer your salary expectations 

There are several strategies you can use when answering questions about your salary expectations.

Approach one: Don't answer right away

Since you are still learning the details of the job position, it would be best if you answer the question later on. Delaying your answer is a great way to show your potential employer that you are not only interested in the monetary figure but also place high regard on the overall offer. Just make sure that you already have a well-thought-out amount, so you can confidently respond once the salary topic comes up during the latter part of the interview. 

Approach two: Provide a salary range

Another strategy is to give a salary range. Responding with a specific amount can make you look inflexible, lessening your chances of being considered as a strong candidate. By providing a salary range, you are showing your potential employer your willingness to collaborate with them. Keep in mind that your interviewer is not only focused on your qualifications. They also want to ensure that you are someone that the employer wants to work with. When providing a price range, make sure that the lower amount of your range is within the middle price point. For instance, if you want to make around $10,000 to $30,000, you can offer a range of $15,000 to $35,000. Doing this ensures that you can still be comfortable with the amount, should they negotiate a much lower figure. 

Approach three: Return the question

To make you look more flexible during the interview, you can turn the question around and ask what the employer is prepared to pay. When responding using this strategy, you must deliver it as politely and professionally as you can. Make sure that you focus on the opportunity and not on the expected paycheck. In this way, your future employer will see that you prioritize your professional growth over your monetary goals. One advantage of using this strategy is that you can gauge if the figure they are willing to offer is within your target range. Since you already did your research, you can respond appropriately regardless of whether the amount is higher or lower than expected. 

Examples of salary expectations answers


It is essential that you customize every thank you letter that you send. Your note won’t resonate well if it’s written generically. Don’t forget to personalize the subject line and make sure that you send your email within 24 hours after the interview. Timing is crucial when sending out these thank you emails. You don’t want to send them too soon, as your interviewer might think you drafted it before the interview took place. On the other hand, waiting too long to send them might give your interviewer the impression that you are not interested in the position and their company. To give you a better idea of how you can answer salary expectations questions, here are a few examples:

Example one:  You can use this if you opted to delay your response and wanted to understand better what the job entails. Make sure that you deliver your answer politely and professionally. 

"That's a great question. Before we talk about numbers, I would like to know more about the position, the company, and any job incentives included in the job offer. I am genuinely grateful for the chance to be considered as a candidate and would love to know more about the opportunities for growth in this type of profession."

Example two: By responding with this answer, you are demonstrating your flexibility and eagerness to work with the company so both parties can reach a favorable agreement. 

"Given the duties of this position, my [number] of years working as a [previous relevant work experience], and my level of expertise, I am looking for somewhere around $30,000 to $50,000 annually, but I am certainly open to collaborating with you for a more flexible figure that would be beneficial for everyone involved."

Example three: You can go with this response if you want to know what your potential employer is prepared to pay for the position you are applying for. 

"Thank you for asking. I would certainly love to know more about what the job entails, so I can provide you a reasonable answer, but may I ask what expected salary range are you considering for this role?"

If the interviewer gave you an amount within your ideal salary range, make sure that you show your appreciation and confirm that the amount is at par with your expectation. However, if they gave you an amount that is far below your expected range and it seems that there's no room for negotiation, you can respond by saying, "Thank you for your honesty, but unfortunately, taking into account my [number] years of experience and skill set, I don't know if I'll be comfortable working with the amount you've provided. Would you know if the budget for this role can be reconsidered?"

Top tips to effectively communicate salary expectations

Discussing money matters can be uncomfortable to any job applicant, especially if this is your first job interview. To help you overcome any feeling of awkwardness, here are a few tips that might prove helpful:

  • Answer with confidence
  • Think highly of yourself
  • Be flexible but realistic
  • Emphasize your qualifications
  • Stick to numbers that you are comfortable with
  • Be prepared to explain your reasoning
  • Use positive scripting
  • Always be open to negotiation


If an interviewer asks for your salary expectation, it is vital that you have a well-calculated and honest answer ready for them. Make sure you know your professional value so you can convince your potential employer that you're worthy of their investment. 

If you are a job seeker looking for a professional growth opportunity in the fields of human resources, information technology,  federal, and healthcare, feel free to contact us today to learn more!