Request a demo
Back to Blog

Know what you want. How to answer questions about salary expectations

October 19, 2022 - 13 min read

young-woman-shaking-hands-with-employer-how-to-answer-salary-expectations

Jump to section

Why ask about money?

Do your own research

3 strategies to answer “What are your salary expectations?”

Honesty is the cornerstone of all negotiations

Earning your keep

Money shouldn’t be the only reason you want a job, but who are we kidding? Salary is probably one of your top reasons for saying “yes” to a job offer. 

Of course, there’s more to a job than the paycheck. Maybe you want to make an impact on society, learn new skills, or become the best in your field. And through the interview process, you’ll have a chance to discuss your intrinsic motivators.

But, eventually, you’ll have to address the money question: “What are your salary expectations?” 

In a perfect world, the employer will include the salary range in the job description for an open role. But in 2022, only 12% of job postings included a range. That means, in most cases, it’s up to you to do your own research.

Laying out your salary expectations can be intimidating. Ask for too much, and you risk appearing arrogant or losing the offer. Too little, and you risk selling yourself short. 

To help you prepare for your next interview, here’s our guide on how to answer salary expectations.

 

Why ask about money?

Hiring managers are looking for four things when they ask the salary expectation question:

  • How you fit into the budget. Hiring managers want to know if your salary expectations align with what they’ve planned for the role. If multiple job candidates set higher expectations than what’s been allotted, the company can increase its budget to meet the market value. 
  • Your sense of self-worth. When you name your expected salary, you’re naming the value of your skills, experience, and education. Employers want to make sure you know your worth. This shows you understand the role, your contribution, and the value you’ll bring to the company.
  • Your professional level. The applicants with the highest value are those with the most experience. Employers want to know that you can hit the ground running in a new job. When you name a number, you tell them how capable you are from day one.
  • That you did your homework. Knowing your worth shows interviewers you did your research. You looked into the value of the work, what’s required to do well, and what other professionals in similar positions earn.

The tricky side of the salary question

The best answer for salary expectation in an interview won’t sell yourself short or overvalue your skillset. When you name a price that’s too low, you risk: 

  • Appearing unconfident in your ability to do the job
  • Communicating that you don’t understand your own skillset
  • Accepting a lower salary when you could have earned more

On the other hand, name a price that’s too high, and you risk:

  • Appearing overconfident or arrogant
  • Scaring off your employer because they can’t afford you

Discussing salary requirements involves striking a balance between two extremes. Thankfully, with careful planning and research, you can set yourself up for a successful discussion.

improve influence - coaching for individuals

Do your own research

When naming your salary expectations range, preparation is key. 

Do as much research as possible about the job market you’re operating in. Knowing the average salary for similar roles will help you set realistic compensation expectations. 

Begin your investigation by looking up your job title by name and years of experience on websites like Salary.com, Payscale.com, Glassdoor, or the Department of Labor.

Remember to filter your results by region — the cost of living in Lincoln, Nebraska, will be very different from Los Angeles, California. That will greatly affect salary expectations. This preliminary research will give you an idea of what to expect as a starting salary.

It’s also good practice to network with other professionals — whether through LinkedIn or another platform — who hold similar positions to the one you’re applying for. Ask them (politely) about their income. They can give you an idea of what’s a fair salary and offer career advice.

Don’t know how to price your skills? An outside perspective can help. At BetterUp, our career coaches can prepare you for your next salary negotiations. Together, we’ll help you earn what you’re worth — because you deserve it.

Young-business-woman-taking-notes-in-front-of-laptop-how-to-answer-salary-expectations

3 strategies to answer “What are your salary expectations?”

Successful interviews are built on preparation. You won’t know exactly what an interviewer will ask — you could encounter any number of creative interview questions. But, at the very least, you can expect salary expectations to come up somewhere near the end of the interview.

Here are some strategies to craft the perfect answer.

1. Delay answering

It’s easy to forget this is an option. You might want to wait until you have a job offer in hand before pitching a salary. This can give you extra leverage when negotiating.

Plus, you’re still learning about the scope of the position and company benefits. These things factor into your salary expectations. It’s normal to want to delay your answer until you have a more fulsome view of what’s in the offer.

The downside to this approach is that you’re dodging the question. Interviewers use the salary question to get to know you. By delaying your answer, you’re forgoing an opportunity to share more about yourself.

Male-interviewing-a-woman-and-taking-notes-how-to-answer-salary-expectations

If you choose to go this route, tell your interviewer that a well-rounded offer, with benefits and perks, is more important to you than a single salary number. You’d rather share your desired salary after learning more about the role.

Here’s a sample answer using this method:

“Honestly, finding the right position is more important to me than salary. Before working with you to find a number, I’d love to meet the team, learn more about the job, and see the benefits package. Then I would be happy to sit down with you to work something out.”

2. Give a salary range

If you choose to answer the interview question directly, you can avoid pigeon-holing yourself by giving a salary range. 

Providing a compensation range shows you’re willing to collaborate with the company to find a balance that works for everyone. This strategy also communicates what you think you’re worth. And, by refusing to commit to a specific number, you leave yourself some wiggle room during negotiations.

But once you propose a range, it’s difficult to ask for something outside of it when the manager provides a job offer.

When using this method, set your salary goal at the lower end of your proposed range. If you’re aiming for $70,000, tell your recruiter you want between $68,000 and $78,000. This gives the manager some leeway while pushing them toward the salary you want.

Here’s how to verbalize this answer:

“Based on my experience level and education, which I think would be really valuable to your team, I’m looking for somewhere between $68,000 and $78,000 per year. Of course, benefits really matter, too. Your dental insurance and on-site gym make it easier for me to be flexible.”

3. Turn the table

A third option is to flip the question on them: ask what they’re looking to pay. 

Once they answer, you’ll have to decide whether it works for you. This means you still have to do your research. But you can tailor your response to the budget the company has. 

If you choose this path, you’ll have to plan for an answer that’s lower than you were hoping for. Thankfully, you can feel free to politely suggest a higher range.

Afroamerican-male-speaking-in-a-meeting-how-to-answer-salary-expectations

Let’s say a job is offering $60,000, which is below what you’re hoping to make. You can respond with:

“Thank you for answering. I was hoping for something a bit higher, in the $65,000 to $70,000 range. But I’m open to negotiating later based on the entire salary and quality of the compensation package.”

Alternatively, if their salary range is significantly below your expectation, consider this example answer:

“Considering my current salary and experience, I was hoping for something closer to $80,000 per year. Is your budget for the role flexible?”

Honesty is the cornerstone of all negotiations

If you receive a job offer, remember to be honest, genuine, and open to negotiation

Your potential employer proposing a figure doesn’t mean you have to accept it right away. As long as you’re kind and civil, you’ll be able to find common ground. If not, you can politely decline the offer and continue your job search.

Business-mensit-talking-how-to-answer-salary-expectations

Earning your keep

In the U.S., we have a cultural allergy to talking about money. But that goes out the window once you enter a job interview.

For the uninitiated, learning how to answer salary expectations can be scary. You don’t want to blow your chances at a great job or earn less than you’re worth. But, if you learn how to negotiate correctly, you can navigate this stage of the hiring process with grace. Together with your employer, you’ll find a balance that meets both of your needs.

Be polite. Be composed. And, most of all, don’t sell yourself short.

New call-to-action

Published October 19, 2022

Shonna Waters, PhD

Vice President of Alliance Solutions

Read Next

Professional Development
16 min read | April 18, 2022

Career advice: 24 tips for each stage of your career

From changing careers to working toward a promotion, careers are hard to navigate. Here’s some of the best career advice for each stage of your career. Read More
Professional Development
14 min read | June 21, 2022

Asking for a salary range: How to start the conversation

Asking for a salary range can feel awkward. Here are 5 tips to politely ask and share your salary requirements (without feeling squeamish). Read More
Professional Development
15 min read | October 11, 2022

What are the best ways to answer “Why do you want this job?”

“Why do you want this job?” Here’s everything you need to know about this tricky interview question. Read More
Professional Development
14 min read | September 30, 2022

How to perfect your “Why should we hire you?” answer

Your “Why should we hire you” answer can make or break an interview. Here’s how to knock it out of the park. Read More
Professional Development
13 min read | October 6, 2022

Phone screen interviews: what to do before, during, and after

Learn what a phone screen interview is and why hiring managers do them. Plus learn what to do before, during, and after your call to make a great impression. Read More
Professional Development
15 min read | October 7, 2022

Learn how to be ambitious: 5 tips to focus on the goals that matter

Success may be however you define it, but learning how to be ambitious is key to reaching it. Here’s what you need to know. Read More
Professional Development
13 min read | August 28, 2022

Break the ice and nail the “Tell us about yourself” interview question

What’s the secret to answering “Tell us about yourself?” Here’s what you need to know to succeed in an interview. Read More
Professional Development
13 min read | October 17, 2022

Weak ties vs strong ties: Why they both matter

Is your professional network too big? Probably not. Here’s why weak ties and strong ties play equally important roles in your life and career. Read More
Professional Development
14 min read | October 21, 2022

Getting passed over for a promotion is tough. Here's how to handle it

It’s hard to know what to do if you don’t get a promotion. Here’s how you can overcome a setback and find future success. Read More

Stay connected with BetterUp

Get our newsletter, event invites, plus product insights and research.