How to Answer ‘What Are Your Salary Expectations?’

No matter how well the job interview goes, a question about your salary expectations can put you on the spot.

“What are you looking for in terms of salary?” is a simple question with a complex answer. It can be challenging to know what to say (and what not to say) to receive a job offer that benefits you and the company.

What the Interviewer Is Looking For

Why are interviewers interested in your salary expectations? Employers may ask this question to determine whether or not they can afford your assistance. They may also ask you this to determine how highly you regard yourself and your work.

You can show the employer that you’re not only flexible with your salary but also know what you’re worth by researching and preparing an answer ahead of time.

Why Are Salary Questions Difficult?

There are several ways to answer salary interview questions, and it’s important to figure out which one is best for you so you can go into your interview confidently.

Tip: While you should aim high, you should not aim so high that you fall outside the company’s salary range.

If your target compensation is too low, you give the employer leeway to go even lower, and you may end up unhappy due to a lack of proper balance.

It’s also challenging to decide on a salary before knowing what the job entails. This is common when you are asked to disclose a salary range requirement on an application before you have learned anything about the position in depth.

Salary is a complex subject, and while there is no correct answer, there is a way to prepare for the question and get what you want.

Using an Application to Determine Salary

Some paper and electronic applications ask for your salary expectations. One option is to disregard this question. However, if it is listed as a required question and you skip it, the employer may believe you cannot follow directions. Some online applications will not allow you to proceed to the next page until you have answered all the questions. In this case, consider the following options:

  • Based on your research, enter a salary range.
  • To demonstrate your adaptability, write a phrase like “negotiable.”
  • Avoid specifying a specific salary. This will give the impression that you are unwilling to budge.

Answering Salary Expectations Questions

To prepare a response, you should know how much someone in your industry and geographic area typically earns. This will enable you to establish a reasonable salary range for the position.

Utilize one of the numerous websites that provide salary averages and estimates. Salary data can be found on websites such as,,, and

Salaries should be comparable across the board, but variations may depend on location, experience level, or company size. If you have the time, you should look at more than one source.

Remember to limit your search to your area. Salary levels in Austin, Texas, may differ from those in New York City.

When asked about your salary expectations, a little research will help you come up with a reasonable salary range to suggest, but remember to trust your instincts. You don’t want to approach the hiring manager with a salary range that is either far too high or far too low.

Examples of Excellent Answers

Answer Example #1

My salary range is adaptable. Of course, I’d like to be fairly compensated for my decade of experience and award-winning sales record. However, once we’ve discussed the specifics of the position, I’m willing to discuss specific numbers.

Why It Works: This response benefits the candidate because it mentions that the applicant is well qualified for the job but is also flexible regarding salary requirements.

Answer Example #2

My salary requirements are flexible, but I do have extensive industry experience that I believe adds value to my candidacy. I look forward to going over my responsibilities at this company in greater detail. We can then determine a reasonable salary for the position.

Why It Works: Requesting more information before committing to a salary range is a good way to avoid bringing up compensation before the hiring manager. You could follow up with a question about what the company expects to offer the hired candidate.

Answer Example #3

I’d like to learn more about the specific duties of this position, which I hope to learn about during this interview. However, I know that positions similar to this one pay between $X and $Z in our region.

With my experience, skills, and certifications, I expect to be paid between $Y and $Z.

Why It Works: With this response, the applicant informs the employer that they know the pay scale for comparable positions. The answer also includes a range, which allows for more negotiation than stating a fixed salary requirement.

Tips for Giving the Best Answers

Say you’re adaptable. You can avoid the question by giving a broad response such as, “My salary expectations are in line with my experience and qualifications.” Or, “If this is the right job for me, I’m sure we can agree on a salary.” This will demonstrate your willingness to bargain.

Provide a selection. Most employers will want to hear specific numbers, even if you begin by emphasizing your adaptability. In this case, give them a range (plus or minus $10,000-$20,000). This allows you to be flexible while providing the employer with a clear answer. You can create this range based on research or your own industry experience.

Consider your current pay. In addition to researching salaries, you can create a salary range by using your current or previous salary as a starting point, especially if you’re making a lateral move in the same industry. Unless your previous employer was known in the industry for paying low wages, assume that your current salary is in line with market expectations. Of course, if you’re relocating, keep any changes in the cost of living in mind. Knowing what you’re worth in today’s job market is always a good idea.

Give yourself a raise. Consider what you would consider a fair raise from your current employer; this could be a good low-end starting point for the new job. Alternatively, increase your current salary by 15% to 20% to provide an incentive to switch companies while remaining within a reasonable range for your industry and level of experience.

Only provide figures that you are comfortable with. Only offer a range that will allow you to support yourself and your family.

Showcase your abilities. Your response can emphasize why you’re a good fit for the position. You could say, “Based on my ten years of experience in this field, I expect a salary in the range of $Y to $Z.” Before you mention any numbers, remind the interviewer why they should offer you a salary in the first place.

Prepare to bargain. Many candidates are hesitant to ask for more money because they fear it will cost them a job offer. However, you may be able to negotiate a higher starting salary. Hold off on asking until you have a suggestion to consider.

What Not to Say

Avoid giving a fixed amount. Negotiation will be easier if you delay mentioning a specific salary until the employer does.

Don’t overpay for a job. Don’t ask for a $100,000 salary if your research shows the job is only worth half that. You may be priced out of a job if you come in too high.

Don’t be negative. Even if the offer seems insultingly low, respond gracefully and ask if there is room to negotiate.

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Athina Iliadis is a Human Resources Professional with over 25 years’ experience in corporate environments working for companies such as Pearson, LexisNexis, Hershey, and Reckitt. In her current role as a consultant working with clients around the world, she coaches managers and employees on HR issues, supports leaders in their business, produces content about careers, interviews, and job opportunities. She is fluent in English, French and Greek, and she holds a BBA with a major in HR from Université du Québec à Montréal. Find her on LinkedIn and at

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