What to Say in an Interview When Asked about Salary

This post may contain affiliate links, which means I’ll receive a commission if you purchase through my links, at no extra cost to you.  Please read full disclosure for more information.

“What are your salary expectations?” 

This is one question that makes most interviewees squirm in their seats. In fact, different studies have shown that this question often tips the scales even for the most experienced and qualified candidates. You don’t have to be one of them!

It’s no secret that talking about money is uncomfortable for most of us. But, if you’re able to talk confidently and clearly about your salary expectations in an interview, it can help you negotiate better terms when and if it comes time to accept a job offer.

Career coaches will often tell their clients to “just be honest” when answering this question in an interview. But, the problem is, most people are not sure what “being honest” really looks like. Most people also don’t know how to answer this question without sounding either desperate or greedy. 

A recent study by Harvard business school found that 78% of job seekers don’t know how to respond when asked this question, and most of them end up shooting themselves in the foot.

So, what should you say? How can you be honest about your salary expectations without jeopardizing your chances of getting the job? Continue reading!

Why Do Employers Ask You What Your Salary Expectations Are

Before exploring different ways of navigating this tricky question in an interview, it is important to understand why employers ask it in the first place. After all, if the employer is interested in you, shouldn’t they just make you an offer without asking what your salary requirements are? 

Employers ask about your salary expectations for a number of reasons. They include: 

To see if your expectations match their budget

If you request a salary that’s well above what the employer can afford to pay, they may automatically rule you out as being out of their price range. In 2019 A survey by a career website found that 70% of employers are reluctant to hire candidates with higher salary expectations than they can afford.

To compare your expected salary with other candidates

If you’re competing against other candidates for the same role, the employer may use your answer to this question to help them decide who to hire. 

To see how you value yourself

While this isn’t always the case, employers may be looking to see how confident you are in your skills and experience. Your answer to this question can give them some insight into how you view yourself and whether or not you understand your worth in the marketplace.

For example, if you lowball your salary expectations, the employer may wonder if you have a realistic view of your worth and abilities.

To gauge your negotiating skills

Some employers see this question as an opportunity to test your negotiation skills.

They may already have a salary in mind that they’re willing to pay but want to see if you’ll try to negotiate for more. Most coaching experts agree that you should always be willing to negotiate a better salary when offered a job, even if the initial offer is competitive.

Regardless of their reasons for asking you about your salary expectations, it’s important to be prepared with a response that balances honesty and confidence.

What Should I Say When Asked About Salary Expectations? (With Examples)

For starters, there is no one definitive answer to this question, as it will depend on a variety of factors, including your level of experience, the role and company you’re interviewing for, and your current financial situation. 

That being said, when a hiring manager asks you about your salary expectations, it’s important to approach the question with confidence and clarity. Here are a few suggestions you can use when answering these questions. 

1. Give A Salary Range   

This is a great option if you don’t have an exact figure. 

Statistics show that employees who provide a salary range are more likely to be happy with their final offer than those who give a specific number. Keep in mind that most employers will go for the low end of the range, so be sure to set your range high enough to still receive a fair offer. 

For example:  “I am looking for a salary in the range of $80,000 to $120,000 per year.” 

2. Be Willing To Negotiate 

As mentioned earlier, most coaching experts agree that you should always be willing to negotiate a better salary when offered a job, even if the initial offer is competitive. 

When asked about your salary expectations, it’s important to convey that you’re flexible and open to negotiating a fair compensation package that aligns with your skills and experience. 

For example: “While I’m confident that my skills are worth a salary in the range of $80,000 to $120,000 per year, I am open to negotiating a final offer that’s fair and meets both our needs.”  

3. Try To Avoid The Question Cleverly

If this question comes up early in an interview, you should try and deflect the questions for a later time. This way, you can do your research and better understand what the role is worth. Plus, it will give the employer some insight into your negotiating skills. 

For example: ” before answering that question, I would first like to get a better understanding of the role, company, and team I’d be working with.”

Things to keep in mind while answering this question

  • Be calm and confident:  Answering this question can be tricky, but it’s important to remember to stay calm. If you come across as nervous or unsure of yourself, it may give the employer the impression that you’re not as qualified as you claim to be. 
  • Transparency and Honesty: It’s important to remember that you should always strive for transparency when answering questions during an interview. Avoid giving a made-up number or estimate, as this could come back to bite you later on. 
  • Start on the higher side:  While you don’t want to inflate your salary expectations, starting on the higher end of your range is usually good. As a general rule, most employers will start you off at a lower salary and then allow you to negotiate up from there. So you are better off starting high and then coming down rather than starting low and trying to negotiate up. 
  • Explain how you came up with that figure:  although it’s not necessary, it won’t cost you anything to explain how you arrived at the salary number you gave. This will show that you’re thoughtful and considered in your approach, which is always a good quality to display during an interview.

Example Scripts Of What To Say When Asked About Salary In An Interview

To further give you more content to work with, here are a few more example scripts of what you could say if asked about salary in an interview: 

Example one:

“I am looking for a fair market value salary. Based on my expertise and experience, I believe that a salary of $50,000 would fall within this range. However, I am open to discussing a range that is more in line with what the company has in mind.” 

Example two:

” Let me begin by saying how grateful I am for the opportunity to discuss this role further. I am confident that my skills and experience would make me a great fit for the position, and I believe that a salary range between  $90,000 and $120,000 per year is fair. Is this something that the company is willing to consider?” 

Example Three:

“Even though I am flexible, I do have a salary range in mind that I believe is fair. I am looking for a salary of between $70,000 and $85,000 per year. The reason is, I believe this is a fair reflection of my skills, experience, and the value I can bring to the company. And my rich experience in this field will help me excel in this role.” 

Example Four: 

“My salary expectation is something in the line of $60,000- $70,000 per year. I came to this number based on several factors, including my knowledge and skills and the market rate for similar positions. I am also open to negotiating a fair compensation package that is in line with what the company can offer.”

How To Prepare For Interview Questions About Salary

There are several steps you can take to prepare for interview questions about salary. Let’s look at a few key tips: 

1. Figure Out A Salary Target You’re Comfortable With

Before even stepping into an interview, it’s important that you have a salary target in mind. This will help you stay focused and avoid getting caught off guard by questions about salary. 

To come up with this target, start by researching the average salary for your position and location. You can use sites like Glassdoor or Payscale to get a good idea of the market rate for your position. You can also ask around to get an idea of what others in your field are earning. 

2. Make A Case For Why That Salary Is Appropriate 

Once you have a salary target in mind, make sure you can back it up with a compelling case for why that figure is appropriate. Show the interviewer that you are not guessing and that you have put thought into what you believe is a fair salary. 

Back your salary targets up by highlighting your relevant skills and experience, as well as the market rate for your position. You can also show how you are a good fit for the company and how you can add value. 

A good way to do this is by answering the below questions:

  • How do your skills, experience, and qualifications compare to other candidates in the field? 
  • What can you bring to the table that will help exceed expectations and justify your asking salary? 

A study by Paysa showed that the most important factor in negotiating salary is demonstrating how you will be a valuable asset to the company.

3. Practice How You Will Respond To Certain Questions

Being well prepared for interview questions about salary is key to getting the compensation you want. So, it’s important to practice your responses as well. Think through different scenarios and how you would respond. 

Sample scenarios that  might come up include:

  • What if the interviewer asks you for your current salary? 
  • What if they say the company has a strict budget? 
  • What if they offer you a lower salary than what you were hoping for? 
  • What are some key points you want to make about your salary target? 

By practicing and anticipating different questions, you will be better prepared to handle them in actual interviews. Plus, it will help you stay confident during the interview, which is important in negotiating a favorable salary.

4. Practice How You Will Negotiate 

If the interviewer does offer you a lower salary than what you were hoping for, don’t be afraid to negotiate and sell yourself.

Many people are afraid to negotiate out of fear of losing the offer, but the reality is that most employers expect you to negotiate. In fact, studies show that, on average, people who negotiate their salary get higher compensation than those who do not.

To prepare for negotiations, think through the key points you want to make. You should have data and research ready to help back up your position. You should also come prepared with a counteroffer in mind if necessary. 

Finally, ensure you stay calm and confident during the negotiation process, and don’t be afraid to advocate for yourself. 

What Not To Say When Asked About Salary Expectations In An Interview

While this is an important question to be prepared for, there are certain things you should avoid saying when asked about salary expectations. These include:

Don’t overprice yourself

If you ask for a significantly higher salary than the market rate, you will risk losing out on the offer. There is no logic in asking for $50,000 while the market value is $18,000

Don’t give an exact number without doing research first

It’s important to have a salary target in mind, but avoid giving a specific number without researching the fair market value. 

Don’t be desperate

Saying you will take whatever you can give me or that you are really desperate for the job is not a good negotiating tactic and will only weaken your position. 

Don’t be negative

If you are offered a relatively low amount, don’t criticize the offer. Instead, stay positive and present your case for a higher salary constructively.

For more tips, check out: 11 Things You Should Not Say in a Job Interview

How Do You Talk About Your Current Salary In An Interview?

In some cases, the hiring manager will ask you about your current salary. When this happens, you should be prepared to give a ballpark estimate that is within the market range. Career experts advise against being too specific because this can allow the employer to lowball you.

Some job seekers try to avoid the question by saying that they are currently earning “X” but are looking for a new opportunity that pays “Y.”  While this can be effective, it’s important to be tactful when you answer this question.

When discussing your current salary, it’s important to remain focused on your qualifications, accomplishments, and strengths. Remember, the goal is to convince the employer that you are worth more than what you are currently earning.

Don’t Fret When An Interviewer Asks You About Salary Expectations!

When an interviewer asks about your salary expectations, it is important to be prepared. Have a strategy in place and be ready to negotiate in order to get the salary that you deserve. 

So don’t let the question about salary expectations trip you up in an interview, and be sure to practice how you will answer it ahead of time. Don’t worry. You’ve got this!