How to Answer the Dreaded Salary Question

One of the trickiest questions you might face in a job interview is, “What salary are you expecting?” This question can be uncomfortable because discussing money is often sensitive, and your answer can significantly impact your chances of securing the job. Here are some strategies to handle this question effectively.

Put Off the Conversation

Try to delay the salary discussion until later in the interview process. This gives you more time to showcase your skills, experience, and the value you can bring to the employer. When asked about salary expectations early on, you might respond with, “I’m looking for a competitive package, but I’d like to learn more about the job requirements first.” Then, redirect the conversation back to the job or the company with a specific question about the role.

Turn the Question Around

In salary negotiations, the first person to mention a number usually sets the baseline for the discussion and might be at a disadvantage. If an employer asks, “What are your salary expectations?” try to turn the question around by asking, “I’m very interested in this role. Has a salary range been set for this position?”

This strategy aims to get the employer to reveal their budget first, giving you a better negotiating position. However, if this back-and-forth continues too long, it might frustrate the employer. Be ready to provide a salary range if they insist.

Do Your Homework

If the employer insists on knowing your salary expectations, be prepared to discuss them professionally and knowledgeably. Research is crucial. Look at other job postings for similar roles, use online salary sources like Payscale and, and consult industry associations. Professional recruiters can also provide valuable insights into market rates.

Quote a Range

When stating your salary expectations, it’s wiser to provide a range rather than a specific number. Ensure this range is reasonable and based on your research. Some candidates mistakenly believe there is ample room for negotiation and quote a range that is too high, which can quickly disqualify them from consideration.

Most employers have a budget in mind for the role, and while there might be some flexibility, it’s often within a 5%-10% range. By quoting a realistic range, you demonstrate that you understand the market value of the position and are open to negotiation.

For example, if your research suggests that the role typically pays between $60,000 and $70,000, you might state that your salary expectations are in the $65,000 to $75,000 range, depending on the overall compensation package and benefits.

Consider the Total Compensation Package

Remember that salary is just one component of the total compensation package. Benefits such as health insurance, retirement plans, bonuses, flexible work arrangements, and vacation can significantly add to the overall value of the offer. Be sure to consider these elements when discussing salary expectations. You might say, “I’m looking for a competitive salary in the range of $65,000 to $75,000, depending on the overall benefits package.”

Express Flexibility

Expressing flexibility can be beneficial. You could say, “While my ideal range is between $65,000 and $75,000, I am open to discussing this further based on the specifics of the role and the complete compensation package.” This shows that you are willing to negotiate and consider the overall offer rather than just the salary.

Final Point

Handling the salary expectation question effectively can set the tone for successful negotiations and increase your chances of landing the job. By delaying the conversation, turning the question around, doing thorough research, quoting a reasonable range, considering the total compensation package, and expressing flexibility, you demonstrate professionalism and a clear understanding of your market value. Remember, preparation and strategic thinking are key to navigating this challenging question with confidence.