Everyone should be honest during a job interview, but it seems hard to do so when you are asked about salary expectations. It’s a tricky question and it’s important to prepare a good and professional answer, that won’t prevent you from earning what you expect/are supposed to. Let’s find out how to deal with it!

Why employers want to know your salary expectations

We all know that, it’s a tough and delicate question, and it can be a bit annoying or frustrating if not entirely understood. The fact that it usually pops up at the end of the interview is definitely no help.

It’s important that you understand why companies are asking you about your compensation expectations.

Employers usually tend to ask that question for many reasons:

  • Test your self-awareness: they want to understand how much you value your work. Do you feel like a strategic asset for the company or just an add-on?
  • Budget constraints: it may be that the company cannot afford you. Maybe they underestimated the role, or they were simply looking for someone more junior.
  • Check your negotiation skills: this can be very important in some fields, such as Sales.

Build bargaining power

Now that you have understood the reasons for this question, you need to know what to say when your interviewer will ask you “What are your salary expectations?”.

The most important thing to keep in mind is that hiring someone is not just a matter of money.

Imagine you’re entering a shop to buy -say- a new TV. Your budget is $200. You look around reading technical details, comparing features and evaluating dimensions. You know for sure, however, that the TV you’re willing to buy is not something that you want to change after few months. Therefore, you are super committed in finding the right product for you. Then you see THAT.

That TV is perfect, it would be perfect in your living room, is super high quality and has a lot of features that you wanted. Only problem, it’s $350 (discounted from $550). What you will do next involves a lot of variables, but I can assure you that you will seriously consider to override your initial price cap.

This is exactly the point: first of all, you need to become desirable. This is not something that you can achieve simply giving a charming answer to the salary question! You need to do a very good interview to show that you are definitely the best fit for the role.

If you succeed in that, they will love you and everything will be easier. Even talking about money.

How to answer salary expectations question?

That said, it’s easy to understand that you should avoid talking about money in the first stages of the hiring process. You want them to need you!

It may happen, however, that your interviewer introduces the topic quite soon. Sometimes you’re even asked to include this information when you apply for the new job. In this case you can give a range according to the market’s average.

In general, when you are directly asked the salary question keep in mind these things:

  1. Try not to answer during the first or second job interview; it can be bad for you and affect the rest of the conversation. Don’t let it label you and give a generic answer, like “At the moment I am more interested in the role, my tasks and responsibilities. I would like to understand if this is a good fit for my skills, rather than focus on a number. I am sure you will offer a competitive salary compared to what’s offering the market right now”. This way, they will understand that you do value your abilities and don’t want to sell yourself short. You won’t look desperate and they will probably offer you a good salary. You’ll also have more time to impress them and convince them you are the right candidate. 
  2. Do your research. Look up for average salaries for your profession and experience, so that you are prepared if you have to give a number. If that’s the case, don’t go too high or too low and include “according to my knowledge” so that your answer doesn’t sound like “this is what I want”. So when they will ask you “What are your salary expectations?”, you can say something like “From my researches and knowledge of the market, I believe that 50-70k per year is the medium salary for this role and years of experience”.
  3. Avoid comparison to your current or previous job. Hiring managers will offer you around 10-15% more than your actual salary in order to be appealing. However, it’s possible that you are underpaid or overpaid (and I think you are aware of it). If your current salary is low, they might think you don’t deserve any better. Therefore, I suggest to avoid answering directly to this question and go for something like “I would like to determine with you a fair salary for this position, since my current role is pretty different and I wouldn’t compare them”.

That said, I suggest you not to focus solely on the salary when considering a job offer. There are many other factors to keep in mind, such as bonuses, benefits, flexible working hours, etc. Remember that the “what are your salary expectations” question can cost you a job or a lot of money, make sure you know how to handle it. 

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