October 12, 2022    |    By

The interview process is an exchange of information between an employer and potential employee to determine if there is a good “fit” between the two. Unfortunately, one of the most commonly requested pieces of information – salary expectations – can often feel awkward to discuss.

Job candidates often find themselves in a difficult position when providing salary expectations. They don’t want to lowball themselves or ask for too much and risk pricing themselves out of a job. However, it’s a topic that candidates must discuss since it’s such an essential factor in the hiring decision.

The following guide is designed to help you prepare to discuss salary expectations during your job interview.

Why Do Interviewers Ask About Salary Expectations?

When filling a role within the company, employers look for the best possible candidates. To incentivise these candidates, they need to make competitive salary offers. Interviewers will know exactly what salary they can offer you coming into the interview.

They will base this salary on various factors, such as your skill level, experience, the need they’re filling, what they’re paying other employees, and more. However, there is usually some wiggle room, which is commonly why they will raise the topic of salary expectations during the interview.

The following are some of the specific reasons why an interviewer will ask you about your salary expectations before they discuss what they can offer you:

They Have A Budget To Adhere To

If the interviewer has a budget to adhere to, they will want to ensure that your expectations fall within the salary range they have budgeted for. If your salary expectations are too high, they may not be able to make you a reasonable offer.

If that is the case, the interviewer may discontinue the interview process so as to not want to waste your time or their own. After all, they don’t want to offer you a salary that is nowhere near what you are looking for.

They Are Curious If You Know Your Worth

Asking about your salary expectations can also be a way of gauging how well you know your worth. By asking about your expectations, the interviewer wants to see if you have a realistic understanding of your skills and experience and how this compares to others in the market.

If you have an inflated sense of your worth, it may be a red flag to the interviewer that you are egocentric or unreasonable. On the other hand, if you undervalue yourself, you may end up with a lower salary than what you could have otherwise been offered.

They Want To Evaluate If You Are Overqualified

Suppose the interviewer believes you are overqualified for the position. In that case, they may want to know your salary expectations before making an offer. Interviewers will likely be concerned that you will become bored or frustrated with the position and move on quickly, leaving them in the lurch.

Asking about your salary expectations up front allows them to gauge if you’re truly interested in the position or if you’re just looking for a temporary position until something better comes along.

Avoid Getting Caught Off-Guard When Discussing Salary Expectations

It would be easier for job candidates if the interviewer revealed what kind of salary they could offer you right off the bat. But instead, it’s likely interviewers will ask about your salary expectations before they do, which can put you on the spot.

Discussions about salary expectations can be challenging to navigate, especially if you aren’t prepared for it or you really want to make a good impression – whether because you want to work for the company or you’ve been on the job hunt for a while.

Whatever the case is, it’s important to learn how to delicately handle questions about salary expectations because you don’t want to go too high or too low:

  • If Your Salary Expectations Are Too Low: If your expectations are too low, you may be inadvertently undervaluing yourself. As a result, the company may jump at the chance to offer you a lower salary than what they were originally going to offer you, and you might get stuck working an underpaying job without realizing it.
  • If Your Salary Expectations Are Too High: If your expectations are too high, the company may decide they cannot afford you. Even if you were negotiable on the salary range, they may not extend an offer to you. Without realizing it, you may have priced yourself out of the job.

How To Prepare For The Question About Salary Expectations

To avoid getting caught out by the salary expectations question, you must do research prior to your interview to understand the fair salary range for the job you are applying to. With that in mind, the following are a few things you should find out so that you can set realistic salary expectations for yourself that the company will be more likely able to meet:

  • The Average Salary For Your Position In Your Job Market: Use salary calculators and search for online job postings to get a better idea of what other companies are paying employees in your position.
  • Your Current Salary: This will give you a starting point to negotiate from. If you’re not currently employed, you can use the salary you made at your last position as a benchmark.
  • The Salary Range Of The Company: Do some research into the company to figure out what kind of salaries they are paying their employees. Understanding what their salary range is will allow you to determine what a realistic figure is for your position.
  • Any Expenses Related To The Job: If the job is in a different city or state from where you currently live, make sure to factor in the additional costs of living into your salary expectations.
  • Other Possible Compensation Options: If the company cannot meet your salary expectations, they may be willing to offer other forms of compensation, such as stock options, sign-on bonuses, or an improved benefits package.

Different Approaches To Answering The Question About Salary Expectations

Preparing for the question is crucial to answering it effectively. However, there are various approaches that you can take when the question comes up. Choosing the right approach depends on the specific situation that you’re in and can affect the outcome of the conversation. With that in mind, the following are a few different ways to answer the question:


One approach is to deflect the question back to the interviewer. For instance, you can say something like, “It depends on the responsibilities I’ll have at the job,” or “I’m sure we can come to an agreement that is fair for both of us.”

By doing this, you can avoid answering the question until you’re ready, and it gives the interviewer a chance to explain the job in more detail. Although deflecting the question can buy you some time, some interviewers may continue to press until you provide a figure. They won’t want to proceed without knowing that your expectations align with what they can offer.

Giving A Salary Range

Another option is to provide a salary range instead of a hard figure. A salary range gives the interviewer an idea of what you’re looking for and shows that you’ve done research about fair market rates. In addition, it lets them know you’re offering a little flexibility to work with.

The only possible drawback is that you allow the company to make an offer at the lower end of your salary range. However, if you’ve performed adequate research and are willing to accept an offer within the range you provided, this shouldn’t be a problem.

Providing A Salary Range And The Option To Negotiate

In addition to providing a salary range, you can also mention that you’re willing to negotiate. When you say this, it doesn’t mean you’re ready to accept offers below the range you provided.

It means you might be willing to negotiate your overall compensation package, including health benefits, time off, bonuses, and more.

For instance, you might be willing to accept an offer at the lower end of the salary range if they can give you certain benefits. The company may be more inclined to do this, especially if they can’t exceed a specific salary range due to their budget. However, if you take this route, you must be confident in your ability to negotiate.

Asking The Interviewer For The Company’s Budget

The last way you can approach the question is to turn it around on the interviewer and ask what the company’s budget is. Doing so puts the onus on the interviewer to explain what they’re willing to pay and why.

By getting this information from them, you’ll be able to see if your own expectations are realistic, while simultaneously ensuring that you don’t lowball or overprice yourself.

The possible downside to this approach is that you may not get a straight answer from the interviewer. They may try to deflect the question back to you or avoid answering it altogether.

How to Answer Questions About Salary Expectations in Unique Situations

Although there are a few ways that you can avoid answering the question right away, there are a few situations in which you’ll have no choice but to answer the question about your salary expectations.

The following are a few examples of this.

  • Applying For Entry Level Positions: You’ll want to research the average salaries for entry-level positions and determine the company budget. Doing so will let you gauge whether the first offer you get is a good one or not.Many companies will extend offers that are lower than expected when it comes to entry-level positions. Having an understanding of the salary range for such positions will give you a better idea as to whether you should take the offer or not.Additionally, you should also factor in any potential expenses that may not be covered by the salary when making your decision.
  • Applying Online For A Job: If you’re applying for a job online and are asked the question about salary expectations, you can take one of the previous approaches to delay answering it.However, you should also add a note saying you’re willing to discuss your salary expectations in person. Tell them that you will need a better understanding of the job responsibilities in order to provide a more accurate figure around your salary expectations.

What To Avoid When Discussing Expectations

When asked about your salary expectations, there are many ways that you can answer. Unfortunately, a few of these ways will negatively affect your job prospects. With that in mind, the following are a few approaches you should avoid when discussing your salary expectations:

  • Do Not Give An Exact Amount: Giving an exact amount can backfire because it doesn’t leave any room for negotiation. . On the other hand, if you lowball yourself, the company may agree to your number even if they were originally willing to go higher.
  • Do Not Ask For Too Much: Don’t assume that the company will counter your offer. You may price yourself out of the job if you ask for too much the first time. Therefore, avoid assuming that the company will barter with you if you initially try to get more than market value.
  • Do Not Respond Negatively If The Figure Is Too Low: If the company makes an offer and the salary is lower than you expected, don’t react negatively. Instead, try to negotiate for a higher salary or other benefits. Responding negatively will only negatively affect your chances of getting the job.
  • Do Not Come Unprepared For Negotiations: You should always come prepared for an interview with a salary range you are willing to accept. Additionally, be willing to negotiate your entire compensation package. For example, you may be able to improve your benefits package if you can’t quite get the salary you’re looking for.

Express Your Salary Expectations With Confidence

When discussing your salary expectations, it’s important to have confidence so you can act in your own best interest during the interview. Doing so can be challenging, especially if you’re unsure what your expectations should be. Preparing yourself by doing plenty of research is crucial to establishing your salary expectations.

If you have an understanding of what the salary range for your position is, how the company pays its employees, and what kinds of benefits they offer, you’ll be in a much better position to negotiate confidently. The more confident you are, the more likely you’ll be able to secure a salary offer that you’re happy with.

Know your salary expectations before your next job interview.

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This blog post is intended for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. No attorney-client relationship is created between the author and reader of this blog post, and its content should not be relied upon as legal advice. Readers are urged to consult legal counsel when seeking legal advice.