The interview question “What are your salary expectations?” often changes the atmosphere of a screening call or interview from friendly to awkward. You don’t want to give an answer too high and cut yourself out of the running, but equally you want to receive a salary that values and rewards you for your experience, skills and personality traits. So how do you answer this question in a way that balances out your own needs with those of your potential employer?
Make sure you have an answer ready for the employer. This will show the interviewer that you are confident, decisive and organised enough to prepare an answer beforehand.
The best way to begin preparing your answer is by doing your market research. Use websites such as glassdoor.com, payscale.com and salary.com to find out what employees with the same job title (or similar, remember different companies often name the same role slightly different things) are earning.
By acquiring this knowledge before the question is asked, you can include it in your answer to show the employer that your expectations are fair and consistent with other companies.
Consider the benefits as well as the salary:
Whether, it’s a monthly or annual bonus, commission, employee funded pension contributions, a company car, reimbursed commuting costs or a free gym membership, benefits are worth considering when both answering this question and accepting or turning down a job offer.
Even if the employer is unwilling to match your salary expectations, these benefits may well make up the money you’d be taking out of your salary to pay for things like commuting to work etc.
Don’t avoid the Question:
Although it may be tempting to suggest that you continue this conversation at a later stage, this will most likely irritate recruiters and employers.
Unfortunately the question is one that is necessary in order to avoid wasting time on candidates that will later drop out of the process or that employers will not realistically be able to afford. It is also useful for you in order to rule out employers that pay less than you are willing to work for before investing your time and energy into applications and interviews.
If you’re concerned that your desired salary won’t match up with what the employer has in mind, then rather than avoiding the question completely, postpone your answer and ask them to give you a salary range/more information.
For example, you could say: “I’m flexible and very interested in the role. My expectations will depend on the salary range and benefits you’re looking to offer.”
If the recruiter or employer won’t give you a range, have one prepared based on factors such as your market research, whether the role has increased responsibility, hours or a longer commute, the opportunities the role provides, and the benefits offered by the company. By justifying your expectations, you will come across as fair and reasonable rather than demanding.
Be honest about your previous salary:
If you lie about your previous salary and the employer finds out you haven’t been honest (for example, by looking up your company salaries on Glassdoor) they may view you as an untrustworthy person.
If your previous salary was vastly lower than what you’re now looking for, explain why you were willing to work for that salary. It may be that at the time you had no prior experience in the sector, whereas now you have five years experience, or that you were willing to work for a lower salary due to more flexible hours or a reimbursed commute. These explanations will prevent the employer from putting the lower salary down to your worth and performance as an employee.
If your previous salary was higher than the market rate but you’re willing to work for less due to the nature of the opportunity, make sure you state this before the employer or recruiter assumes they can’t afford you.
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