How to answer ‘What are your salary expectations?’ (with examples)

“What are your salary expectations?” This is likely one of the most critical yet challenging questions in a job interview. It may feel like a minefield, but the path to navigating this question lies in understanding its purpose and preparing your response.

The salary expectation question from a prospective employer presents an opportunity to establish your worth. It also ensures fair compensation. This guide will equip you with tactics and examples of the best way to answer the salary question confidently and effectively.

  • Why do employers ask this question?
  • Preparing for the question
  • How to answer ‘What are your salary expectations?’
  • Assessing the company’s expectations
  • Handling counteroffers
  • Summary and key takeaways
  • Conclusion
  • FAQs

Why do employers ask this question?

Prospective employers ask about salary expectations during the job interview for several reasons. One of them is to assess if your expectations align with their budget. The reality is that every position has a budget range. If a candidate’s compensation expectations significantly exceed that range, proceeding with that candidate may not be feasible.

Employers are also looking to gauge how you value your skills and experience. This question provides insight into whether you understand the market rate for the role and if you can realistically assess your worth.

Finally, this question can help employers and hiring managers identify your motivations. If salary is your primary driver, it may influence how they perceive your interest in the role and the company.

Understanding your salary expectations helps them paint a more comprehensive picture of you as a potential employee.

Preparing for the question

Preparation is key to answering the salary expectation question. Start by researching salary trends and the average salary for the role you’re applying for. Websites such as Glassdoor, Payscale, and can offer a wealth of information. They show salary ranges for different positions in various industries and locations.

Next, take into account your skills, qualifications, and experience. Having unique skills or extensive experience that make you stand out from other candidates might justify a salary on the higher end of the range.

Don’t forget to consider your personal financial needs. Ensure you’re clear on the minimum salary you can accept to cover your cost of living.

Remember to also think beyond the base salary. Consider other aspects of the compensation package. What are the health benefits? Is there a retirement plan? Are there bonuses and opportunities for professional development? These can all add significant value to the entire package.

How to answer ‘What are your salary expectations?’

woman being interviewed

There’s no one-size-fits-all answer to this question. It depends on several factors. Look into the job role, industry standards, your qualifications, and personal financial needs. But there are a few strategies that can help.

Deferring the question

In some cases, it’s acceptable to defer the salary discussion. Wait until a later stage when you have more information about the job responsibilities. Explain that you’d like to understand more about the role before discussing salary.

Providing a range

Offering an ideal salary range rather than a specific number gives you some wiggle room for negotiation during the job interview process. It also shows that you’re flexible. Base the range on the research you’ve done. It should align with the role’s market value.

Highlighting your value

Discuss your skills, qualifications, and experience that justify your salary expectations. Highlight your accomplishments and how you can bring value to the company.

Exploring other forms of compensation

If there’s a gap between the employer’s budgeted salary range and your salary expectation, you could discuss other forms of compensation. Find out if they offer bonuses, benefits, or flexible working hours to bridge the gap. Check if there are also professional development opportunities.

Remember, it’s crucial to approach this discussion with confidence. Back your salary expectations with solid reasoning and research.

Assessing the company’s expectations

Ensure your expectations align with the company’s compensation practices. Use insights from your research. Ask questions during the interview to understand the company’s pay structure and benefits. From there, tailor your response accordingly.

5 best answers to ‘What are your salary expectations?’

For an entry-level position: “As I’m new to this industry, I’m looking forward to understanding the scope and responsibilities of the role before discussing specific numbers. But, I trust your company offers a competitive salary in line with industry standards.”

This answer conveys that you’re open and flexible without committing to a specific figure too early. By expressing trust in the company to offer a fair salary, you show that you’re more interested in the role and the potential experience than merely the compensation. You also subtly remind the employer of the importance of providing competitive pay.

When providing a salary range: “Based on my research and understanding of the role, I believe a fair salary range of $X to $Y would be appropriate. However, I’m open to discussing this further based on the total compensation package.”

This response displays that you’ve done your homework. You understand the value of the role in the current job market. Providing a range rather than a fixed figure leaves room for negotiation. Stating your openness to discuss the total compensation package shows that you value aspects of the job beyond the base salary. You’re also considering the health benefits, vacation time, and opportunities for professional development.

Highlighting your value: “Considering my extensive experience in this field and the unique skills I can bring to your team, I expect a salary that reflects my value, somewhere in the region of $X.”

By directly linking your skills and experiences to your salary expectations, you show your value and potential contributions to the company. You showcase your confidence in your abilities and subtly communicate that hiring you could benefit the employer.

Exploring other forms of compensation: “While I consider the salary an important factor, I’m also interested in opportunities for professional growth and work-life balance. I’m open to a holistic discussion about the compensation package.”

With this response, you convey your focus on long-term career growth and personal well-being. It signals to the employer that you’re considering the role seriously and aren’t solely driven by the salary. This approach can also open up discussions about flexible hours, remote work options, training opportunities, or other perks that might be available.

Assessing the company’s expectations: “I understand from my research that your company has a reputation for offering competitive salaries. I trust that the compensation for this role will align with industry standards and the position’s responsibilities.”

This answer can help turn the tables slightly by putting the onus on the employer to provide a fair offer. It demonstrates that you’ve researched the company and expect them to uphold their reputation for competitive compensation. This response might prompt the employer to disclose their budget range. At the very least, they might reassure you that their offer will be competitive.

Handling counteroffers

woman being interviewed for job

Counteroffers are a standard part of the salary negotiation process. If an employer comes back with a salary that is lower than what you expected, don’t feel compelled to accept or reject it immediately. Ask for some time to consider the offer.

Evaluate the counteroffer against your research, personal financial needs, and the value of the complete benefits package. If it falls short of your expectations, consider whether you can compromise. If you believe the offer is unfair, given your qualifications and the market rate, you may choose to negotiate further.

Be clear and polite in your communication. You might say, “I appreciate your offer. Based on my research and the role’s responsibilities, I was expecting a salary in the range of $X-$Y. Is there any flexibility in the budget for this position?”

Remember, salary negotiation is a two-way street. Both you and the employer are looking for a fair arrangement that provides value to both parties.

Summary and key takeaways

Navigating the “What are your salary expectations?” question is a skill that can influence your career trajectory. It’s about more than the salary figure. It’s about recognising and articulating your value, understanding market trends, and negotiating effectively.

Key takeaways include:

  • Do your research: Before the interview, inform yourself about the industry standard salary and the average pay for the role at similar companies.
  • Understand your worth: Consider your skills, experience, and qualifications when determining your salary expectations.
  • Think beyond the base salary expectation: Remember to consider other components of the compensation package, such as benefits, bonuses, and growth opportunities.
  • Prepare to negotiate: Salary discussions are often a back-and-forth process. Be prepared to negotiate. Justify your salary expectations and handle counter-offers with grace and confidence.

By mastering these strategies, you can approach salary discussions with confidence. You also improve your chances of securing a fair and satisfying compensation package.


Addressing salary expectations is a vital aspect of job interviews. With these strategies, you can navigate this discussion confidently and negotiate a fair and satisfying compensation package.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

  1. Is it appropriate to ask about salary expectations during the early stages of the interview process?
    ⁠It’s generally advisable to wait until the later stages of the interview process. By then, you’ll better understand the role, and the employer will see your value.
  2. How can I find accurate salary data for my industry and location?
    ⁠Resources like Glassdoor, PayScale, and LinkedIn Salary Insights can provide valuable data.
  3. What if I have no prior work experience or a limited salary history?
    ⁠In this case, focus on the market value of the role and industry standards.
  4. Should I disclose to the hiring manager my current salary when asked about salary expectations?
    ⁠Not necessarily. Instead, focus on what you expect to earn in the new role based on your skills, experience, and market value.
  5. How can I negotiate for a higher salary without jeopardising the job offer?
    ⁠Be respectful and professional in your communications. Support your negotiation with market research data. Remember to highlight your unique skills and professional experiences as well.

Source – Jobstreet