Career — 21 February 2013
Interview tip: What are your salary expectations?

I’ve been in this game long enough to know that the majority of job seekers don’t like to discuss money in their interviews“. People often don’t want to be the first to mention a figure. If it’s too low, they may miss out financially. If it’s too high, they could miss out on a job offer.

If a recruitment consultant asks you this, then I would advise you be as open as possible. They will give you advice on the market rate for your skills and will often do the negotiating for you when you get offered a role. They need to know where your head and heart lies, what motivates you, and what will ultimately make you feel valued.

If the employer in the interview asks you this then please feel free to just answer them with your thoughts. I have no issue talking about money and I don’t see anything wrong with giving the employer your expectations, even if it is just a range of numbers rather than a commitment to one figure.

This article is really for people who don’t want to answer the ‘money question’ just yet. If that sounds like you, then here are a few ways you can deflect the question.

Watch video on YouTube:

‘I’m quite open and slightly flexible on salary as the opportunity to add value and to be valued is important to me. I’d appreciate knowing how you value this position and what your budget is for this role?’

The way you say this is very important. Say it with a smile on your face and raise your voice at the end of the sentence, so it seems like a question.

Or just bat it straight back…

‘I’d rather not commit to that quite yet. I’m really open to your thoughts on this as I’m sure you will be consistent with the market?’

Then pause. Just stop talking… even if you feel uncomfortable. By doing this, you are forcing the other person to talk.

Again, you should do this in a very ‘upbeat’ way. We don’t want you to become defensive as this can sometimes come across as aggressive.

The interviewer may not be open about their budget and they may persist in asking you for yours. If this happens, I would personally back down and give them my salary ‘range’ rather than seem unsympathetic to their request. If they are not going to give you an idea of salary at this point, you don’t want to risk wasting time, and someone needs to identify whether you are both on the same page.

I recommend practicing your response. The more comfortable you are when you get asked this, the less likely you are to be conditioned by the interviewer and the conversation is more likely to go the way YOU want it to go.

Good luck!

More reading:

Interview tip: “Tell me about your biggest achievement?”
Interview tip: “What is your biggest weakness?”
Fun and money – the two reasons to come to work
Let’s talk salary (no, let’s not)
An insightful interview question to put on your radar
Can academic results ruin your chance of getting an interview?
Job seekers: 5 interview tips that can lead to a big result
Informational interviewing: Don’t be afraid to go straight to the top!
Job seekers: Want the right role? Then ask the right questions
Interviewing tips – Part 1: Before the interview
Interviewing tips – Part 2: The interview

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(9) Readers Comments

  1. I’m interesting in knowing more about applicable salary ranges for jobs. is it based on the role, your experience, or both? How reliable are those online salary ranking sites, like salary.com? I read they use data from submitted data, rather than surveys or tax records etc. I’d love to see a post on this.

    • Hi Rebecca, I’m not sure where you are located, so it’s difficult to guarantee the accuracy of local sites. I can tell you however that http://esalarysurvey.com is completely accurate, but only has data for UK, Australia, Asia. If you are in the US, then marketingsalaries.com and designsalaries.com is good, but it depends on your area of specialisation. Also try Glassdoor.com

      • Many thanks Carolyn!

  2. I really hope one day that all job ads will specify a salary range before the interview stage (wishful thinking?). Can be a waste of time for all parties if at the interview stage the salary/package does not meet expectations.

  3. This is a very interesting post since it addresses one of the most difficult questions an employer can ask. It is a fine balancing act for the interviewee. I normally recommend avoiding answering this question directly when ask and being more ambigious. ‘I am quite flexible…’ is probably a good way to tackle it.

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