How to Talk About Salary in a Job Interview

At some point during the interview process, you will likely be asked about your salary or compensation expectations — that is, how much you would like to earn in this job.

There are a few reasons employers ask this question. In most cases, the company has budgeted a pay range for the role. They want to be sure that your expectations are consistent with that budget before moving forward.

Another reason is that, should things continue to go well, your potential employer wants to put together an offer that is compelling and exciting to you. This question opens up an opportunity for you to consider and discuss the salary as well as other benefits that interest you.

Here are several guidelines that can help you steer the conversation:

1. Know your worth

Each job has a general market value. You can learn the compensation range for your job on Indeed Salaries, where you can search by job title and location to narrow in on current compensation rates in your field.

Before you share your salary expectations with an employer, think holistically about what you’re earning presently, including salary, bonuses and benefits. Then, use the research you’ve done to set a realistic target for what kind of compensation you want in your next job. What base salary are you looking for? Which benefits do you value the most? What other perks interest you?

If you’re changing career tracks or interviewing for a job at a company that’s structured differently from your last employer, you should be able to articulate what you’re gaining or losing in terms of compensation.

2. You don’t have to answer salary questions right away

The requirements of a job as well as the other kinds of compensation an employer offers, like benefits, equity and bonuses, are important to take into consideration. When you are first asked, “What are your salary expectations?” it’s ok to delay answering. Here are some responses that can help you continue the conversation and get more information:

  • “I’m looking for a competitive offer that includes benefits and other kinds of compensation, but I’d like to know more about the specifics of what this job requires first.” (This answer is good for most situations)
  • “Over the course of my career, I’ve worked in several different areas, across different levels. I’d like to learn more about what this role entails as well as the benefits and other forms of compensation you offer.” (This may be a better answer if you’re transitioning to a new career track)

3. Give a salary range, not an exact number

If you’ve delayed answering the question and the interviewer asks you again, it’s time to respond. Avoid giving a specific number. Instead, you can provide a range. Cite your research and frame the conversation as being about what is fair rather than what you want. Here are some examples of how to answer:

For the less experienced candidate:

  • “I understand from my research and experience that low 50s to mid-60s is the competitive range for this role in this industry and city.”
  • “In this environment and in this location, my research indicates that mid-50s to low-70s is a reasonable range.”

For the more experienced candidate:

  • “Based on my experience in this field and my research on the current market, I understand that mid 70 to low 90s is a competitive range.”

Leave it there. Wait to negotiate further until you have a formal job offer in hand.

To sum up, here’s what you need to remember when talking about salary in an interview:

  • Know your worth and the forms of compensation that matter most to you.
  • Use salary resources like Indeed Salaries to study the current trends and learn about the range for this job in your city.
  • Give a range, not a specific number. Frame the conversation about salary around what is fair and competitive.
  • Don’t try to negotiate until you have a formal job offer.

Keep learning:

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