How To Answer "What are Your Salary Expectations" [Video + Transcript]

By Jennifer Herrity, Host

December 1, 2021

9-minute watch

Hi, everybody, and welcome. I'm Jenn, a career coach at Indeed with over 10 years of experience in career services. Today, I'm going to share some guidance on answering a very important interview question, “What are your salary expectations?” In this video, I'll provide three strategies for addressing your salary expectations. And if you stick around until the end, I'll share a bonus tip on how to identify the salary range for a role.

Now, the topic of salary can be a sensitive one. But once you know when and why employers ask this question, providing an answer can feel much less intimidating.

When and why do employers ask “What are your salary expectations?”

There are two points in the hiring process where employers tend to ask about your salary expectations, during an initial phone screen and during the final interviews. Recruiters may ask this question early on to assess if you're within the budget that they have for the role and therefore a possible hire. Salary negotiations don't actually begin until after a formal offer is made. And when you're asked about your salary expectations prior to an offer, the employer is simply gathering information.

Now, what if an employer asks you about your salary expectations early on and you'd rather not share that information yet? If you choose not to respond because you're still assessing a reasonable salary for the position or any other reason, it's OK to let them know that. Since you're still early on in the hiring process and still learning about the specifics of the job and the duties, just say you prefer to address the salary later.

You can always put the ball back in the recruiter's court by saying, "I'm aiming to consider the entire compensation package, including insurance, stock options, retirement planning and other benefits that come along with the base salary. What does this role offer?"

Another option is to say, "Before I answer, I'd like to ask a few more questions to get a better idea of what the position entails. That way, I can provide a more realistic expectation."

While these responses are great to have in your back pocket, if you're taken off guard by the question, it's often a good idea to wait to respond to the employer's question about your salary range rather than asking the question about what they offer. It's also common for the first-round interviewers to not have access to information about salary. Plus, when you wait to be asked, you have the power to begin the compensation conversation with a salary range you know you feel comfortable with rather than with a range provided by the possible employer.

At some point in the hiring process, there will come a time where you will have to provide your salary expectations. Be ready for this by researching comparable salaries as soon as possible. I'll explain how to do that at the end of this video.

If you'd like more advice on how to approach salary negotiation, be sure to check out this Career Guide article. And if you find this content to be helpful. Let us know by giving us a “like.” If you'd like to see more videos like this, be sure to subscribe to our channel.

Strategies for answering “What are your salary expectations?”

Now you know why employers ask this question and when you can expect it. Let's discuss the three strategies for answering what are your salary expectations.

Provide a salary range

Once you've done the market research to identify a reasonable salary, one strategy I recommend is to provide the employer with a salary range with a difference of $5,000 to $10,000 rather than providing a single number. It's wise to make sure you're comfortable receiving the bottom number and to specify that this is your base salary range, not your total compensation.

A simple example response could be, "I'm seeking a position with a base salary of $45,000 to $55,000."

Another example would be, "I'm looking for a base salary roughly between $90,000 and $95,000 annually. Due to my technical skill set and years of experience, I feel that this is a comfortable and appropriate range for my work and the value I can provide."

If the salary range was stated in the job listing, you can say something like, "I saw in the posting that the salary range is $70,000 to $85,000. Based on the range provided, I feel that $80,000 is an appropriate starting base salary based on the experience, credentials and industry knowledge I would bring to the role."

Include an opportunity for negotiation when the time is right

As you might have noticed, I specifically address our annual base salary in these first examples. When considering compensation, it can help to consider other benefits such as vacation days, sign-on bonuses and the opportunity to work remotely in addition to any monetary compensation. It's wise to always consider these benefits and how their presence or absence can impact your target salary range.

Mention your interests in benefits as part of your response to what are your salary expectations. If your salary is outside or on the higher end of the budget, the employers are then aware that you're open to discussing elements beyond the base salary that could impact your overall compensation package pending a formal offer from them.

So, if this is something that you're willing to do, say something like, "I'm seeking a position that pays between $120,000 and $130,000 annually. But should we both determine that I'm the best person for this opportunity, I would be open to exploring how salary, benefits, bonuses, equity, stock options and other opportunities can impact that."

Remember, it isn't standard to enter into negotiations prior to an offer. But it can be helpful for employers to have some perspective on your viewpoint regarding compensation prior to the extension of one.

Express gratitude

After an employer extends an offer, I recommend expressing gratitude and then opening the lines of communication to discuss the components of your expected compensation more specifically, and then enter a negotiation.

How to deliver your answer

Here are two final tips to help the conversation go smoothly and to present yourself well.

Be confident

Being self-assured when talking about your salary expectations can signal to the interviewer that you know your worth. If you've done your research and feel confident in the experience you would bring to the role, say so.

State your expectations with a clear, calm voice. If you're feeling nervous, take a deep breath before answering. Maintain good posture by sitting up straight, and try to reduce fidgeting. One of the most reliable ways to feel confident is to prepare your answer. Have your reasons written down and with you so that you can be prepared to justify your salary expectations.

This leads me to the next tip.

Share your reasoning

This can include citing your years of experience, education level or unique skill set that only you bring to the role. Giving an honest informed response can help the interviewer better understand whether your expectations align and if you both determine you're the right fit, what salary is appropriate.

As a best practice, it can be useful to support your salary expectations with some data. So for a bonus tip, we're going to tell you how to do just that.

How to research your professional value

Start by conducting research to gain a strong understanding of your personal professional value, which is going to be unique to you, your work experience and your location.

Factors that can impact your professional value include:

  • Years of industry experience

  • Years of leadership experience

  • Level of education

  • Level of seniority

  • Skills

  • Licenses and certifications

  • Conditions of the local job market

  • Cost of living in your location

  • Supply and demand for your expertise

Conducting research from multiple sources can give you a better understanding of a fair value for your role and your experience. There are several free tools for researching the local market value for a role.

Check out Indeed's Salary Calculator, which you can access right here, for a free personalized pay range based on your location, industry, and experience.

Review the job description. Some companies value salary transparency and will include the range with the position details. If your expected salary is outside of this range and you don't have room for flexibility, it might be better for you to focus on finding a role that meets all of your personal requirements.

And here's a final tip.

Don't be afraid to aim high. Once you know the average salary range for a position, consider padding your expectations. By aiming higher, you could still hit your targeted salary even if the employer offers you a salary at the lower end of your provided range.

So, for example, if you want to make $60,000 a year, don't say you're looking for a salary between $55,000 and $60,000. Instead, give a range of $60,000 to $65,000.

For more tips for researching the market value of a role, be sure to check out this Career Guide article.

Key takeaways

So let's recap. To answer the interview question, “What are your salary expectations?”:

  • Choose a strategy that fits your level of comfort: provide a salary range, include an opportunity for negotiation when the time is right or deflect the question back to the recruiter.

  • Deliver your answer with confidence, and be prepared to share your reasoning.

  • And then, research your market value using multiple reliable resources, like Indeed's Salary Calculator and even their company reviews.

So, those are my tips for how to answer the interview question, “What are your salary expectations?”

Thank you so much for watching. I hope that you find this information to be helpful and that you're going to be able to apply it to your next interview prep. If you'd like to see more videos like this, please “like” and subscribe, and hit the notification bell down below to stay updated.

See you next time.

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