No matter how well your job interview is going, it will still be nerve-wracking when you’re asked ‘What are your salary expectations?’. It’s such a simple question, yet very difficult to know how to answer. You want a good salary, but don’t want to go too high and put yourself out of range. If you are too safe with your answer, you could end up earning less than you need to cover your living costs. You could even sabotage your chances of getting the job by not putting your salary expectations high enough. Your interviewer wants to know that you value your own work and capabilities.
Remember, when this question comes up, it’s usually a good sign. It means that the interviewer is really considering you for the role. If you do get asked for your salary expectations, try not to panic. If you’ve prepared using the tips below, you should be able to tackle the question with confidence.
Why do interviewers ask ‘What are your salary expectations?’
The main reason is, of course, that they need to know if they can afford to employ you. They need to know if it’s worth the time and money to interview and negotiate with you and then give you the training you’ll need for your role as well as paying your salary. Recruiting an employee can be an expensive process.
They may be looking to secure a bargain with your salary. Be on the lookout for this and consider if you want to work for a company that is keen to pay its employees less than the going rate.
Even if interviewers know exactly how much they are going to offer their chosen candidate and there is no room for negotiation, they may still ask for salary expectations. This is so they can find out a little bit about you. Do you place value in your work? Are you confident enough to enter into a bit of negotiation? Or will you just accept their first offer no matter how low it is?
The overwhelming advice from recruitment experts is to delay giving an answer for as long as possible. You can try and deflect the question by saying something like:
“If this role is a good fit for me and my experience, I’m sure we’ll be able to negotiate an appropriate figure.”
However, if you’re pushed for a number there and then, you’ll need to have something prepared. This is where you’ll need to do a bit of research.
There are several pieces of information that you’ll need before you can start to think about naming a figure – how much you need, how much you’re worth, and how much the average salaries are for the role in your location.
How much you need: As a minimum, you need to make sure that your salary will cover your living costs. Spend some time calculating your outgoings so that you will be comfortable with any salary you suggest.
How much you’re worth: There are several websites that can help you with this. Start with sites such as salary.com, PayScale, and Glassdoor to work out average salaries for the type of role you’re interviewing for. Take a look at some job sites which advertise similar jobs and see what salary brackets are advertised for similar responsibilities and experience.
Average salaries for your location: This is an important factor not to overlook. Remember that the salary for the same job may be more in London than in other parts of the country. You can add filters to your searches in the sites mentioned above to sort by location.
Once you’ve done this research, you should have a good idea of the range of salaries for the role you’re interviewing for.
How to answer ‘What are your salary expectations?’
It’s best to deflect this question for as long as possible, especially if you have no indication as to what salary bracket your interviewer is considering. There are a couple of ways of doing this while potentially putting yourself in a good light at the same time. You could try putting the ball in their court by saying something along the lines of:
“My priority right now is finding a role that suits me in terms of my skills and experience. I’m sure that you’re offering a competitive salary for this position.”
This sort of response signals that you are confident in your abilities and that you’re able to enter into negotiations. You’re also offering them the opportunity to reveal what they’re willing to offer. It also puts the pressure on them to make sure their offer is competitive.
You may find that your interviewer presses you to give a figure. In this case, you could offer a salary bracket that your research has shown to be competitive. Phrase it in a way that shows this is based on research and your experience of the industry, and not framing it as your own expectations. This then invites your interviewer to make an offer and increases the pressure on them to offer a competitive figure.
If you are pushed again to give a number, give them a range with the figure you want somewhere in the middle. Make sure this range doesn’t go too far below the industry average, and certainly not below what you need to meet your living costs. You could approach your answer like this: “With my experience and skills, I would expect to earn in the range of X and Y.” or “I know that a competitive salary for this role is in the region of X and Z. Given my experience, my expectations are between Y and Z”.
If you’ve done the research, you should be confident in your answer and there’s no need to be embarrassed about asking for a fair wage. Talking about money can be awkward at the best of times, however, your interviewer is much more likely to respect you and pay you what you want if you have confidence in what you’re worth to their business. Good luck!
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