How to Answer Salary Expectation Questions

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How to Answer Salary Expectation Questions

paycheckIt is the dreaded interview question that job hunters hate to answer.

“What is your current salary?” 

A few years ago, I was hunting for a new job.  During the interview process with a potential employer, not only did they ask for my salary expectations but they also requested to see a copy of my W-2 from the previous year to prove that I really made what I said I did.  I did not end up working for that company and honestly, the request didn’t sit right with me.

Why Hiring Companies Care About Salary History and Salary Expectations

Recruiters and hiring managers don’t enjoy asking for a salary history either.  So why do they ask the question?

Many companies have set salary ranges for positions.  For example, a sales manager position may have a range of $70-$90K as a base salary.  The low end is for individuals with less experience and the high end is for more experienced or proven individuals.  Companies must also consider what other employees in similar positions are making.  For this reason, when a job hunter asks what a position pays, the best answer that can be provided is a range.  It is through the interview process and an in-depth review of a candidates qualifications and abilities, that a specific salary offer is usually determined.

As mentioned above, job hunters are encouraged to do their homework on salary expectations prior to submitting their resume and/or interviewing for an open position.  There are websites such as or where you can learn more about salary expectations for specific jobs in your city, state, or geographic region of the country.

This research on the front end will save you and the hiring company some time and energy.  If your expectations are on the high side for an open position,  it does not mean that you are not worth the salary you are making.  However, you should be prepared with the reasons why you deserve a salary at that level. For example:  I have my MBA, I am bilingual, I have worked with offshore teams, or I have certifications.  Whatever is relevant to the job you are interested in.

Some recruiters and hiring managers may ask a slightly different question.

“What are your salary expectations?” 

This can be used as a screening question.  If the open position has a salary range up to $100K and the candidate has a salary expectation of $200K, there is no point in continuing the conversation.

How to Answer the Salary Expectation Question

How should you as a job hunter answer?  If it is early in the process, it is appropriate to give any of the following answers:

  1. “Negotiable.”  This leaves the discussion open for you to learn more.
  2. “Market rate for the position.” Hopefully you will have done some research to support this statement
  3. “I don’t have enough information about the position to answer that right now.”  This also allows you to learn a little bit more about the position/company but it is likely that the question will come up again.

Getting Past the Salary Expectation Question

Candidates need to approach the interview process in steps.  When you have a phone interview, your goal is to make it the next round.  So pull out all of the stops to make it to the face to face interview and use the tips above to get past the initial salary history or salary expectation question.  Be sure you prepare for each of the interview steps to the best of your ability.  Ask the recruiter or Human Resource representative to describe the interview format and how you can prepare.  They may not be able to answer all of those questions, but they will be impressed you asked!


By | 2016-10-25T16:34:07+00:00 July 24th, 2014|Careers|Comments Off on How to Answer Salary Expectation Questions