In a perfect world, you’ll ace your interview, land your dream job, and walk away with an offer that pays $20,000 more than you expected.
Unfortunately, most interviews don’t go quite that well.
In reality, interviews are cause for serious stress, most of which revolves around knowing how to answer the tough questions. But of all the questions you’ll encounter, there’s one that every candidate dreads answering:
What are your salary requirements?
Whether you’re preparing for a job interview this week or simply brushing up on your interview skills, keep reading.
Here’s our full guide to answering “What are your salary requirements?” during a job interview.
Do Your Homework
Of all the interview questions that you can prepare for, “What are your salary expectations?” is one of the hardest to answer. But, you need to be ready for it.
Flub this one, and you could be out of the running before you even have a chance to show off your skills.
Before your interview, research what other people in similar job roles earn. Find people who live in your region and have a similar level of experience, and look at what they make.
Sites like Payscale and Glassdoor are great places to start. On these sites, you can learn what different employees in different jobs are earning throughout the country.
Just be mindful of the salaries in your locale. You can’t ask for an NYC-level salary if you’re interviewing for a job in West Virginia.
Without an understanding of the average pay range in your city, you run the risk of selling yourself short or pricing yourself too high. Ask for too little money, and it might look as if you don’t understand your own value. Ask for a figure that’s too high, and you could knock yourself right out of the running.
Provide a Salary Range
When the dreaded salary question comes up, answer with a price range rather than a specific dollar amount.
In other words:
Rather than saying $80,000, quote a price range of $75,000 to $85,000.
Quoting a price range is a great way to show that you’ve done your homework, and gives the employer some flexibility in their offer.
Here are a few examples of how you might answer:
“According to my research, this role typically pays between $75,000 and $85,000 per year to employees with my level of experience.”
“Based on my knowledge of the industry, I would expect to earn a salary in the range of $75,000 to $85,000 per year.”
These are both professional answers that show you’ve done your research and know your value. At the same time, they demonstrate that you’re open to negotiation within a certain price range.
Let Them Know You’re Flexible
When it comes to salary expectations, employers want you to be flexible. And your answer to this question is the first place to show just how flexible you’re willing to be.
Salary is important, but money isn’t the only thing to consider. Benefits, insurance plans, paid vacation time — all of these things are part of your overall compensation package.
Without knowing the details of the benefits package, pinpointing a salary requirement is difficult.
Here are a few ways to demonstrate to the interviewer that you’re flexible in your salary expectations:
“I am looking for a salary in the range of $75,000 to $85,000, but I’m open to negotiate depending on benefits, stock options, and other incentives.”
“My salary requirements are flexible, but I would expect something in the range of $75,000 to $85,000.”
The interview is not the time to negotiate your salary (because you haven’t yet been offered the job). But, it is the perfect opportunity to lay the groundwork and let them know that you’re open to negotiating an amount that works for both of you.
Use it as an Opportunity to Showcase Your Experience
Instead of dreading the salary question, use it as an opportunity to remind the interviewer how much you bring to the table.
You can quote a range that demonstrates your flexibility, and toot your own horn a bit by saying:
“Based on my ten years of experience and X certifications, I would expect to receive something in the range of $75,000 to $85,000.”
“My salary requirements are flexible. But with my experience and track record, I would expect to receive something in the range of $75,000 to $85,000.”
If you’ve done your research, you should have a good idea of what you are worth as an employee. So don’t be afraid to let them know (in the most professional manner) that you understand how much value you bring to the organization.
Delay Giving an Answer (If You Can)
Ideally, your interviewer will ask the salary question towards the end of the interview, but there’s always a chance they’ll ask it early on.
If they ask this question before you’ve had a chance to discuss the details of the job, you have every right to stall in answering.
You could say:
“I’d like to learn a little bit more about what my role and responsibilities would be. With that information, I can quote you a fair and flexible salary range for this position.”
“Before I answer, I’d like to learn a bit more about what the position entails. I’m sure you are offering a competitive salary for someone with my level of experience, so I’d love to hear what you think a fair salary for this position is.”
With any luck, you can steer the conversation in a different direction and avoid having to answer the question, at least at that moment. A thorough interviewer will circle back to it towards the end of the interview, so always have that salary range in mind.
There’s no way you can get away with deflecting the question twice, so be prepared to answer it at some point.
Discussing salary requirements in an interview can be quite uncomfortable.
If you don’t have an answer ready, it will show that you don’t understand the industry or didn’t take the time to do your research.
If you ask for a salary that’s too high or too low, you probably won’t receive an offer at all.
Here’s how to answer the salary question.
- Research salaries for similar companies and similar roles in your region.
- Provide a range rather than a specific dollar amount.
- Let the interviewer knows that you’re flexible and willing to negotiate.
- Use this time to reiterate your skills and experience level.
- Delay giving an answer by asking for more information.
Of all the most commonly asked interview questions, this is one of the trickiest ones to navigate. If you can get through this question calmly and succinctly, you’ll be one step closer to acing the interview and getting the job!
Caitlin Sinclair is the Business Manager at Elements 616. With over 5 years of property management experience, she begins and ends each day loving what she does. She finds joy in helping current and future residents and makes Elements 616 a place everyone loves to call home.