How to answer ‘What’s your expected salary?’

No matter where you are in your career, you’re likely to be asked about your salary expectations when interviewing for a new job. 

It can pay—literally—to nail the answer. So read on for five tips and tricks on how to communicate your salary expectations clearly, confidently and professionally to a potential employer.

Key takeaways

  • Hiring managers and recruiters may ask about salary expectations to make sure they fit with the company’s budget and your qualifications.
  • Researching typical salaries for similar roles can help you determine a salary range based on your location, level of experience and education.
  • Offering a salary range instead of a fixed number might give you room to negotiate later.
  • Before determining a final number or range, it might help to consider additional benefits like paid time off, health insurance, retirement plans and childcare allowances.

Monitor your credit for free

Join the millions using CreditWise from Capital One.

Sign up today

Why do hiring managers ask questions about salary expectations?

Hiring managers and recruiters may ask about your salary expectations for several reasons. They may want to determine whether your expectations fit the available budget. Or they may want to see how you value your own skills, experience and education.

The question can also pop up at different stages of the interview process. A recruiter may want to know your desired salary during the first phone call as part of the screening process. Or you may find yourself in the third round of interviews before a hiring manager poses the question.

How to answer ‘What are your salary expectations?’ in a job interview

To prepare yourself to be asked about salary requirements, consider taking the following steps.

1. Define your expectations

The New York State Department of Labor recommends familiarizing yourself with your industry’s hiring trends and typical salaries for the role. When setting your own expectations, you might also consider the following details:

  • Your education, experience and training: You can search for roles to gauge prospective salaries. Bear in mind that a senior-level position may come with a higher salary, but that might not be relevant if you’re considering an entry-level role.
  • Your location: Look for similar roles in your desired job market. You may find that a role based in a major city has a higher salary than the same role in a rural market.
  • The firm’s average salary range for the role: You may be able to find a potential employer’s salary ranges on websites like Glassdoor and LinkedIn. While these numbers aren’t always correct or up to date, they can be a useful benchmark.

2. Give a salary range

Offering a compensation range you could be comfortable with instead of a fixed number might add some flexibility—something a recruiter or hiring manager might appreciate. It could also give you time to better understand the role and its expectations before landing on a final number.

When deciding on a range, consider your research, experience and the job description. You can also factor in the cost of living and what you need to support yourself and your loved ones. 

With that in mind, you might say something like, “Based on my research, years of experience, location and what I know about the role so far, I’m looking for an annual salary of between $X and $Y.”

3. Turn the question around

If you’re in the early stages of the interview process, a question about your salary expectations may be an opportunity to learn more about the company’s budget.

You could say, “I’d like to learn more about the role, its expectations and the company culture before discussing my salary requirements. But would you mind telling me what salary range the company is considering for this role?”

Depending on the response, you can share whether the salary matches or falls short of your expectations. If the number is slightly lower than you hoped, it might be possible to negotiate the salary, especially if you’re really interested in the role and feel you would be a good fit.

4. Determine a final number

After a few rounds of interviews, you likely have enough information to state your final number. As a general rule, aim high—but make sure the number is justifiable. 

You’ll want to be prepared to back up your desired compensation with data, like average salaries for similar positions in the area or for workers with your in-demand skills. It’s also a good idea to highlight the hard skills, soft skills and expertise that you think make you an ideal candidate.

At this point, you can let the hiring manager know whether you’re willing to negotiate as well. Negotiating your salary may seem intimidating, but it’s a generally expected part of the interview process.

There’s more than compensation to consider when negotiating, too. You can take into consideration any additional benefits, like:

  • Bonuses
  • Flexible working schedules
  • Remote working opportunities
  • Childcare assistance
  • Tuition assistance
  • Additional time off
  • Insurance coverage
  • Retirement benefits

5. Remain professional

Whenever the question about salary expectations comes up, it’s a good idea to keep your tone professional and upbeat. You can express gratitude when the hiring manager considers your request, whether it’s accepted or not.

Remember, the interview process is your chance to advocate for yourself. Be confident in your abilities and the research you’ve done. At the same time, be prepared to compromise if the offer is within reason and the role is a good fit.

You can always request a salary review in the near future—or decline the offer and ask to be considered for future opportunities. Either way, you’ll close the process on a positive note.

Answering ‘What’s your desired salary?’ in a nutshell

Answering the “What’s your desired salary?” question isn’t always easy, but a little preparation can go a long way. It’s good to take the time to research typical salaries for the role and experience level and to look for what the organization usually offers new hires.

It’s important to be confident in your skills and your ability to negotiate with a potential employer. Salary negotiations are an essential—and expected—part of the hiring process. And once you’ve landed the job and salary that you deserve, it might be time to think about how to manage your money effectively.

Related Content