How To Answer: What Are Your Salary Expectations?

April 20, 2022 Edward Rivera

At the heart of any interview process comes the time to discuss the big S word: salary. Whether you’re confident in your negotiation skills or not, beginning the conversation with a hiring manager about salary expectations can be a tricky one. Do you bring it up first? Do you wait until a follow-up interview? This social tango can be nerve-racking to even the most seasoned professionals. Before you walk the tightrope that is salary expectations, here are four things to keep in mind to help you navigate the negotiation process competently.

Due diligence

Preparation and research are key before any interview, and having an idea of your salary expectations should be at the top of your job search prep list. It is imperative to do a deep dive into the industry to obtain a strong grasp of what the market is currently offering for the position you’re currently applying for. Job boards like Indeed and salary-specific websites like Salary.com and PayScale.com can help you get started. You can also use employer review sites like Glassdoor to see what specific industry competitors are offering. If feasible, also try to network with colleagues or industry counterparts to see how they’re being compensated in their current roles. Doing this type of research proactively will give you a better sense of your worth going into the interview when the salary question is eventually brought up.

Patience and deflection

Discussing salary immediately is something to avoid until you’re closer to the offer stages. Unless it comes up naturally, bringing up your salary expectations in a phone or first-round interview may seem assumptive and off-putting to the hiring manager.

On the flip side, a hiring manager asking you what your salary expectations are early on in the interview can be a bit blindsiding. However, you can use it to your advantage. Rather than showing your hand too soon, you can turn this question around. Simply state that you are currently focused on learning more about the specific role and the company, and then ask if they would be able to share their range with you. If they are able to share and this number is within your salary expectations (or even higher), great! If it’s a bit lower, you can be transparent about this. This may give you some leverage in the negotiation process, especially in a candidate-driven market! If they are unable or unwilling to negotiate, you might be better off moving on and focusing your efforts on securing a different offer.

At close range

Eventually, your salary will need to be discussed—and the research you have done will help when those talks begin. Knowing your worth and the value of your specific skill set should leave you with two numbers in your head: what you expect to be offered and the minimum you’re willing to accept. Throwing a number that is too high may be dismaying to a hiring manager and a number too low will be disparaging for your career and self-esteem. The best approach to this is offering a range of what you’re looking for, with your desired salary smackdab in the middle. Being strategic by giving a salary range could possibly sway the employer to feel confident in compromising on the middle ground—a salary you were hoping for all along.

Compromise or consider the entire package

If your ideal number for compensation can’t be met, try to find a medium ground if you’re truly interested in the position and opportunities that come with it. “The modern workplace” is upon us now and accepting a slightly lower salary to meet favorable accommodations, such as working from home, flexible schedules and/or extra PTO days, isn’t out of the question for some professionals. Some employers are even willing to discuss and expand specific benefits (401ks, equity in the company, etc.) they offer. If you’re this far along in the process, chances are you’re a strong candidate for the role and the employer sees your value. So, when all else fails, it doesn’t hurt to ask if any other parts of the offer package are negotiable. If you could swing it financially, some of these accommodations may make it worth it. Read also: 5 Job Benefits To Ask In Our New Normal

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