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How To Answer the “What Are Your Salary Expectations” Question


One of the most challenging moments in a job interview is the question that has the potential to make or break the deal: “What are your salary expectations?”

We’ll share the secrets to handling this question with ease and professionalism, ensuring you strike the right balance between confidence and flexibility.

Read on to find tips, frequently asked questions and sample answers to secure the compensation package that aligns with your professional value.

Why Do Companies Ask: “What Are Your Salary Expectations?”

From budget considerations to negotiation dynamics, the question about your salary expectations paves the way to a transparent and constructive dialogue in the hiring process.

Some of the reasons why companies might ask you this question include:

  • Budget alignment: Companies have predefined budgets for each role, and asking about salary expectations helps them identify if you fall within that range.
  • Hiring process efficiency: Knowing your salary expectations early in the process allows companies to focus on candidates who are likely to accept their job offer. It results in time savings for both you and the employer.
  • Candidate commitment: Companies want to understand your interest in the position and your commitment to the opportunity.
  • Negotiation preparation: Knowing your salary expectations helps companies assess whether there is flexibility in their budget or if negotiations may be required.

14 Tips for Answering “What Are Your Salary Expectations”

Mastering the art of discussing salary expectations before or during a job interview involves a strategic blend of research-backed figures, thoughtful negotiation, and a clear alignment between your professional value and expected compensation.

1. Search Online for Salary Ranges in Your Field and Location

Research salary ranges for positions similar to the one you’re applying for in your specific geographic location. Consider factors like experience level, industry demand and regional cost of living.

To do that, use online resources, such as OysterLink’s salary database, wage surveys industry reports.

This research will make sure your salary expectations are realistic and in line with the market standards.

2. Offer a Salary Range

Instead of providing a fixed number, present a well-researched salary range based on your industry knowledge and the specific demands for the position.

As the lower end of the range, mention the minimum you find acceptable, considering your financial needs and industry standards. For the higher end, use an aspirational but still reasonable figure.

Offering a salary range shows your awareness of market conditions and your desire to be flexible, as well as opens the door for future negotiations.

3. Try to Avoid Answering on Paper

Whenever possible, avoid providing specific salary expectations on written documents. Instead, express your interest in discussing your compensation in person or during an interview.

This will help you tailor your response based on a more comprehensive understanding of the job requirements, company culture and the overall compensation package.

If you are requested to fill in your salary expectations in the application form, do not provide a specific figure. Offer a broad range or state your preference for discussing compensation during an interview.

4. Deflect the Question

Deflecting the question can help you gather more information about the role, company expectations and overall compensation package before committing to a specific salary figure.

Acknowledge the importance of compensation and express your eagerness to learn more about the specific responsibilities.

Steer the conversation into a different direction, for example by emphasizing the need for additional information or redirecting the focus to your value for the company.

5. Consider What Budget You Need to Live & Maintain Your Lifestyle

Assess your personal financial needs, including living expenses, savings and spending. Consider housing costs, transportation and healthcare. This information will help you determine the minimum salary you need to maintain your lifestyle.

Additionally, think of your long-term financial goals, such as saving for a home or retirement.

6. Discuss Total Compensation

Ask about the entire compensation package offered by the company, including benefits, bonuses, stock options and other perks.

This information will help you assess the full value of the job while providing a more nuanced response to the salary question.

7. Talk to People in Similar Roles or Industries

Attend industry events, join professional networking groups or use platforms like LinkedIn to connect with people in your field.

When engaging in conversations about salary, collect information about the factors that influence compensation in the industry, such as experience level, skills and location.

Ask diplomatically for general insights into industry payment norms rather than specific figures.

9. Ask Them to Provide the Answer

After you’ve expressed your interest in the role and the company, ask your potential employer about their salary range for the position.

This tactic can help you check if the employer’s range aligns with your expectations before committing to a specific figure and set the stage for a more collaborative and transparent negotiation process.

10. Know the Right Time You Encounter Salary Expectation Questions

Be mindful of the appropriate timing for discussing salary expectations. The early stages of the hiring process, which include application forms and initial interviews, typically focus on the company’s needs and your qualifications. Steer the conversation toward your skills and experiences without delving into specific numbers.

At a later stage, during interviews or job offer discussions, discuss your expectations openly, backed up by research on industry earnings.

11. Compare the Salary in Your Current/Previous Job With the New Salary you Want

Assess the value of your current or previous total compensation package, including base salary, bonuses and benefits.

Evaluate your professional growth and achievements in your current/previous role to determine the value you bring to the table. Identify any gaps between your current compensation and the industry standards.

Use this information to justify your desired salary when discussing your salary expectations for the new role. Explain how your skills, experience and achievements justify the proposed figure.

12. Quantify Your Achievements

Use specific metrics and data to quantify your past achievements and demonstrate the impact of your work. This will both strengthen your case for a higher salary and provide a basis for the employer to understand your value proposition.

For example, you can say, “In my previous role, I suggested a client engagement strategy that contributed to a 15% growth in revenue over the course of the year. This achievement shows my ability to deliver tangible results, and I am confident that my skills will similarly contribute to the success of your team and company.”

13. Practice Active Listening

Pay attention to the employer’s responses and cues. If they express concerns or constraints, consider how you can address those points in a constructive manner to reach a mutually agreeable solution.

14. Be Mindful of Your Tone and Body Language

Maintain a confident yet friendly and approachable demeanor. Avoid appearing defensive or overly aggressive. Effective communication includes both verbal and non-verbal cues.

What Not to Say When Asked About Salary Expectations

Knowing what to say when discussing salary expectations is important. Equally vital is to be mindful of what to avoid saying, and why.

Here are some examples of what not to say:

“I’ll accept whatever you offer.”

This response suggests you have not done a preliminary research and are not in a strong negotiating position. Instead, convey that you have a clear understanding of your value and industry standards.

“I want the highest salary possible.”

While it’s natural to seek competitive compensation, stating an extreme preference might make you appear inflexible or solely motivated by money. Instead, express a willingness to discuss a fair and reasonable package.

“I need this job to pay my bills.”

Personal financial needs are important, but such a statement can make you appear desperate. Instead, focus on your skill and experience and the value you bring to the role.

“I’m flexible, whatever works for you.”

While flexibility is essential, this response can show you as indecisive. Instead, provide a well-researched salary range that aligns with industry standards and your value.

“I haven’t really thought about it.”

Lack of preparation can signal you are not interested enough in the position. Always research potential employers in advance and have a reasonable salary expectation ready to discuss.

“Can we discuss that later?”

Timing is crucial, but outright deflection might raise concerns. Instead, express your interest in discussing compensation once you know more about the position and the responsibilities it entails.


Gain Confidence in Your Career Journey With OysterLink

A comprehensive platform for jobs and networking, OysterLink offers a wealth of resources to guide you at every step while building your career in the dynamic fields of restaurants and hospitality.

Delve into detailed job descriptions that go beyond the basics, offering an in-depth look at each position.

Excel in job interviews with our carefully selected interview questions. Stay informed about labor laws and salary trends with our real-time data and paycheck calculators, ensuring you have a clear understanding of your rights and worth on the market.

Looking to explore high-paying opportunities? From managerial positions to niche specialties, OysterLink features engaging articles and guides that spotlight attractive career paths and help you make informed decisions.

FAQs on the Topic Of Salary Expectations

While you can use your previous salary as a starting point for negotiations, it’s more effective to base your expectations on industry research, current market salary trends and the value you bring to the new position.

Yes, it’s acceptable to do so. Make sure to phrase your question as a desire to align your expectations with the company’s budget and ensure a mutually beneficial outcome.

Yes, if the offer does not meet your expectations, you can revisit the discussion, providing a chance for negotiation. Depending on the results, you can then either accept or decline the job offer.

In this case, focus on the skills and unique value you bring to the new role.

Make sure you have researched industry standards to provide a relevant and competitive salary range.

Politely deflect the question expressing your interest in aligning expectations and understanding the responsibilities for the role.

It’s up to you whether to inform the company about having multiple offers on the table.

If you decide to be transparent, you can use this information as leverage to negotiate a competitive compensation package.

However, being transparent can create a perception of being solely driven by competing offers rather than genuine interest in the specific role. This can negatively impacting the employer in terms of your long-term commitment to their organization.

Approach the situation in the same way as in an in-person interview. Express your enthusiasm for the role and provide a salary range based on your research and qualifications.

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