Tricky interview questions: How to answer a question about salary expectations

Another common but tricky interview question is the one about your salary expectations.
There are several important factors to consider when answering this question.

Consistency

If you’re working with an employment or recruitment consultant, chances are they will have discussed the salary for the role with both you and the employer before the interview.

It’s important to know how your consultant has represented your salary expectations so that you can provide a consistent answer.

The timing

Although this should never happen, if you are asked the salary question at the beginning of the interview (ie before you’ve had the opportunity to demonstrate your skills, experience and what you bring to the role) it’s a good idea not to provide a specific answer.

You could say something like this:

‘I’m more interested in finding a position that is a good fit for my skills and interests. I’m confident that you’re offering a salary that’s competitive in the current market.
 
The context

Before you answer the salary question, consider the wider market context ie your current salary (if you’re in a similar job) and average market rates for similar jobs.

If your current/previous job is in a similar field, you might like to answer like this:

‘In my current/previous role, I am paid X amount. I have been on that salary for Y amount of time (or I am due a pay review in Z months)’.

And follow that up with your expectation:

‘I can see that this job would be a step up for me so I’d be looking for a step up in salary, ideally between X and Y amount’.
If you’re interviewing for a job in a new field or you have no previous experience, you can refer to your research in this particular area.

‘Based on my research, my understanding is that X to Y per year/hour/day is typical based on the role and requirements’.
If you are interviewing for more than one role but this job is your preference even though the other role is paying more, you could say:

‘I have been offered another role at XYZ, but my preference would be this role and your company’.

Quick tips
 
  • Consider the timing of this question in the wider interview
  • Provide a salary range rather than a set number
  • Discuss salary as well as other benefits
  • Aim high (and leave room to negotiate)
  • Be confident
  • Explain your reasoning
For more support with preparing for your job interview, check out our guide to common interview questions.

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