How to Answer Salary Expectation Questions in Job Interviews

Learn how to answer the salary expectation question.

Learn how to answer the salary expectation question. 

One of the hardest questions to be asked during a job interview is the salary expectation question. You don’t want to say something too high and price yourself out of a job you need, but you also don't want to settle for less than you deserve. So how can you answer this mind-boggling question? 

During a job interview, this question is likely to be asked at some point. So, it’s essential to be ready for it. The way you respond to the question may affect how well you do in the interview. 

Use this guide to explore why employers ask salary expectation questions, how to answer them, and tips to keep in mind when providing salary expectations. 

RELATED: The Best Way to Answer Salary Interview Questions

Why Do Employers Ask Salary Expectation Questions?

Why do employers or recruiters ask this question during an interview? 

Employers or recruiters will ask potential employees the salary expectation question for three important reasons – budget, knowing your worth, and professional level. 

Employers want to know salary expectations because they have a budget to stick to. They want to be certain your salary expectations align with the amount they’ve allotted for a specific role. If most applicants expect a certain range in terms of compensation, the company may provide more budget. 

Most of the time, recruiters ask salary expectation question to gauge an applicant’s knowledge of their worth, considering their level, skillset, and experience. Knowing the worth of your skillset is essential to make sure you’re not going to be paid lower than what you deserve. 

Lastly, employers want to know your professional level. Most applicants who have a higher value are those with more skills and experience. This means that the applicant has been working longer and has attained a great deal of knowledge about the know-how of the position. 

Strategies to Give Figures that are Fair for Both Sides

Girl answering the salary expectation question

The girl is answering the salary expectation question. 

Since you’re applying for a position, it’s important to know how to put a value on your skills and experience. When discussing compensation expectations, there are strategies to help you provide a fair price for you that is within the employer’s budget.

Research is the Key

Research is the best way to determine your value and to make sure you’re going to suggest a fair salary range. 

No matter what position you’re applying for, the salary expectation question will be asked and the job interview is a chance to convince the recruiter or potential employer that you deserve it. To do this, you should figure out your salary expectations ahead of time. 

Begin your salary research by looking up your desired job title by name, location, and years of experience in free resources like,, Glassdoor, or the Department of Labor. 

If you work in the life sciences industry, you can also review BioSpace's 2021 US Life Sciences Salary Report to get an average national salary for your goal position. A salary calculator can also help determine a salary range that is fair for applicants.

Lastly, if you know someone in your network who has the job you want, you can ask them how much they’re making to gain insight and answer the salary expectation question perfectly.

RELATED: How to Answer Salary Questions in Your Interview

Use a Salary Range

Apart from playing safe, providing an employer with an expected salary range can make it sound more flexible and negotiable. 

Job seekers should provide a range when stating the salary expectation question, not a specific figure. Flexibility is something most employers appreciate and it leaves room for adjustment. You and the recruiter can negotiate to reach a number that both of you can agree on. 

By giving a range, you show that you know your value. Employers are impressed when jobseekers have researched about the position beforehand, showing dedication and preparation. 

Always remember that some employers may opt for the lowest price in a range. Make sure to limit the range to a small gap and don’t go overboard with the lowest number in the range. Aim to keep the bottom of your range toward the mid-to-high point while reverting to the salary expectation question. 

Flip the Question

If this question catches you off-guard during an interview, you can simply turn the question back. Whether the salary question pops up during a phone interview or in person, you can flip the question – in a polite way. 

You can ask, “I’d like to learn more about the role and duties before discussing money and salary. But may I ask what salary range do you consider for this role?”. 

When the salary expectation question is delivered politely, you’ll show that your priority is learning more about the role than how much you’re going to be paid. 

If the hiring manager provides a range the company is willing to pay and it fits your expected salary range, thank them for sharing the information. If it’s less, you can tell them about it but hinting that you’re willing to talk about the job, opening the door for negotiation.

Delay your Answer

In some instances, an applicant can be placed in an unfair position when they are asked about salary expectations. If you have a little idea of the job role and responsibilities, delay your response by responding that you would like to know more about the job and corresponding roles. This way, you can have the time to research or understand the role. 

Be Honest

The most important thing for a job applicant to do is always tell the truth during an interview. Never misrepresent your experience or training. It’s best to direct the conversation to the skills and value you’d bring to the role. 

If you’re asked to tell how much you are earning in your current job or a past role before they ask you the salary expectation question, tell the employer the truth. When they learn that you increased the value, you might lose the chance to get hired. 

An inevitable question

At some point in a job interview, salary expectations will be asked. By being aware of what you can reasonably ask and knowing how to answer the question, you will be prepared to start negotiating for a fair salary price. Use this guide to prepare well for your job interview and answer the salary expectation question in the best way.

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