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“What Are Your Salary Expectations?”

You had an interview this morning. You finished practice problems, went over behavioural questions, and perfected your mental math—you were ready for this. But after finishing your interview and leaving their office, you reflect upon the one topic you were not prepared for: your salary expectations. This is an experience I’ve had (and many others have as well), so you’re definitely not alone. It can be intimidating to answer this question if you aren’t expecting it because you don’t want to state a range that is too low or too high. By preparing an answer ahead of time, you can demonstrate to the employer that you’re flexible with your salary while also knowing the value of your work. Here are some tips and tricks to help you ace your next interview!

Firstly, you should have a sense of what an employee in your industry and geographic area usually earns, because it will give you an accurate benchmark to determine a reasonable salary range for the job you applied for. Some great resources include Glassdoor.com, Salary.com, Payscale.com, and Indeed.com. There may be some conflicting information, but at least you’ll get a general sense of a reasonable range if you look at a few sources. Another idea to keep in mind while researching is to think about best-case scenarios (what salary offer would make you say yes immediately) and worst-case scenarios (what salary offer would you walk away from). This can help you avoid a lot of awkward “uhh”s or “um”s!

Now comes the tricky part—actually answering the question. There are a few tactics you can use, but remember to always be concise and positive. The most straightforward method would be to emphasize your flexibility. For example, “my salary range is flexible and I’m definitely open to discussing specific numbers once we’ve gone over the details of the position.” To ensure that your answer isn’t too wishy washy, try reinforcing your credentials to remind the interviewer about your expertise.

Another method would be to voice the confidence you have in your abilities while giving them a chance to make a fair offer. This is a nice balance between tactfully stating your expectation to be compensated appropriately, while still leaving the ball in their court. You could say “I’m more interested in finding a position that’s a good fit for my skills and interests, and I’m sure that you’re offering a salary that’s competitive in the current industry.”

Lastly, you could get straight to the point and state your range right off the bat, since the interviewer will most likely be expecting a number (actually, more like a range) when they ask this question. For example, “I’m open to discussing what you believe to be a fair salary for the position, but I’d expect something in the general range of $X to $Y based on my previous salary and my knowledge of the industry.” This a more assertive answer compared to the first two, but it shows a level of awareness and initiative that may generate a positive response from your interviewer.

Alright, it’s time to get excited because you’ve properly navigated this question and they are clearly interested in hiring you! But now the interviewer provides an initial offer that is way too low. Don’t worry, there are a few tricks that you can use to negotiate in an open and friendly manner. Try highlighting your skills and the fact that you would be a great fit at the organization. This will set the stage for you to make a fair and well-presented counteroffer. Again, present a range to show your flexibility and open-mindedness. Also, make sure the bottom number of the salary range you provide is one that you can live with (a.k.a don’t sell yourself short and make it too low!). Another thing to remember is the total compensation; don’t forget about benefits like health insurance, company stock, flexible work hours and additional vacation days—it’s all part of the package. Although it may be tough in the moment, you should be willing to walk away from the offer if it isn’t right for you. I know this can be difficult, especially if it’s in a competitive job market, but make sure to remember your long-term career goals that will ultimately lead to your success and happiness.

So, in the days leading up to your next interview, make sure to research salaries in the industry, know the value of your work by coming up with a fair salary range, and be prepared to negotiate. Remember, there is no right answer. What’s important is highlighting your willingness to work with the interviewer while still staying within the range you have decided on. Hopefully with these tips, this question isn’t nearly as daunting as it used to be!