Job Interview Questions

What are your salary expectations?

How To Answer Interview Questions Series

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Oh, the dreaded salary question!

The good news is that it doesn’t have to be a big problem for you if you know how to handle it.  The primary strategy I teach my job seekers is “Do your salary research so that you know what the going rate is for that job in your part of the country, and then deflect naming a number for as long as possible.”

Still, there are different approaches to use depending on who is asking you this question.

If HR asks you, just ask what their salary range is for this job.  They’ll have one.  When they tell you, say, “I’m comfortable with that range.  If I think this is the right job for me, and you think that I’m the right person for it, we can absolutely come to an agreement. “

If the hiring manager asks you, things get a little stickier, but you still have options.  It’s not always true that “the one who says a number first loses,” but you do want to try not to be first.

It’s totally appropriate throw the ball back to them, just like you did with HR: “That’s a great question.  We haven’t discussed what the salary and compensation plan for this position is.  Can you fill me in on that?”

50% of hiring managers will go ahead and start telling you.

The other 50% really want to know how much you’re going to cost.  They’ll say, “Well, it depends on the candidate.  What are your requirements?”

So you say, “I am really looking for a challenge, to use my skills in X, Y, and Z.  I’m sure that you’ll pay a salary that’s appropriate for the challenges of this job.  What did the company have in mind for that?”

This answer will divert a few more people, but a stubborn manager will say something like, “It really does depend on the candidate.  Do you have a range?”

If you can’t push back any more, say, “I have to be honest.  This is a new position for me.  I’d really have to see the total package, the entire compensation plan with all the benefits.  My last salary was in the $55,000 range, and this position seems to me to be a rung or two above that in responsibility and in my ability to impact the organization, so I would expect that the salary offer would reflect that.”

Salary negotiations are tricky business.   One of the best books on the planet on this subject is Negotiating Your Salary:  How to Make $1000 a Minute, by Jack Chapman.  It’s a short, easy read and it will fill your brain with all kinds of tips and tactics you can use that work like a charm.  Find it and read it.

Salary questions can be difficult, but I want you to remember that your responses really do demonstrate your strength and confidence as a candidate.  Stay calm, cool, and confident, and you’ll be fine.


If you’d like to practice your interview answers with professional feedback, or you need help with specific answers, I’d love to work with you as your interview coach.

Find out more about my special offer for personal 1:1 coaching or my group coaching membership that meets online Thursday evenings at 7:00pm CST!



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