How to Answer “What are your Salary Expectations?”

Telling a potential employer your salary expectations can be nerve-wracking. Our expert tips for candidates (and employers) will help you to answer confidently with the right figure for you.

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Salary bands, pay rise potential, and personal circumstances are all things potential candidates consider when working out how to answer the interview question “what are your salary expectations?”

While you don’t want to price yourself out of the role, you also don’t want to risk going in too low and having to fight for a pay rise further down the line.

The good news is, we have all the tips you need to figure out the best way to provide employers with your annual salary expectation and keep both parties happy – along with a few tips for employers navigating the hiring process, too.

Why do employers ask what your salary expectations are?

It’s often the dreaded question in an interview, but it’s also one of the most important. But why exactly do potential employers ask about your annual salary expectation?

Mainly it’s to ensure you’re both on the same, or at least a similar, page before moving the interview process forward. If you both have wildly different ideas about what the role should pay, it’s better to realise this sooner rather than later and prevent anybody’s time being wasted.

It’s also a great way for potential employers to see how much you value your work and experience, how you compare to current employees in a similar role, and how senior you are. If you provide a salary expectation that’s much pricier than other candidates, for example, it may suggest you are too senior for the advertised position.

It also allows employers to find out whether they can afford you. If you’re acing the interview process and your salary expectation is higher than the employer’s allocated budget, they may try to alter their budgets to meet your expectation. Asking the question allows them to decide whether you’re worth it.

Read more: What salary can I expect at a startup?

5 tips for answering the question: what are your salary expectations?

We’ve listed our five expert tips to help you come up with a salary expectations answer that’s right for you.

1. Provide a salary range

Providing potential employers with a salary range, rather than one specific number, is a great way to open the discussion up to debate and collaboration.

A salary range allows you to be open and honest about your expectations while avoiding the risk that the employer will say no outright.

If you have a fixed figure in mind, ensure this is at the lower end of your range. This way, if the employer is open to negotiation, you may even end up with a salary slightly higher than you were hoping for. This also ensures that you aren’t enabling the employer to offer a salary that’s lower than your expectation.

Employer tip

A salary range not only offers some flexibility, but also helps you shape a good growth plan for employees. As an employer, if you can only afford the lower end of the candidate’s range right now, you may be in a position to offer them a progression plan with the aim of paying the employee the higher end in time, keeping everyone happy.

2. Ask about budget

If you’re reluctant to go straight in with a salary expectation figure, try turning the question back to the employer.

When asked what your salary expectations are, reply with a question of your own such as “it would be helpful to understand what your budget is?”

This is helpful as it allows you to understand exactly what the employer is willing to pay, and how that aligns with your own salary needs. If it’s higher than you thought, great, and if it’s lower, you can go on to ask if there is room to negotiate, or if there are benefits on offer in addition to the annual salary.

Employer tip

As an employer, make sure you go into the interview knowing what your budget is. Being clear about how much you can afford to pay candidates is important in order to build trust and communication. Consider sticking to the national living wage as a minimum.

3. Do your research

The best job adverts will display a salary band, but unfortunately, not all employers want to make their salary offers public.

If that’s the case, you’ll need to do some research before your interview. Try to uncover both what an average salary within your industry and job level is, and if possible, the type of salaries the company currently pays.

If your salary expectation is informed by research – for example, if you know that competitors and other businesses are paying a similar wage for someone of the same level – you’ll go into the interview with the confidence that you’re expecting an appropriate salary.

Employer tip

If your salaries aren’t competitive, you will struggle to attract the very best talent to your company. Benchmark your salaries to ensure you are offering pay that is comparable with your competitors and similar roles within your industry.

4. Offer room for negotiation

Even if you have a set figure in mind for your salary, it can be wise to offer room for negotiation.

Giving your potential employer the chance to think over your salary expectation, and come back with a figure that aligns with their own budget, can be beneficial. It shows that you are open and flexible, whilst still valuing your own experience and skills.

If you decide to take this approach, be clear with your employer that you’re open to negotiation. Remember, it’s a good idea to go in slightly higher, that way if the employer negotiates you down, you’ll still hopefully land the figure you actually want.

Employer tip

When negotiating, strike a balance between being firm with what you can afford to offer and being open to the candidate’s suggestion. How you communicate here will set the tone for further discussions in the future.

Read more: For more useful information for employers, check out our guides to the best HR and payroll software and our top-rated payroll service providers.

5. Focus on your qualifications and experience

No matter what your salary expectation is, you need to back it up. Think carefully about your qualifications and previous experience before coming up with an answer.

When you do present your answer, be sure to explain why you’re looking for that figure. Draw the employer’s attention back to your qualifications and experience and what makes you the best candidate for the role.

Focus not just on what salary they can offer you, but what you can offer them too.

Don’t forget to also consider your own personal circumstances, and the amount you need to cover your expenses. Remember that your salary will also include deductions, such as pension and national insurance.

Employer tip

Salaries should be unique to the candidate and what they bring to the table. Whilst it’s a good idea to have a budget and salary band set for the role, you should be offering them a figure within this scope that reflects their own unique set of qualifications and experience.

Final thoughts

How you provide a salary expectation answer is up to you, but by following the tips laid out in this article, you can answer the question with confidence and in a way that’s likely to keep you in the running for the job.

Lucy Nixon profile
Lucy Nixon - content writer

With 10 years experience in the digital marketing industry, Lucy is a content writer specialising in ecommerce, website building and all things small business. Her passion is breaking down tricky topics into digestible and engaging content for readers. She's also committed to uncovering the best platforms, tools, and strategies, researching meticulously to providing hand-on tips and advice.

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