Career Advice

6 Ways to Answer Desired Salary Questions

min read
Mikaela Thompson

Here are 6 tips on how to best answer "what is your expected salary?"both in applications and during an interview. The key point — wait until you know the organisation shows keen interest in offering you a position before you hold the discussion. In the meantime, you want to be strategic and answer questions tactfully.

Deflecting on an Application

Even before stepping your foot through the door, you can be asked about your desired salary in a required field in an application. Even if it's not required, be sure not to leave the field blank as this can reflect badly and can veto your application entirely.

Put 'negotiable' if text is required, or if it's numbers, you can enter '999'or '000'and then write a comment in the 'notes' section (if there is one) that your salary is negotiable and that you will be willing to discuss  during the interview.

Deflecting in an In-Person Interview

Discussing in-person can be so much harder but not impossible. True, you're being put on the spot, but you can answer in many different ways that will allow you to steer away from giving a number that is too low or too high. What you want to avoid is crippling yourself  on an opportunity or to settle with a figure that is below your worth.

If you are asked point blank, you can defer to the salary mentioned in the job application if there was one. You can mention that you understand that that is what they are looking at, but that you would like to understand more about the role and that you don't have a specific number in mind.

Share Your Current Earnings

A good indication on whether an employer might be able to afford you is if you mention the salary you are currently on or previously on in your most recent role if you have already left a position. The goal of this is to ball park around what range you could work with, but only mention this if you feel that the figure is a good reflection of the worth and the amount of work that you do or have done in your current or previous role. Note that this is only relevant if you remain in the same industry and are not starting from scratch.

Ask For Their Budget

If you are in an in-person interview and are asked the question directly, it can be hard to avoid. A strategic way to do so, would be to answer a question with a question. If they ask you how much you are looking for, you can first answer with that you do not have a specific number in mind. If they push for it, you can ask how much they have budgeted for the role?

Turn the question on its head back at them which will give you an indication on whether you think the job process is worth continuing if the range is way too low. If it's within reach, you can use this to your advantage to bring focus to your skills and highlight your strengths that you can bring to the position and company that could lead to asking for a higher budget.

You can also bring back the focus to the job salary mentioned in the job description if there was one and clarify if they expect the job duties that are listed in the description and that you found out about in the interview are to be paid with this amount.

Pre-Job Offer Stage

If you feel like it is too premature to have a discussion about desired salary before a job offer is made, you can express that you are only comfortable with having this discussion at the end stages near a job offering. That is when you know that both parties agree that you are a suitable candidate for the job.

You can ask them point blank if you are happy to discuss compensation if you're being offered the role and if that is the current case. Gauge off of their answer. If it is a 'yes', you can start having the discussion. If it's a 'no', you can go back to mentioning that you reserve these types of conversations and questions when you're being offered the job.

State a Range

In an instance where the interviewer or recruiter is insistent on a figure, the best thing you can do in this scenario is to answer with a range. This will give you leeway to discuss a final figure without crippling your chances of your real expected salary. Make sure your bottom line is not too low, and make sure that you also don't go too high so as not to scare them off. Make it broad between, such as with a difference of $20,000 in between to build space for your future negotiation for when the time comes.

You can visit recruiting websites that review and compare companies or visit recruitment agencies to find out about industry standards for price points. E.g.,

The Bottom Line

Do not share a number that is too high as you could scare off the interviewer if they think they can't afford you. You want to present all of your skills and benefits that you can bring to the company before a number is discussed that shows your worth and value to the organisation.

Be patient and practice strategy skills on how to deflect in an application or interview and learn how to answer questions with another question back at them that strategically places you at the advantage of understanding more about the role to get to when your want to be — the end game.

Are you being asked about your current salary instead? Read "How to Answer Current Salary Question" to see why it is asked and what is the difference between questions about salaries.

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