You’ve landed yourself a job interview and are well-prepared with all the answers to the questions your employer may ask you during the job interview. Everything goes smoothly, and those practice sessions that you had with your mirror did not go to waste.
As the interview is coming to an end, everyone, including your future employers have a big smile on their face. But suddenly, you're hit with quite the awkward question (with very little time to think it through): “So, what’s your expected salary for this job?”
This is such a simple question, yet it still remains one of the most dreaded ones for most candidates, as your answer might make or break your job application. But fret not! Today, we're going to prepare you to answer this crucial question in every job interview.
Before knowing how to answer the question, you first need to know the motive behind it.
If you don’t already know, every company will allocate a fixed amount of funds for specific jobs. In other words, they have a budget to adhere to, before they can actually hire you, so they have to ensure that both parties are aligned with their expectations.
Candidates who expect a significantly higher salary than other applicants may suggest that they’re overqualified for the role they’re applying to. Similarly, if you’re giving a lower amount of expected salary, it could hint to your employers that you might lack the experience needed for the job.
With the list of job experiences and skills on your resume, your employers may be assessing how much you think you’re worth in the relevant markets. Promising applicants will give an appropriate amount of how much they believe they’re worth.
Most of the time, it’s very difficult for candidates to answer this kind of question, due to the nature of the hiring process. Imagine giving a number that’s too high. Your potential employers might just skip you over, and choose a candidate who has targeted a lower salary range.
However, if you’re giving too low of a number, your employers may try to push it to an even lower amount during the negotiation phase, and that's definitely not going to work in your favour in the long run, especially if your workload keeps increasing down the line.
Knowing that, it’s still difficult for a candidate to give a near-perfect answer before knowing the full job description, or the company’s budget for the role that's being applied for. While there may be no right answer to this question, there are ways that you can better prepare yourself for it.
To know the company’s budget in hiring you, you first need to know the average market salary. Take note that different locations may have different salary ranges, even though you’re applying for the same job. You can also look into the wages of the people who are currently working the job you’re applying to, and see how their experiences and educations affected their salaries.
When you’re answering what you’re expecting of your salary, it shouldn’t be solely based on just your experience and education. You should take into account the expenses you might have in taking the job. Suppose the job requires you to relocate or travel a great distance to a specific area where the company is located. In that case, you should ask for the cost of relocating or travelling in the form of direct compensation, or for the amount to be included in your salary.
Candidates tend to offer a specific number when it comes to the expected salary. However, providing your employers a range in which you’d like to earn is also a viable option. If you decide to offer a range, remember to keep it tight, rather than wide. If you’re expecting to earn $5,000 a month, it’ll be wise to offer a range between $5,000 to $6,000 as your expected salary.
Your gross remuneration shouldn’t be the only thing you’re considering and negotiating in a job interview. If you’re up for it, your employers may be willing to bridge the gap between the salary they’ve offered and the salary you’re expecting with other benefits and perks, which are just as valuable!
Sometimes, even in the early stages of the hiring process, you might already be asked about your expected salary by the hiring manager. As always, this hard-to-answer question is even more challenging to answer when you’ve yet to grasp the full understanding of the details of the job or position you’ve applied to. Don’t worry. It’s perfectly normal for you to deflect this question, but you have to do so tactfully (refer to Example #3 below).
As mentioned previously, there are multiple ways in which a company may compensate you, which include health benefits, annual leaves, stock options, flexible work arrangement, and perhaps even a free laptop. Although it doesn’t seem much at first, these types of compensation are equivalent to your ideal salary, and are able to provide you with a more balanced work-life.
Thank you for asking this question. While I am flexible when it comes to the range of salary, I am looking to receive between [Amount A] and [Amount B] annually/monthly. I believe that with my set of skills and experience level, the range I provided would be comfortable and appropriate for this position.
I am expecting to receive a baseline of [the amount] annually/monthly. I believe that with the expertise and skills I can bring to this role, the amount I suggested is an appropriate salary. Is this in line with your expectations?
Before I give you an answer, I feel that it will be more appropriate for me to give a range after I get more acquainted with the position and company, so that I’m able to provide a more accurate amount that fits both of our expectations.
Once you grasp the average salary range for the position you’ve applied for, consider giving a higher amount. In most cases, your employers are going to try and negotiate so that they can offer you a lower amount, in which the amount might still be making your targeted number.
Giving an exact amount to your hiring managers may suggest that you aren’t open for negotiations. Hence, it’s best to provide the range of your expected salary instead.
While it doesn’t hurt to share how you arrived at your expected salary, don’t bore them with too many details of the deep thinking process you’ve had before coming to the number you’ve given! You can justify the amount of your expected salary by describing your past experiences, including education, and how these experiences and knowledge can aid the company. Remember, try not to give too high of an amount for the role, or you could be considered overqualified.
And by 'sweet spot', we mean the middle ground/happy compromise that your negotiations with the hiring manager should arrive at! While you can do your best to ensure that you fit within the hiring budget of the company you're applying for, at the end of the day, the decision still lies with the management. At least you can come away from the interview knowing that you've put your best foot forward, and didn't sell yourself short. Good luck!