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3 Ways to Answer 'What Are Your Salary Expectations?'

It's perhaps the most dreaded question of the interview process. Bid too high, and you could cut yourself out of the running entirely; bid too low, and you'll cost yourself thousands -- perhaps hundreds of thousands -- of dollars over the course of your career. So what's the right answer?

money 

(Photo Credit: thethreesisters/Flickr)

In short, it depends on the situation. Here are the options:

1. Don't answer.

There are ways to get around this question, if you really don't want to give a number right off the bat. One good tactic is to say that you want to learn more about the job first, before you think about the salary that would go with it.

One downside to this, as Alison Green of Ask a Manager points out, is that many employers will want to know what your salary expectations are right up front, before they'll even consider your application.

"In fact, many online applications won't even let you apply if you don't include a number," Green says.

2. Give a range.

If that's the case, research the job title and give a salary range. PayScale's Research Center lets you look up salaries by job title, location, and years of experience.

Once you're negotiating, remember to include benefits in your salary calculation. For example, if the prospective employer offers better health insurance that would save you money in the long run, that's worth money.

One final note on salary ranges: be sure to name a lower number that you'd be comfortable with, since that's probably where the hiring manager will start your offer.

3. If necessary, give one number.

Can't name a range? At LinkedIn, Careerealism.com founder J.T. O'Donnell advises job seekers to be conservative, and prepare to negotiate.

"If you can't give a range and have to provide a single salary, choose the middle of your range, maybe even a little bit lower," she says. "You'd rather be lower than their target rate than over it."

Just remember that naming a rate doesn't lock you into accepting it. At the vast majority of companies, you can still negotiate after getting an offer. In fact, negotiating for a bit more might work in your favor, since companies will see that you believe in yourself and have done enough research to know the value of your work.

Tell Us What You Think

How do you deal with the salary expectation question? We want to hear from you! Leave a comment or join the discussion on Twitter.

1 Comment

  1. 1 Uma Raikwar Malviya 02 Apr

    I would like to comment on salary offers being made to high school teachers in India. India is a land of contradictions. Schools in India are not uniform in their syllabus or pattern of examinations. There are State Board schools, Central board schools and newly sprung in every nook and corner, one can find an "international" school offering IGCSE, IB type of patterns. However when it comes to offering salaries to teachers in these schools, it is a very grey area as many schools like to keep a very tight budget as per a teacher's salary is concerned. Schools offering international curriculum often ask for a very high fees INR 90,000 apart from other fees when it comes to student admissions but teacher's salary is again a very constrained one. I recently got one such offer when I applied to a Global School, my last drawn salary in a state board school was approx. INR 1,93,536 and the offer which I got now for a Central board School is INR 2,16,000. which is just 11.6% raise. I am just wondering when will the schools learn to appreciate a teacher's job and offer competent salaries, so that more qualified good teachers stick to their jobs rather than finding their careers in other fields where the salaries are "not a constraint for the right candidate."

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