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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?
salary expectations
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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?

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.

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2. Give a range.

If that’s the case, do your research. PayScale’s Salary Survey gives you a free salary range based on your experience, education and skills.

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 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.

Jen Hubley Luckwaldt
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14 Comments on "3 Ways to Answer ‘What Are Your Salary Expectations?’"

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Jamal Ushry

What is the expected salary of a busser


I always like to ask about full package as work is not always about a paycheck figure, many other benefits are included like development plan, housing plan, medical coverage and many other aspects to be presented in the job offer.


It’s really a question stacked against the applicant. Of 3 outcomes, 2 are negative. Bid too high and you’re out. Bid too low and you’ve locked yourself into discussion of something that may be lower than you could have gotten. Or maybe your figure and that of the company happen to coincide – one good out of three. Ranges help a little but not much (note Ahmad’s comment above – whatever is the bottom of the range will work against you).

Susanne Alberto
I love the company I currently work for, which still considers itself a start-up after 7 years, except for one reason – they only pay commission and getting paid is like pulling teeth. I have a title that’s probably “fancier” than what I actually do, in order to make the company look better – when, in fact – that’s the position that I’d like to be doing! Now that I’m job hunting, I’m in a bit of a Catch 22: I’m lacking some of the skills to land the position I really want, and I don’t know what salary to… Read more »

Teachers rock! I’m not a teacher but they are the reason I’ve done well in life!
Teachers deserve our adulation, gratitude, and a top notch salary. Without teachers, the world would suffer!

Uma Raikwar Malviya
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… Read more »
Alfred S Owens

What’s the best possible answer in order to move forward in the process .


This is a nice way to handle this kind of questions, I applied for a job online where they send me an email asking about expected salary I took your advise by giving a range , they replied back telling my requested min salary is their max , how can I not say yes until the interview.
PS . I am communicating with employment company. Thx

Shaelyn Banks

I just got that same question “What are your total compensation expectations?” I don’t know what to say cause I’ve never had a job.


So what with all the “Teacher Teacher Teacher” posts? This article is about salary expectations. I guess teachers certainly have unrealistic salary expectations.


Yeah, teachers rock, but many don’t. Top-notch teachers should get top-notch pay, but those that aren’t shouldn’t get top-notch pay. #Meritorious Pay is what the Teachers Unions #NEA are fighting against, because they don’t want to be accountable. Public Servants should not expect higher than normal pay, but they do have some job security, while the rest of America is getting hours cut and less pay, pay cuts and layoffs. How can a teacher make more money than the average family of the children they teach? #Insanitydefinition #financialinstability


How should “illegal” questions be handled? I recently had an interview, was asked to complete background release forms which contained the “date of birth” question. I responded but feel maybe I shouldn’t have done so.

Vihit D

Dear Teacher,

You Rock!!!!!!!!!


It is very important to understand for all of us that the best talent of the country should be in teaching. And for that the teachers must get compensated all in all industry & it will become one reason to attract best of the brain in teaching. Please associate the pride of being a teacher who is deciding the future of any country. If we want a developed & corruption free India, we must have to make teaching as a career which every one will sought after.

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