Job Search & Interview

How to Deal with Interview Questions and Answers Salary Expectations (With Examples)

“So, what are your salary expectations?” Ask the interviewer as they look directly at you. If you’re not prepared, that question can throw you off guard. What do you answer?

You don’t want to give a low number as the job offer might have been a lot higher than that. You also don’t want to go too high because it might be unreasonable and you won’t be offered a job. 

This is why, before you even get to your job interview, you must know how to deal with interview questions and answers salary expectations. And that’s what I’m going to help you with today. So let’s dive right in!

Read More: Salary Not Discussed During Interview? Here’s How to Deal With It

Why Do Potential Employers Ask Questions About Your Salary Expectations?

You might be wondering, “Why am I asked about salary when I don’t even have a job offer yet?” Well, here are some of the most common reasons why you’re asked about salary expectations during the interview process:

  • They don’t want to waste their time and yours. Each job role has a budget. If your salary expectations are over the budget, then you’re only wasting the employer’s, recruiter’s, and your time. Nobody wants to go through several interviews only to find out that your salary requirements don’t fit their budget. 
  • They want to see if the position requires a larger budget. Sometimes, a potential employer will tell the interviewer to ask for salary expectations to get a budget idea. If many candidates usually ask for more than the initial budget, the employer might want to raise the salary for the position. 
  • They want to determine how you see yourself. According to Resume Mansion, a service that offers certified resume writers, “Interviewers love it when candidates are confident during interviews.” Well, one way to find confident candidates is to see how they handle this awkward and uncomfortable question. They also want to see if the candidate is confident in their skills and achievements by asking for a salary that they deserve. 
  • They want to know your experience level. Let’s say you have a high salary requirement. This will often show the hiring manager that you’re already a senior in a role. On the other hand, if your salary expectation is low, it might mean you have entry-level experience. Depending on what they’re looking for, they can either want to hire you or not. 
  • They want to see if you’re open to salary negotiation. Employers may want to gauge how flexible you are and whether you’re open to negotiating or if your expectations are rigid. This helps them assess how willing you might be to compromise during the hiring process.
  • They want to trap you into asking for a smaller salary. Unfortunately, there are some recruiters and hiring managers who want to trap you into asking for a smaller salary. For example, let’s say their budget is $80,000. They ask you for your expectations and you say $60,000. That’s $20,000 lower than their budget – much to their delight and your demise. 

Read More: What To Expect During Interview With HR After Interview With Hiring Manager

5 Best Ways to Answer “What Are Your Salary Expectations?”

No matter the reason, it’s not a good idea to give a specific salary right away. No, you may want to hold it off a bit to learn more about the budget, position, and all that. 

This is why, when asked what your salary expectations are, you should choose one of the following interview questions and answers salary expectations. These are:

  1. Give a salary range
  2. Deflect the question
  3. Flip the question
  4. Discuss total compensation
  5. Give a specific number

1. Give a salary range

When you’re asked about your salary expectations, it’s best to give a salary range instead of a specific number. This will show that you’re open to negotiation. Quick stat: A CareerBuilder survey saw 73% of employers expecting salary negotiation

Now, you shouldn’t just give a random range. Instead, you need to research the market value of the position and industry you’re applying for. You can head over to websites like Glassdoor and Indeed to use their salary calculator. 

To get an even better picture, talk to people in similar roles. Ask them about their current salary, as well as the base salary for the position. 

This will allow you to come up with a range that’s reasonable and fair. However, you need to remember that the employer might choose the lower end of the range. 

To counter that, your lowest salary expectation should be good enough to pay for all your necessities and a few extra. This is called your minimum acceptable salary. So no matter what salary you agree on in your range, it will be good pay for you. 

Sample answers

If you decide to answer “What is your salary expectation” by giving a range, here are some ways to say it. 

“Well, I’m definitely open to discussions, but I’ve got my eye on somewhere between $60,000 to $80,000 per year. Considering what I bring to the table with my skills and experience, that range feels like a good fit for the value I’ll bring to the role.”

“My starting point for salary would be around $70,500. I believe my skills and what I bring to the table justify this expectation. What do you think? Does that align with what you had in mind?”

2. Deflect the question

Let’s say you’re asked about your desired salary very early on (maybe even during the first interview). If that’s the case, it’s better to deflect the question. 

Why? This is because you should know more about the role and its expectations before diving into a fair salary. Here’s what John Lees, a career expert and author, says:

You’re not in a position to negotiate well because you’re still in unknown territory. The time to discuss salary is after they’ve fallen in love with you.

Sample answers 

OK, I know that deflecting a question is hard. But the best way to answer this common interview question is to be honest. 

“Before I answer, could I ask a couple more questions about the role? I want to make sure I understand it fully so I can give you a more accurate picture of what I’m thinking in terms of salary.”

“At the moment, what matters most to me is finding the perfect fit in a role. I’m really keen on understanding more about the job, the company, and all the perks that come with it before we dive into the ideal salary.”

“I’m still wrapping my head around the role and everything it entails. I’m all in for chatting more about my skills and why I reckon I’d be a great fit for the position.”

“That’s a conversation I’m definitely up for, and I’m eager to dive into it. But before we start throwing around figures, I’d like to get a clearer picture of the aspects of the role, the perks, bonuses, etc…”

Read More: 5 Trap Questions in Salary Negotiation Interview and How to Answer Them

3. Flip the question

Another way to answer this question is to ask your own question. Most of the time, an open position will already have a set budget. 

Remember my example above? The budget is $80,000 but you only asked for $60,000. You’ll be earning $20,000 less than the salary offer.

To avoid this, turn around the recruiter’s question about salary and ask them what’s the employer’s budget. If it’s well within your range, then that’s great.

But if it’s much lower, you can ask whether negotiating salary is possible or at least they are open to discussing total compensation. If not, maybe you shouldn’t proceed with the job interview process and continue your job search

Regina Borsellino, a former editor for the job search company The Muse, says:

Once the interviewer answers your question, they’ll expect you to say if the salary works for you. So you still need to do your research, but now you’ll be able to tailor your response to the budget the company has.

Read More: How to Counter a Low Salary Offer (With Email Samples)

Sample answers

For this, you can keep it short and sweet or go into detail. 

“What is the budget offered for this position?”

“Thanks for bringing that up! It would help me to get a sense of the ballpark figure you have in mind for this role. Understanding the salary range helps me align my expectations and gives me a better idea of how my skills and experience fit within the scope of the position. So, if you could shed some light on the range budgeted for this position, that would be super helpful!”

Say they provide an answer and it’s below your expected range. Here is how to answer that…

“I was aiming for somewhere between $70,000 to $75,000, but I’m totally OK with discussing and tweaking things based on the whole compensation package.”

“Given my experience and what I’m making now, I’m not sure I can accept anything below $70,000 a year. Any chance you can make your salary expectations align with mine? Is there flexibility in the budget for this position?”

4. Discuss total compensation

A job report by showed that 96% of US workers are looking for a new job with better pay. However, it’s important to note that salary is not the only way to earn money. 

This is why it’s also good to discuss compensation expectations when provided with a salary expectation question. It’s best to discuss total compensation when you’re given the budget range and it’s lower than your minimum acceptable salary. 

What does the total compensation include? Well, it can include the following:

  • Bonuses and incentives. These are additional payments or rewards provided based on your performance. It can come as annual bonuses, performance bonuses, or profit-sharing.
  • Benefits. There are also non-monetary rewards offered to employees, including health insurance, retirement plans, paid time off, parental leave, wellness programs, and other perks.
  • Stock options or equity. This gives you ownership stakes or the opportunity to purchase company stock at a discounted price.
  • Commissions or sales incentives. These are additional payments based on sales performance or achieving certain targets, common in sales or commission-based roles.

Sample answers

If it’s not possible to negotiate salary, here are some answers if you want to discuss total compensation. 

“I’m open to checking out everything your company has on the table for compensation, like equity, bonuses, stock options, and whatever other sweet deals you’ve got going on.”

“Of course, I’m down to chat about the whole compensation package because, you know, salary’s just one piece of the puzzle. I’m especially stoked to hear about what kind of growth and advancement paths are up for grabs here.”

5. Give a specific number 

Yes, yes. I know I said it’s not a good idea to give a specific number. However, there are instances when this is the best strategy to do when asked your salary expectations. 

If you’re applying for a senior role and you have a strong suite of skills, experience, and achievements, you can give a specific salary number that matches your high salary history. You can justify your high ask. 

However, you need to be 100% confident in yourself. Also, if this is a job that you highly need, maybe it’s better to back off a bit. 

Sample answers

If you fit the description I mentioned above, then here’s how to answer with a specific number. 

“Based on my previous salary of $150,000, as well as my solid track record in [skills, connections, achievements, or clout.], I’m eyeing a salary of $120,000 for my next move. However, I’m all about finding the perfect fit that sets me up for the long haul, so I’m open to exploring something in the range of $95,000 to $150,000, especially if it comes with perks like long-term growth potential, health benefits, and remote work flexibility.”

Final Words

“So what are your salary expectations?” You can be asked this during the interview process. If so, you need to know how to answer it to make the most of your job offer. 

This is why it’s essential to know the interview questions and answers salary expectations. Now that you know the top 5 best answers, you’re well on your way to landing a job offer with a salary or compensation you’re happy with. 

About Author

Founder of With over 20 years of experience in HR and various roles in corporate world, Jenny shares tips and advice to help professionals advance in their careers. Her blog is a go-to resource for anyone looking to improve their skills, land their dream job, or make a career change.

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