How do you answer the question ‘What are your salary expectations?’ in an interview?


”What salary are you looking for?” – the question that has most candidates working up a sweat. Here, we tell you how to answer this all important question.

How to best answer the salary expectations question at interview
Blog Author Sharon Sondh Office Angels Written by- Marketing Manager Office Angels

Some people relish the challenge of interviews, while others can’t wait for them to be over. No matter which applies to you, there’s one question that has most candidates working up a sweat:

“What salary are you looking for?”

Before you answer, you need to ask yourself four questions:

  • What stage of the application process are you at? Is the question in an application form or part of an interview? This will influence how explicit your answer needs to be
  • What type of job are you applying for? Will your salary negotiation skills be appreciated, or do you need to display an acceptance for strict pay scales?
  • Do you need to answer the question now, or can you deflect it? Sometimes a well-thought out deflection of the question will impress. Other times, this can signal a lack of awareness
  • What is the broad average salary for the position you’re applying for? Doing some research so you know a ballpark figure removes the danger of drastically over- (or under-) estimating a reasonable salary

Whenever the salary question arises, it’s important to make potential employers consider the skills you can offer their team before discussing how much you’re worth.

You can’t negotiate a salary without first finding a great vacancy – and that’s where Office Angels comes in.

How to answer the salary question in an email

If you’re asked about salary expectations by email, this is likely to be the result of an initial enquiry.

  • Don’t ignore the question. Some potential employers will automatically rule out applicants who skip questions
  • Don’t be too specific. Pitch too high and you’ll price yourself out of an interview. Pitch too low and you won’t get the salary you need or deserve, should be successful
  • Be flexible. If you feel the need to, mention that your previous salaries have fallen between a broad range, or that research into your prospective role suggests a certain salary range (for example, £20,000 to £30,000). It’s best to go for somewhere near the higher end of your expectations, and remember to mention that you take other things into account, like the job itself, career development potential, and the people you’ll be working with
  • Defer the question. If you feel it’s inappropriate to mention numbers at this stage, consider stating that your expected pay is negotiable, you’d like to talk about it in person, or ask the employer to provide a salary range

How to answer the salary question in a cover letter

Our salary negotiation tips for cover letters are largely the same as those for email.

Use the examples below as inspiration for your own cover letter.

“My research and experience tells me that a reasonable salary for this position would fall somewhere between £20,000 and £30,000. However, there are many things to consider, like the people I will be working with, career development and progression, and of course the job itself.”

“I understand you need to be sure my salary expectations fit within the range for this position but I am reluctant to focus on wage alone this stage - there are so many influential variables. I’m excited to find out more about this role and would happily discuss my expectations at interview.”

How to answer the salary question on the phone

Whether it’s over the phone or in a face-to-face interview, being asked about salaries directly means you won’t have long to compose your answer so:

  • Be prepared. Research and rehearse your answer ahead of the call so you’re not caught unaware
  • Don’t feel pressured to give too much away. You don’t want to price yourself out of an interview, the job and/or a decent salary at this screening stage so be careful what you reveal
  • Remember to stay flexible. As with cover letters and emails, if you feel the need to give a number, go for a broad range. Remember to emphasise that other factors besides money are also important

How to answer the salary question during an interview

Much of what you’ve learnt already applies to this slightly more daunting context also.

  • Be comfortable in your response. Your biggest tool for negotiating salaries is your ability to show your potential employer that you’ve got what they need and you’re a great fit for the job - if you can do that, you can approach the salary question confidently
  • Consider deflecting the question. While remaining respectful and diplomatic, ask the interviewer the salary range they are considering (providing this wasn’t included in the job advertisement)
  • Use your knowledge to your advantage. If you feel comfortable doing so, display your awareness by using your past salaries and the industry standard to influence the bracket you suggest
  • Again, don’t be too specific. At whatever stage you’re being asked about your salary expectations, remain broad without being unrealistic or unhelpful, until you and your new employer are ready to commit

At Office Angels, we work hard to equip you with the skills you need to find a great job. Sign up to our newsletter for more job hunting information and advice.

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