Adriana Herrera, PayDestiny FounderThis article shares “How to Answer Salary Expectations” and provides examples of answers that will maximize your pay.

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How to Answer Salary Expectations (8 Great Answers)

by | Last updated Oct 20, 2022

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Are you worried about how to answer salary expectations questions?

If so, you’re not alone. Most people don’t know how to answer “What are your salary expectations” and wind up giving away too much information or sounding unconfident. But that’s all going to change today.

In this article, you’ll learn everything you need to know about answering salary expectations questions. You’ll get answers to questions like “What are salary expectations,” “Why do recruiters ask for salary expectations,” and “How to deflect salary expectation question.” You’ll also get salary expectations answer examples.

By the time you finish reading this article, you’ll be able to answer salary expectation questions like a pro and position yourself to successfully negotiate your salary without leaving money on the table.

If you’re ready to learn how to answer salary expectations then keep reading!

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What Are Salary ExpectationsWhat are salary expectations | Salary expectations - How to answer salary expectations (8 Great Answers

Salary expectations refer to the base pay you want to be paid in exchange for the work you will complete. Salary expectations do not include other forms of monetary compensation such as commissions or bonuses.

What are Salary Expectations

Salary expectations are not what you would like to be paid based on your bills and personal needs but a dollar value that reflects what you want to be paid based on what the market is paying for someone with your level of experience to perform a job’s duties. Salary expectations reflect the value of the work you will do:

  • Within the market the company asking you for salary expectations uses to benchmark salary
  • Using your education and training
  • Using your years of experience performing similar job duties or job duties that are exactly the same
  • Using your specific skill level
  • Using your proven track record of success

Salary expectations can be placed into three categories: Competitive salary expectation, Median market salary expectation, and Minimum salary expectation.

Competitive salary expectation

A competitive salary expectation is one that reflects top dollar within the market for someone with your level of skill and experience. A company may offer you “top dollar” at their company but the salary is below market (i.e. underpaid compared to what other companies at a similar stage in your industry in the city the company uses to benchmark salary are paying). A competitive salary expectation reflects top market rates.

Median market salary expectation

A median market salary expectation is one where you expect to be paid at the industry’s median salary based on your experience and skill set. Like, a competitive salary expectation, a median market salary expectation reflects what the market is paying, not a company’s median salary.

Minimum salary expectation

Unlike a competitive salary expectation and a median salary expectation a minimum salary expectation is not an expectation that you will be paid the lowest salary that the market is offering. A minimum salary expectation is an expectation you set based on your understanding of what the market is paying for your skills/experience and the minimum base pay you are willing to accept to perform a job’s duties and responsibilities.

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Why Do Recruiters Ask for Salary Expectations

Why do recruiters ask for salary expectations | Salary expectations - How to answer salary expectations (8 Great Answers)

Depending on how a company uses its recruiters a recruiter may be responsible for some or all of the following duties:

  • Outbound talent sourcing (e.g. reaching out to individuals with the skills the company needs)
  • Attracting talent (e.g. networking at job fairs, conferences, and meetups)
  • Screening talent (e.g. phone screens and preliminary interviews)
  • Acting as a go between between company leadership and a job applicant to negotiate compensation
  • Creating compensation packages and making job offers
  • Meeting talent sourcing goals
  • Meeting hiring goals
  • Staying within or below hiring budgets

The last job duty listed above, staying within or below hiring budgets, is a job duty that every recruiter is responsible for. This is one of the reasons recruiters ask for salary expectations.

Why Do Recruiters Ask for Salary Expectations

Recruiters ask salary expectation questions to gather information. Recruiters want to gather information to:

  1. Gauge how you view your experience and skill set (i.e. entry-level, mid-level, senior-level)
  2. Have you establish the baseline for base pay, also referred to as the salary negotiation anchor
  3. Check if your salary expectation is within the budget allotted for the position

To gauge how you view your experience and skill set

Recruiters ask salary expectations to gauge how you view your experience and skill. Gauging how you view your skills helps recruiters understand if you might be under qualified or overqualified for the position they are hiring for.

To have you establish the baseline for base pay

Often companies looking to save money on hiring will ask salary expectation questions in hopes that a potential hire will state they are willing to accept a salary that is lower than what the company is willing to pay.

When you answer a salary expectation question with a dollar value you set a baseline for a job offer. Let’s walk through an example…

How sharing salary expectations sets a baseline (Example)

Let’s say a company has a hiring budget of $68,000.00 – $76,420.00 and is wondering if you’ll be happy with $70,545.00.

They ask you “What are your salary expectations?”

You answer “$65,000.00.”

By answering the question with a dollar value that is below the company’s hiring budget you’ve given them information and the greenlight to offer you less than they were planning to offer you pre-salary negotiation.

Pre-salary negotiation refers to the dollar value increase allotted for a salary negotiation as 73% of employers that make job offers expect a salary negotiation. As a result many employers intentionally make lower offers and then cap a negotiation at what they (really) budgeted for the offer.

In this example, the company was thinking of paying $70,545.00 so they would have made a lower offer such as $68,420.00 to make the new hire believe they successfully persuaded/negotiated an increase. Not all companies function this way but many do. This is why salary transparency is important — to get rid of these “games.”

Unfortunately, in our example a salary expectation of “$65,000.00” was given to the company. The salary is lower than the hiring budget and lower than the salary the company was prepared to pay, $70,545.00.

This allows the company to play a mental game and positively frame a job offer of $66,800.00, an offer below their hiring budget and below what they were going to offer you, as a good offer as it is more than you were hoping to be paid. This results in leaving money on the table short-term and long-term as pay raises are based off of base pay.

While it’s not impossible to negotiate past a salary expectation baseline you set, having to negotiate past a salary expectation baseline is something you want to avoid doing. This is one of the reasons it’s very important to be aware of what you say in response to a recruiter’s request for salary expectations.

To check if your salary expectation is within the budget allotted for the position

Recruiters are tasked with attracting and helping to hire talent within a specified hiring budget. Recruiters will ask salary expectation questions to assess if a candidate’s expectations align with the hiring budget. If a candidate is expecting to be paid more than the company has budgeted they do not want to waste their time running their hiring process for someone they cannot afford.

Recruiters ask salary expectation questions in many ways. Several of the ways recruiters ask salary expectation questions include, but are not limited to:

 

  • What’s your salary expectations?
  • What are your wage salary expectations?
  • What are your annual salary expectations?
  • What do you want to be paid?
  • What are your salary requirements?
  • What is your desired salary?
  • What is your salary expectations range?
  • What salary are you seeking?

Pay Pointer

Not sharing a specific salary expectation is fundamental to positioning yourself for a successful salary negotiation.

The idea that you need to share a dollar value in response to a salary expectation question is an antiquated idea that results in leaving money on the table. It’s often (but not always) a practice pushed by employers who intentionally seek to pay as little as possible and recruiters who are required to ask for salary expectations as part of their job function.

Asking for salary expectations is a harmful practice. The practice actually has a negative impact on employee retention as the top two reasons employees voluntarily leave a company are: 1.) being underpaid, and 2.) a perception of being underpaid.

This is especially true for underestimated and overlooked professionals that identify as women, Black, and/or Latine, who are statistically underpaid compared to White Male colleagues performing the same job duties.

When companies play “compensation and salary negotiation games” they set themselves up for preventable losses.

Employers that have standardized compensation practices and recruiters that believe in equitable salary practices will forgo asking salary expectation questions and offer information on how the company calculates salary and/or proactively share salary range information.

How to Answer Salary Expectations

How to Answer Salary Expectations | Salary expectations How to answer salary expectations (8 Great Answers)

If the company you are interviewing with hasn’t made you a job offer that communicates a starting base pay and you share your salary expectations you place yourself in a poor position to negotiate maximum base pay.

Fortunately, learning how to answer salary expectations without directly answering salary expectation questions isn’t that hard! Let’s dive into the process.

Be mindful of the recruiter’s intentions and job function

Recruiters have different reasons for asking salary expectation questions. Asking salary expectations is part of a recruiter’s job function to assess multiple factors such as alignment with the hiring budget and what the person is willing to be paid.

Just because a recruiter asks you a salary expectation question it doesn’t mean they are trying to set a salary baseline and that the employer seeks to intentionally make low offers. However, it is not a good sign that the company has standardized compensation practices.

When responding to salary expectation questions it’s important to be mindful of potential intentions and the recruiter’s job function.

Be gracious

When you are being asked salary expectation questions it is a signal that a company is interested in you and your qualifications. Be gracious in your response and let the company know you appreciate their interest.

Be professional

Your response to salary expectation questions is a reflection of your professionalism. Recruiters are looking for candidates who will be an asset to their company, not a liability. How you respond to tricky questions about salary expectations will either increase or decrease the likelihood of being seen as a professional.

Express your excitement for the opportunity

When you are asked for your salary expectations and you don’t respond with a direct base pay dollar amount the recruiter may think you are not interested in the position. To prevent this miscommunication, when you are asked a salary expectation question make sure you express excitement for the opportunity.

Communicate your passion for your work and a job’s duties

When you are asked salary expectation questions it is an opportunity to signal to the recruiter and/or employer that you are passionate about the type of work you do.

Being passionate about the type of work you do can be shown by asking about a job’s duties, what a typical week looks like, and what types of projects you’d get to work on.

Showing interest in the job itself demonstrates that you are excited about more than just a paycheck. This resonates strongly with employers.

Communicate interest in joining a company with career growth opportunities

Companies lose a lot of money hiring, training, and developing the skills of people who job hop every one to two years. As a result many companies actively look to hire candidates who they can invest in and develop over time.

When you answer salary expectation questions by communicating your interest to join a company with career growth opportunities you signal that you are looking for a company/opportunity to “plant roots” and grow with a career. This makes you a very appealing candidate to employers.

Deflect and Gather Information

When you are asked salary expectation questions you can deflect the question by communicating your passion for your work, expressing your desire to work for a company where you will have long-term career growth opportunity, and by asking questions that help you learn about the company’s hiring budget for the position.

Deflecting and gathering information prevents you from leaving money on the table by sharing a specific salary expectation that is below market, below what the company is willing to pay, and/or undervalues your skills, experiences, and track record of success.

How to Deflect Salary Expectation Question

Given the various reasons recruiters ask salary expectation questions, it is not in your best interest to answer a salary expectation question directly. Instead, it’s best to deflect a salary expectation question back to the recruiter. By doing so, you avoid giving away too much information and put yourself in a position to negotiate a job offer from a position of strength.

The best way to deflect a salary expectation question is to:

  • Respond with a brief statement that provides insight on why you’re not directly answering their salary expectation question
  • Ask a question that helps you gather insight into what the company is paying and other details that are important to you

Questions you can ask in response to “What are your salary expectations?” are:

  • What is the salary range for this position?
  • Can we discuss the budget for this role?
  • Can you tell me more about the budget?
  • What do you have budgeted for the position?

By asking a question above, you can avoid answering a salary expectation question directly and leverage being asked a salary expectation question to learn more about the company’s pay and compensation practices.

What Are Your Salary Expectations Best Answer (8 Great Answers)

What are your salary expectations best answer | Salary expectations - How to answer salary expectations (8 Great Answers)

Now that we know how to answer salary expectations, let’s dive into examples of how to respond to salary expectations questions.

What Are Your Salary Expectations Best Answer (Deflect and ask for the salary range)

 

“Thank you for asking.

I’m very excited about the role and the potential of joining your company!

Right now, I don’t have enough information to answer the question.

Every company offers different total rewards packages. To begin to understand what your total reward package looks like, what is the salary range for the position?”

What Are Your Salary Expectations Best Answer (Deflect by communicating passion for your work and ask for the salary range)

 

“Thank you for asking.

I’m extremely passionate about [Insert passion that relates to your interests and the job].

I am open to discussing salary once I have a better understanding of the scope of work.

Can you tell me what an average week looks like, what types of projects I’d get to work on, and what the salary range for the position is?”

What Are Your Salary Expectations Best Answer (Deflect by communicating interest in career growth and ask for the salary range)

 

“I’m very excited by the idea of joining your company. Thank you for your interest!

I am looking for compensation that reflects a fair market value salary. I’m also looking to join a company I can grow with long-term.

Can you tell me more about the career development and growth opportunities that are available as well as what the salary range for the position is?

What Are Your Salary Expectations Best Answer (Deflect and communicate you’re a professional that seeks equitable pay)

 

“Thank you for asking.

I’m very excited about the role and the potential of joining your company!

Right now, I don’t have enough information to answer the question.

I’m looking for a role that equitably compensates me for my skills, experience, and track record of success.

Every company offers different total rewards packages. To begin to understand what your total reward package looks like, what is the salary range for the position?”

What is Your Salary Expectation Sample Answer for Experienced

 

“Thank you for your interest! I’m very excited by the opportunity of joining the company and helping it grow.

I have a substantial track record of success and am looking for a salary that is commensurate with my skills, experiences, and achievements.

What do you have budgeted for the position — what is the salary range?”

What is Your Salary Expectation Sample Answer for No Experience

 

“I’m excited by the possibility of joining your company. Thank you for your mutual interest.

I am looking for a salary that fairly reflects the value of my skills, abilities, and potential in the market.

What is the salary range for the position?”

Each of the salary expectations answer examples above are brief, gracious, professional, express excitement, express interest in the job (not just a paycheck), express an interest in growing with the company, and deflect sharing a specific dollar value by asking for the position’s salary range.

The answers also come across natural and authentic. This is important to not have a recruiter feel like you’re purposely trying to make it hard for them to do their job by not answering their salary expectation question.

Depending on the tone and vibe of your conversation once the recruiter shares the position’s salary range you may want to use the opportunity to dig deeper by asking:

  • How much do you typically pay someone with my qualifications
  • How much did the previous person in this role make?
  • How does pay progress over time in this role?
  • How does the company determine salary — is there a formula?

By asking a follow up question you may find that the recruiter presses you for your salary expectation. If you find yourself in this position you can say something like…

What Are Your Salary Expectations Best Answer (Reply if pressed for salary expectation #1)

 

“Right now, I don’t have a detailed understanding of what the job requires (and/or the company’s compensation practices).

I don’t feel comfortable answering the question as my answer would be uninformed.

Let’s use the top of the salary range as a placeholder for now.”

What are your salary expectations best answer (Reply if pressed for salary expectation #2)

 

“Let’s use the top of the salary range as a placeholder for now and circle back if needed.”

How to Answer Salary Expectations (FAQs)

Salary expectations - How to answer salary expectations (8 Great Answers) | FAQs

How to answer salary expectations (FAQs):

Why do recruiters ask for salary expectations?

There are a few reasons why recruiters may ask for your salary expectations:

  • To ensure that you are not overqualified or underqualified for the role: If your salary expectations are too high or too low, it may signal to the recruiter that you are not a good fit or overqualified for the role.
  • To gauge your level of experience: Your salary expectations can give the recruiter a sense of how much experience you have and what kind of roles you have been in previously.
  • To determine if you are truly interested in the role: If you are only interested in the role for the money, you may be less likely to stay with the company for a long period.
  • To evaluate your negotiation skills: How you respond to the question of salary expectations can give the recruiter a sense of your negotiation skills.
  • To gauge if your salary expectations are within budget: Recruiters have to attract job applicants that fit within their hiring budget. Asking a salary expectation question allows the recruiter to understand if they can afford to hire you.
  • To set a salary baseline: When you answer salary expectation questions with a concrete dollar value you set a baseline as to what you are willing to be paid, an employer can use this information to make you a lowball offer.

By asking for your salary expectations, the recruiter is able to get a better sense of who you are, whether or not you would be a good fit for the role, and use your salary expectations information to make low salary offers. As such, it’s best to deflect salary expectation questions and not answer them directly.

Recruiter pushing for salary expectations

If a recruiter is pushing for your salary expectations, it is important to remain calm and confident. You can say something like: “I am open to discussing salary once I have a better understanding of the scope of work and responsibilities of the role” or “I am confident that my skills and experience are worth a fair market value salary. What is the salary range for the position?”

By asking a question in response to a salary expectation question, you avoid giving away too much information about your own salary expectations. You also put yourself in a position to learn more about the company and the role, which will give you a better idea of whether or not it is the right fit for you.

Is it okay to give a salary range to a recruiter?

Giving a recruiter a salary range in response to a salary expectation question puts you in a poor position to maximize your salary. This is because a salary range lets a recruiter know the minimum salary you are willing to accept.

The implications of giving a recruiter a salary range are the same as if you were to just give one salary expectation value. A recruiter can set the low end of your salary range as your job offer baseline, offer you a low job offer, and play the “salary negotiation game” to make it appear that you are negotiating a good starting salary when in fact your starting salary is less than they would have offered/paid if they did not know your salary range.

Salary expectations for part time

The way you reply to salary expectation questions for a part time job is the same as for a full-time job. When answering salary expectations for part time positions you don’t want to set a salary baseline (i.e. salary negotiation anchor) that allows an employer to make a lowball offer.

To prevent setting a salary baseline do not answer salary expectation questions with a dollar value. When asked “What are your salary expectations for part time” use the moment as an opportunity to turn the question around and gather information about the company that will help you assess if the opportunity is right for you.

For example…

“Thank you for your interest in me for this part time position!

I’m excited by the possibility of joining your team.

I currently don’t have enough information about the duties and responsibilities to share my salary expectations.

What is the salary range for the position?”

Recruiter ghosted me after salary expectations

If a recruiter ghosted you after you shared a specific salary expectation it is likely that you were outside of their hiring budget or that they filled the role.

If a recruiter ghosted you after not sharing a specific salary expectation they may have strict requirements to only move forward with candidates who share salary expectations in which case the employer is likely to intentionally make low offers.

Another reason a recruiter may have ghosted you after not sharing a specific salary expectation is that they want to make themselves look good by meeting a goal of finding candidates that are willing to accept a salary that is under budget thus saving the company money (while overlooking good candidates).

You should never take being ghosted by a recruiter or company personally. Regardless of the reason you were ghosted, not communicating with a candidate is very unprofessional and may be a signal of larger problems at a company.

Want to learn How to Answer Salary Expectations in Email step-by-step? If so, click the image below.

How to Answer Salary Expectations in Email (5 Effective Templates) | Feature

Questions? Leave a comment.

Now, I’ll turn it over to you!

Did you know you can turn salary expectation questions around and use them as opportunities to learn about a company’s hiring budget? Is there a specific salary expectation answer that resonates with you?

I’d love your thoughts. Leave a comment.

Also, if you found value in this article please share it with your friends and family or on social media so others can learn how to answer salary expectation questions without leaving money on the table. Thank you.

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