When you’re in the middle of a job interview, a question like “What are your salary expectations?” can make you panic. You don’t want to say something too high and price yourself out of a job you want or need, and you don’t want to say something too low and end up not getting paid as much as you could or should be making.

Some of this concern is warranted. When I was a full-time recruiter, the main reason I asked about salary was to gauge a job candidate’s expectations relative to the budget allocated for the role. So, unlike many other common interview questions, your response to “What is your desired salary?” Could disqualify you from consideration for a job. But that isn’t necessarily a bad thing, since you might not be able to accept or enjoy a job that doesn’t pay enough for you.

You might also be afraid that the interviewer will judge you harshly if you price yourself too high or too low, but that generally isn’t the goal. The question is more about finding a salary match for the open role.

Discussing salary early on ensures neither the candidate nor the company will waste time and effort on several rounds of interviews to find out that the salary is wildly off from what you want or not even close to the budget for this role at first, but that’s not often the case when a job posting lists pay, candidates will avoid applying if it’s out of their range, and when an interviewer mentions it first candidates can respond without any guesswork. Unfortunately, not every employer has a culture of transparency surrounding pay.

New Pay Transparency Law

All employers with 15 or more employees are required to include the pay scale in any job posting. The pay scale must be in the job posting by any third party retained by the employer to advertise a job description as of January 2023. Employers should include the pay scale directly in the job posting, as opposed to linking it or providing a QR code. It is unclear whether the pay scale disclosure requirements would necessitate the employers to add this information to job postings made before January 1, 2023, that are still available to applicants.

https://www.shrm.org › California-pay-transparency

There are several strategies for answering interview questions about your salary expectations, but the basis of all the inquiries is doing your research ahead of an interview.

Figure out your salary Expectations Ahead of Time

Pay can come up in different ways in a job interview and you can use different strategies to answer the salary question.

You should know what your ideal salary is. Maybe the interviewer needs you to state a number, or maybe they tell you what they’re offering and ask you to react. Either way, some processes won’t move forward until they know that a candidate is a good fit salary-wise.

Start your salary research by looking up your desired job title by name, geographic location, and years of experience through free resources like the Department of Labor, Payscale.com, and Salary.com, which help job candidates, especially women and underrepresented minorities, improve the outcome of salary negotiations. You have to pay for their in-depth, personalized reports on your individual market value, but you can also check out their resource library for general information on salary in your field.

Next figure out how much pay you personally need (and want). Look at your predicted expenses and goals. Create a monthly budget.

I ask my clients to think beyond base pay alone.

Ask yourself: What do you value? This might include stock options, paid time off, a yearly bonus, commuter benefits, or childcare benefits.

Think about how the presence or absence of these would affect your salary expectations. For example, you might decide tuition assistance or the ability to bring your dog to work is worth more to you than another $5K a year. On the flip side, major gaps in benefits like the lack of an employee health insurance plan might raise your salary requirements drastically.

Check the job posting or company’s website ahead of all your interviews to get a sense of what benefits and perks each company offers.

Use all this research to come up with an acceptable salary range for yourself, so that regardless of how you plan to respond to questions about your salary expectations, you know what number you’re ultimately looking for.

Depending on where you are in the interview process and your personal situation, I think the best strategy is to provide a salary range.

It is important to come from a place of collaboration and service. By giving a salary range, you show that you’re willing to be flexible and work with your prospective employer.

When providing a salary range, you’re voicing the value you bring to the table, showing that you’ve done your research and you know what you’re worth tells an interviewer that you’re serious about your skills and what you can bring to their company.

A good rule to follow when giving your salary range during your interview, try to keep the bottom of your range toward the mid-to-high point of what you’re looking for. As an example, if you’re personally looking for $85,000 to $100,000 and your best guess of what the company has budgeted is $80,000 to $95,000, you could give a range of $92,000 to $100,000, so that even if the company negotiates below the range you stated in your interview, you’re still happy.

Of course, there are some drawbacks to giving salary numbers in the early round interview. Waiting until you have a job offer could give you more leverage to negotiate. You might also fear leaving money on the table by going too low or losing the opportunity by going too high. But if you’ve done your research, going too low is less likely and going too high means the job wasn’t right for you.

In your answer, it’s usually worth pointing out that the salary is only one component of what you’re looking for and that you are considering salary as part of an overall opportunity.

You should want to reiterate what you bring to the table for a prospective employer when formulating your answer to support the range that you’re giving.



Salary negotiation is one of the most frequently asked questions by my clients in my coaching practice. Let me help you get the salary you deserve.

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