How To Answer: What Is Your Expected Salary?

By Tang Kai Long   •   6 min read

When money is involved, we best exercise caution. Dealing with a topic as sensitive as money, one foul move is all it takes to spiral down the rabbit hole. So when your interviewer ask you “what is your expected salary?” — what should you say?

But the most difficult part of this question isn’t coming up with a figure – most of us know what we want. The daunting part comes when you have to pull those numbers out of your mouth.

“Is it too much?”

“Is it too little?”

The reality is, it doesn’t have to be this difficult. Let us show you how:

  1. Why do interviewers ask: What is your expected salary?
  2. How do I approach this question?
  3. Examples 😀
  4. What are the common mistakes to avoid?

Why do interviewers ask: What is your expected salary?

To see if they can afford you

You can be the perfect candidate for the job, but that doesn’t matter if the company does not have the budget to afford your asking salary.

To gauge if you know your worth

Someone who’s worth their salt would never discount themselves by accepting a mediocre paying job. Likewise, they wouldn’t price themselves out of a job.

How do I approach this question?

There are specific strategies to prepare for this question and you can leverage on them to skew the discussion in your favour.

Get a sense of salary expectations

Do your due diligence and figure out the market rate for the particular job you are applying for. Generally, salaries for similar roles and years of experience should be similar across different companies.

Justify your range

Always offer a range. This lets them know that you are open to negotiation and that you are flexible with your salary.

More importantly, prepare a list of reasons to justify why you think you are worth this much. This could be your past experiences, qualifications, aptitude, skillsets, personality, and so on. Perhaps the most attractive angle would be the value you bring to the table in terms of the problems you can solve for the employer.

If you have a competing offer:

You might feel compelled to hide it, but being open and transparent is always the better option. Employers almost always want to know what they’re up against, and it makes you look more wanted.

Of course, do this delicately without coming across as arrogant or like you’re pitting the companies against one another. Here’s an example of what this could sound like:

“I have received another offer recently that I am currently considering. It is for a similar role with a gross salary of $5,000. I understand that different companies may have different pay scales, but that is a range I am looking at.”

Keep it to the end

If you get asked about your expected salary in the first-half of the interview, delay answering it till the end of the interview. Because a good answer wouldn’t put you in a more favourable position, but a bad one can risk cutting the interview short.

Download Ultimate Interview Questions Cheatsheet

Examples to answer: What is your expected salary?

Example #1

“I understand that the position of (title of the position you’re interviewing for) usually pays in the range of $XXX to $XXX. Given my experience and the past appointments I’ve held, I am looking at a range of $YYY to $YYY.”

Why is this a good reply?

  • Demonstrated a good understanding of the nature of the job you are interviewing for.
  • Made it known to the interviewer that you are well aware how much your compensation should estimate.

Example #2

“With regard to my salary compensation, I am looking for $XXX to $YYY. Nevertheless, I am open to negotiation and discussing with you till we come to a mutually agreeable starting salary.”

Why is this a good reply?

  • Always a good idea to express flexibility around your salary instead of fixating on a single amount.
  • Leaves room for negotiation after the interview.

Example #3

If you get asked this question in the first half of the interview, and would like to answer it only at the end of the interview:

“Before we get into the remuneration, I would like to discuss more about the expectations of the job. If my skillsets align with what the job requires of me, then we can proceed to further discuss about my starting salary.”

Why is this a good reply?

  • Left the question to the end of an interview.
  • If you are successful in demonstrating a good fit for the job and have impressed the interviewer, you can then have more leverage to ask for a higher salary range.

Salary expectations and negotiations during an interview process is part and parcel of landing the dream job you always desired. Remember the tips we provided you above and you are good to go!

What are the common mistakes to avoid?

Note: Once again, because money is a really sensitive topic, there isn’t a full-fledged right or wrong answer. Use this guide to draw insights and come to a conclusion of your own.

Give a fixed amount

Doing so leaves you very little space for negotiation. The interviewer also now understands what you think of yourself. In short, you lose bargaining power.

Sell yourself short

You may think requesting for a lower pay will put you ahead of your competitors, but sometimes it may seem like a desperate shot at employment. It can also raise doubts about your performance.

Don’t overprice yourself

You may be thinking of anchoring the employer at a higher expected salary, so that by the time you’re done with salary negotiations you end up with an amount you’re happy with. If the company cannot afford you, or feel that you’re simply not worth that amount, this high-balling technique will backfire.

You don’t have to disclose your current salary

Many employers will peg your salary to your current or last-drawn salary with a small increment. You don’t have to let them be anchored on that.

When they ask you about your current salary, you may feel pressured to disclose that information. However, you don’t have to. Here’s some advice from Uma Balasingam, Vice President of VMware:

“Your current salary is a piece of confidential information between you and your employer. You are not obligated to share that information with anyone. If any interviewer asks you for your current or last-drawn salary, let them know this.”

Download Ultimate Interview Questions Cheatsheet

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Tang Kai Long

TalentTribe Writer

If his life were a book, the title would be "The Woes Of A Jobseeker". Understanding the jobseeking-induced torment, Kai hopes to help individuals in the same plight through the articles he writes.


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