How to Answer “What are Your Salary Expectations?”

 At some point during the interview process, you will be asked the question “What are your salary expectations?” This question can feel like a landmine. On the one hand, if you go too low, the employer may offer you a lower salary than you deserve or feel like you don’t know your worth. On the other hand, if your answer is too high, the employer will not be able to afford you and you will no longer be considered for the position. You also cannot beat around the bush and avoid giving a concrete answer as this communicates a lack of preparedness, confidence, and professionalism.

So, you might be asking yourself; how do I answer this question correctly? Well, this question does not have a straight and simple answer, because when employers ask “What are your salary expectations” they are actually asking three different questions. These are:  

  1. Do you know your worth as a professional? 
  2. Are you flexible for negotiation? 
  3. Can we afford you? 

Do you know your worth as a professional? 

There are three factors to consider when answering this part of the question. You need to know the salary range of similar jobs in your area, weigh in your professional experience, and consider your current salary. The first factor is an easy one since a google search will probably give you the answer. This search will suggest links from websites like,,, or These are all trustworthy and reputable websites that conduct surveys, research, and get multiple job submissions from employers all over the country.  

Once you figure out the salary range for the position that you are applying for in your area, you should consider your experience to narrow down your preference in salary. For example, let’s say graphic design positions in your area range from $40,000 to $60,000 a year. If you just got out of college and have little field experience, you should probably expect a salary of $40,000 to $45,000 a year. Now, if you have been in the field for many years, have higher education, and have a couple of awards under your name, you should expect to be paid around $55,000 to $60,000 a year.  

The last factor will help you narrow down your professional worth even more. You should never consider a position that pays you less than your current salary, in fact, it should give you a raise. Why would you go through the trouble of looking for a job that is a downgrade?  It just makes no sense. If you make $40,000 a year in your current job, look for a job that pays a minimum of $42,000 or even more depending on your years of experience, education, and awards. 

Are you flexible for negotiation? 

Once you are done with your research do not set a specific number for your desired salary, always have a set range. If you give a specific number, you are hindering your salary opportunities and portraying a controlling attitude to the interviewer. For example, let’s say you ask for exactly $45,000 a year. On the one hand, the employer could have been ready to offer you $50,000 a year because of your qualifications. Well, in this case, you just lost $5,000! On the other hand, the employer could think that you are asking for too much money because you don’t have enough experience; and since it seems like you are not willing to negotiate, the position will be offered to the next candidate. In this case, you just lost the job. 

 It is important to always have a reasonable, yet specific desired salary range. Also, it is recommended to have an explanation of your salary range. This way you can show your interviewer that you are not making it up on the spot, but instead, you have thoroughly researched your opportunities. 

Can we afford you? 

This question is not as easy to answer compared to the other two, since it is mostly based on the ability of the employer to pay for your services. Yet, you can get an idea of their budgets and salary expectations for the position through research. Try to find out how established the company is within its industry. An entertainment company like Disney will obviously be able to pay a lot more to its employees compared to a company that provides entertainment for children’s birthday parties. Is the company a start-up or has it been around for many years? How many employees do they currently have? What are the salaries of other positions within the same company and how do they stack up to the industry average? Answers to these and other similar questions can give you an idea of how much the company can pay for your services, and you can adjust your salary range accordingly.  

Still, you do not want to lower your professional worth just because a company cannot afford you. Instead provide them with an explanation of why you are worth such a high price, and how making the effort of paying the salary that you are asking for will benefit them in the long run. If you get the job, make sure you deliver on your promise. No one likes to be duped. 

Bonus: Work with a recruiter 

There is an advantage to working with a recruiter during your job search. As you share your job preferences with your recruiter you can mention your salary expectations. At ISGF, recruiters share the salary expectations of candidates to clients before any interviews take place. This process effectively avoids any major salary negotiation between the candidate and employer and makes hiring a much more pleasant and streamlined process. 

Examples of the best answers 

So, taking all this information into consideration. How should you answer this question? Here are some examples: 

Based on my education, experience, previous salary, and knowledge of the industry in my geographic area, I expect a salary between $Y and $Z. As always, I am open to negotiation.  

This is a great answer because: It shows that you know your worth in the industry and are open to negotiation. 

I am open to discussing your believed fair salary for the position. However, due to my extensive experience, my award-winning accomplishments, and in-depth knowledge of the industry. I expect a salary that ranges between X and Y. 

This is a great answer because: It shows that your professional accomplishments are worth a high salary, you know your professional worth, and are open to negotiation. 

As you can see, answering this question is not a simple task. Yet, if you research your industry, yourself as a professional, and the employer, you can prepare a strong and persuasive answer that will get you the job and salary you deserve. Take these tips into consideration when tailoring your answer, and don’t forget to keep it concise.  


Written by

Jose Caceres

Marketing Manager

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