How To Answer Interview Questions About Salary Expectations

Trying to answer questions about salary expectations can feel a little like trying to navigate around a minefield. You don’t want to shoot too high and come across unrealistic, but you also don’t want to wind up with a salary that’s less than what the company was willing to pay. 

The question “what are your salary expectations” is asked simply because employers need to know whether they can afford you. In most circumstances, they’ll have a lower-end and top-end budget and so they will want to get a sense of where you value yourself within it (if at all.)

So to not do yourself a disservice, we’re going to give you some handy tips on how to research and prepare ahead when it comes to the awkward topic of pay. 

Research the benchmark salary 

Not only is it crucial to get an understanding of what the average salary is for the particular role being offered, but it’s also important to consider the location of the company. London, for example, has a much higher cost of living than other cities in the United Kingdom. Therefore, salaries are greater for working professionals there.

Career-focused websites that offer employee reviews, such as Glassdoor and PayScale, offer online questionnaires that take into account your experience, the industry of the job offer, the employer and office-based location to provide a salary benchmark.

Know when to hold back

The most common mistake interviewees make when they’re asked this question is speaking on after they’ve given a salary range. Say your answer and then don’t say anything at all! 

If this tactic sends you into a nervous-wreck, there are ways to respond without committing to a number. You can say something such as “I’d want to know more about the position and specific responsibilities before thinking about salary.” You can also follow-up with a question about what the company anticipates to offer the successful candidate.

Show you’re flexible

You don’t want to give a single number, as you’re much more likely to shoot too high or lowball yourself. We suggest preparing a range for the interviewer to work with. If you are offered a salary at the lowest end of your scale, you could use that opportunity to request non-salary-related benefits, such as company-funded learning & development courses.

Consider your cost of living requirements

It’s important to keep your financial needs in mind, especially if the role involves relocation. Will the salary cover your living costs? If the answer is no, what do you increase the compensation by to live comfortably? If the increase is fairly significant, it might be a sign that the job isn’t a good fit for you.

Don’t exaggerate your current earnings

If offered the position, your new employer’s HR department is probably going to ask for your most recent payslips. What you saw as a slight exaggeration, they are likely to see as lying. Being truthful is essential.

What if the salary doesn’t meet your expectations?

Check what else the job offers. For example, does the company provide a bonus scheme? Is there an unusually high amount of annual leave days? Does it provide health cover or remote working flexibility? Many perks and benefits can make an opportunity still worthwhile.

We also suggest having a frank conversation with the interviewer about putting in steps to increase the salary to your expectations within an agreed time frame. 

Consider what this job is worth to you. 

How big a role does salary play in that? Perhaps you’re willing to accept lower pay for a role that benefits your life in other ways, such as career growth, new skills, better work-life balance, or a more practical location. 

At the same time, how will taking a lower salary make you feel in three to six months? What about a year? If there is a chance you’ll feel bitter or unappreciated, it may not be a good idea to accept the job at all. 

Talk to a recruiter

Nobody wants to wind up in a position where they discover they’re unhappy with their compensation after they’ve accepted a job. A recruiter can make sure that you are offered a salary for what you’re worth, from initial guidance and managing both employer and candidate expectations through to negotiating job offers. 

To speak to an expert at Leonid Group about your job hunt, get in touch today at +44 (0)20 3958 7484 or

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