What are your SALARY EXPECTATIONS by Amri Celeste
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What are your SALARY EXPECTATIONS by Amri Celeste

This is often one of the most uncomfortable questions for candidates during an interview so in the article, you’ll find a few strategies for how to handle it with ease and professionalism.

Below are covered the best and worst times to talk about money during the hiring process, what to put on an application form and what to say if you don't want to talk about it.

So salary

Is it rude to discuss? Some people don't like to talk about it, others love being upfront about it, but what's the best way for you to respond to this question in an interview?
Should you say exactly what you're looking for?
Should you add on a few thousand to try and get as much as you can?
Should you go in with a low number to secure the role?

Why is this question asked?

It shows your level of seniority. So for example, let's say that you were interviewing for a brand manager role paying 65k. That salary often equates to a certain level of skills knowledge and experience, so if you say you're looking for a target salary of 20k, that's very telling because at that lower salary level it's more common that your skills will be near or on par with a brand manager role at a more junior level.

The second reason is to find out if your desired salary fits the budget that is set aside for that role so sometimes candidates can get the idea that employers are trying to offer them the lowest possible salary and in many cases, this is not true.

A budget salary is actually set aside for that role before it's even advertised and most responsible companies will have benchmarked that salary, so this means that they've checked that it's in line with what the current job market is paying on average for that role.

So when they ask your salary they're actually checking that what you're looking for is close to the budget, if it's far away from that number it actually wastes your time and theirs to interview.

So discussing salary early in the process is critical unless you don't mind attending twice as many interviews as you need to and finding out late in the process that you can't afford to take the job/

The best and worst times to discuss money

Now there could be an occasion where you apply for a role where it doesn't have the salary advertised and this is common because many employers don't advertise their salaries on their vacancy adverts and there is a best and worst time to bring up money.

The best time is actually before your first interview. So, normally before an in-person face-to-face interview, you'll have an email or a phone call in some cases inviting you to the interview and they may ask you a few screening questions on the first phone call such as your location, how far you're willing to travel or a few other basic screening questions.

If the salary isn't advertised when you apply and you're invited straight to an interview with no opportunity to speak to an interviewer beforehand, then ask the recruiter or whoever invites you to your interview before you attend, you don't want to waste your time if the salary is nowhere near what you're looking for.

The worst time to discuss salary

The worst thing to do is to wait until you're way down in the process so until your final stage interview or until you get a job offer to find out what the salary is.

Now an efficient employer would have had that discussion with you prior rather than dragging you through the interview process first, but there is a multitude of reasons why they may not and you don't want to rely on a potential employer for such an important piece of information.

What to put on an application form

Let's tackle what happens when you're completing an application that asks for your desired salary, what should you do?
First, seriously consider what salary you need. If you haven't already done this, if you don't already know what minimum you need to cover your personal outgoing costs, you need to take some time and work this out before you apply.
Then you need to decide whether or not you actually want to disclose your salary on the application form.

Pros and cons to this

Pros - Transparency, Role Suitability

Cons - Cannot assess against budget

if you choose to disclose your salary it shows a level of willing transparency on your part and even though not disclosing a salary shouldn't be held against a candidate. Some employers are less likely to shortlist you if they can't assess your salary requirements or if something in your experience leads them to believe that what you're looking for will be far away from what they're offering.

This is not to say you should, if you're uncomfortable, please, don't, but for the reasons that were mentioned at the beginning of this article, some application forms will include this question, it also shows your suitability for the role early in the process.

If you don't want to disclose your salary on an application form there are many ways that candidates have gone around this without outright stating that they don't want to say it.

So you could put something like “In line with market average”, “To be discussed in an interview” which can mean that this will be discussed during an initial screening call, or “Dependent on package and benefits”. It's worth mentioning that this question is different from “What is your current salary?” sometimes candidates get confused and they disclose their salary when they're actually being asked what their desired salary is.

How to answer the question what are your salary expectations during an interview?

So let's say you're not aware of the salary, you've got dressed up, you've gone to an interview and the interviewer asks you what are your salary expectations. And sometimes the employer could just be asking to refresh their memory if you've already discussed this earlier in the process.

If you're comfortable sharing and you have a clear idea of what salary you want then of course open up that discussion with the employer.
You can give a salary range as an answer so let's say that you were to say “I'm looking for 30 to 35k”.
Depending on the employer's budget they might offer you anywhere in that range so make sure that you have worked out the basic costs that you need and then add on about 10 to 15% to make sure that you're comfortable in case you're offered the lower end.

Bonus tip

Don't forget to ask about the package and benefits this can make a huge difference to the total package on offer and make that role much more attractive in terms of compensation. So if you know that you're flexible depending on benefits an easy answer is “Depending on package and benefits I'm looking for X amount”.

There is some apprehension around giving a set number, but if you want to discuss your salary you know that that number leaves you in a comfortable earning position and you've shown your value, you can comfortably give a number if you want to.

What do you say when you simply don't want to answer?

If you don't want to discuss your salary, if you don't want to disclose your desired salary before the interviewer tells you what the job is paying, you can politely ask “Would you mind telling me a bit about the salary and benefits first?”
This may seem direct, but if it demonstrates confidence, it shows that you know your value and you're comfortable asking that question back to the employer if you want them to show their hand first.


  • Recruiters ask this question as one of the assessment criteria to check you're roughly on the same level as the role and check your desired salary fits the budget.
  • Don't waste your time going through one or several stages of the interview without knowing at least a ballpark figure of what the role is paying and finding out prior to interviewing. On an application form only state your salary if you're comfortable, however, consider the pros and cons mentioned earlier in the article.
  • If you're asked about salary in an interview always find out about the additional benefits and if you're not comfortable then confidently ask about the package on offer first.

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