Toughest interview questions: What are your salary expectations?

It’s one of the most dreaded interview questions: “What are your salary expectations?”

Of course, you don’t want to ruin your chances of getting the IT job you want. But you don’t want to undersell your value either.

And… is this a test in itself? What if you answer foolishly?

Here is everything you need to know about answering this toughest of interview questions:

How to answer “What are your salary expectations?” at interview

1) Do your research first

Before you get down to specifics, it’s good to get some ballpark ideas in mind. You can:

-Check out a wide range of job postings for similar positions

-See if there might be any salary surveys available

-Explore online sources like Glassdoor or LinkedIn

-Network with current or former colleagues to check past salaries

-Talk with your recruiter, who should always be happy to advise you

You should also research whether your intended employer has any qualities (good or bad) that might mean its own salary expectations would vary from the norm.

They might be based in London, for example. Or in an area with a lower cost of living that makes a lower salary actually still work out in your favour.

2) Reflect on your own skills and experience level

There are two sides to every negotiation. So, what are you bringing to the table?

Most people recognise that their own skills and experience will factor into the salary they can expect.

You can’t expect the same salary from your first software engineer job as the one you have a decade into your career, for example.

Equally, maybe you have precisely matching experience that makes you an ideal (and more valuable) hire.

3) Ask for more information first

Now you’ve got some basics in mind, what do you actually say when asked about your salary expectations during an interview?

First of all, it is good to get as much information as possible. Usually, this means slightly deflecting the question towards specifics that can inform your answer.

You might say, “Before we talk about salary expectations, I’d just like to go over…”

-Responsibilities of the role and any particular challenges

-The benefits package in more detail

-Company culture and the team

-Growth and training opportunities

-Work-life balance, remote working possibilities, and so on

The key is to be very clear that you need this information to calculate your salary.

Obviously, if you don’t know exactly what the role requires, the promotion possibilities, or how often you’ll need to commute, you really do need to.

4) At interview, offer a salary range first

When it eventually comes down to the question itself, it is always better to offer a salary range than a precise figure. To do this:

-Take into account your initial salary research.

-Explicitly provide your reasoning for the range based on your own skills and your knowledge of the position.

-Make sure you think both the lower end and higher end are figures you could be happy with if it comes to it.

5) If a range isn’t enough, finally be specific

Ideally, you want to avoid this.  But it’s not uncommon for an interviewer to insist that you provide a single figure.

If you do have to be specific, choose a figure in the upper half of your salary range. That way, you’ve signalled that you’re realistic but you’re also signalling you think your worth is higher.

Be prepared for the fact that many company decision-makers may try and bargain you down though unless your worth is inarguable and high. Sometimes, even then.

6) State you’re willing to negotiate (if you are)

Often, you’ll need to negotiate. That’s okay. Negotiation is a pretty standard part of the IT recruitment process. Getting good at it can be very helpful for your career as a whole.

For instance, try to actively listen to what your interviewer is telling you and see if you can work out what their concerns are.

Equally, you should have a bottom line in mind that you’re not willing to go below (the bottom of your salary range, ideally).

A very beneficial approach to talking about your salary expectations is to provide a range, then a figure, and finally state that you’re willing to discuss other benefits or compensation as balance.

This can show that you’re a flexible and realistic person who might be easy to work with. However, if you’re confident you can and should be paid within your range, you might not say this.

Answering the toughest interview questions about salary

The key to answering interview questions about what your salary expectations are is to do some research, know your own value, and provide a range as well as being open to some negotiation.

Bear in mind that salary is not the be-all and end-all of the compensations that a position can offer. There might be other benefits that could add up to your dream job.

Want to make sure you’re applying for roles in the salary range that’s right for you?

Let’s talk. Ernest Gordon is a specialist engineering and IT recruitment company. We give you access to exclusive jobs you won’t find elsewhere.

Reach out to us today to chat about your career goals with an expert with no commitment.