Regina Borsellino | The Muse | January 24, 2022
When you’re in the middle of a job interview, a question like “What are your salary expectations?” can make you panic. You don’t want to say something too high and price yourself out of a job you want or need, and you don’t want to say something too low and end up not getting paid as much as you could or should be making.
Some of this concern is warranted. When career coach Joyel Crawford worked in recruiting, the main reason she asked about salary was to gauge a job candidate’s expectations relative to the budget allocated for the role. So unlike many other common interview questions, your response to “What is your desired salary?” could disqualify you from consideration for a job. But that isn’t necessarily a bad thing, since you might not be able to accept or enjoy a job that doesn’t pay enough for you.
You might also be afraid that the interviewer will judge you harshly if you price yourself too high or too low, but that generally isn’t the goal. This question is more about finding a salary match, says Crawford, who is also host of the podcast Career View Mirror.
Discussing salary early on ensures neither the candidate nor the company will “waste time and effort on several rounds of interviews to find out that the salary is wildly off from what you want,” says Muse career coach Jennifer Fink, CEO and founder of Fink Development. “Ideally, employers and recruiters would be upfront with [salary] information and volunteer it first, but that’s not often the case,” Fink says. When a job posting lists pay, candidates will avoid applying if it’s out of their range, and when an interviewer mentions it first candidates can respond without any guesswork. Unfortunately, not every employer has a culture of transparency surrounding pay, Fink says.
There are several strategies for answering interview questions about your salary expectations, but the basis of all of them is doing your research ahead of an interview.
Pro tip: “What are your salary expectations?” is a different question from “What is your current salary?” which is illegal in some states and cities. Get advice on answering questions about your salary history here.