Taking On The Salary Question For Your Next Job Interview

One of the most intimidating interview questions for anyone job seeking is the salary question:

 “What are your salary expectations for this job?”

The fear is that if you say too high a dollar figure, you’ll be eliminated before you are considered, but if you say too low an amount then you’ll get underpaid. Basically, it’s a lose-lose situation.


So how do you respond to the salary question? Well there are few options before you.

Your first option is to try not answer the question. The idea is that you want to negotiate the salary after you’ve gotten the offer.

“If it’s okay with you, I’d like to wait on that discussion until you have decided that you definitely want to bring me on board, and I’ve decided that my abilities can best be used for your organization. At that point, we’ll have more information about one another and we can make a more informed decision.”

Your second option is to put things back on the interviewe.

“I’m sure you all have a salary range in mind for this position and for similar positions. I believe that range will fit with my needs, though we can have a more detailed conversation if we decide that this position is a strong fit for me.”

(Optional, turn the question around and ask the interviewer for their range. Then afterwards respond that is something you can work with.)

If these responses don’t work, and they demand an exact number in response to this interview question, despite your best efforts, then you can defer to a range of amounts.  Make clear that the amount depends on how robust are the package of benefits made with the offer, so you still have you room to negotiate your salary later.

If you are unsure what salary range is appropriate, take a look at salary.com or the US bureau of labor statistics to find out what people are generally getting paid in this space. Also consider your actual living expenses. If the low end of the range is not something you can afford then don’t include it.

Next, you want to consider a broad range of amounts to give you plenty of wiggle room. The top number can be more than you expect, while the bottom number would be a manageable amount if the job came with great perks. Remember that while a salary is a dollar amount, the amount of vacation time and the quality of healthcare and other benefits, also have real financial value for you.

Again you’re looking for a response that gives you room t negotiate the best potential job offer later. As soon as you give a number, they will try to hold you to it.

“I’m looking for a salary in the range of $50,000 to $60,000 per year. That amount really depends on the full benefits package and any potential costs related to this job.

After responding to the salary question, you will want to quickly steer the conversation away from a discussion of money and back towards the job and the company. Psychologically speaking, discussing money makes people become emotionally isolated, which makes it difficult to build a personal connection with the interviewer.

As a reminder, don’t ask about salary, benefits, average hours worked per week, or percentage travel during the interview. You can ask these questions after you get the job offer. You also don’t want to look like someone who is a hired gun who will jump the job as soon as another job offers you more money.