Who's Afraid of Salary Expectations?


“What are your salary expectations?”


This question, though pretty standard in interviews, can feel overwhelming when you come unprepared. Is what you’re asking for too much? Too little? What are you asking for?


In terms of approach, I’ve seen candidates “winging it”, refusing to give an answer, or trying to avoid the question. I’ve also come across candidates who flat-out refuse to apply for roles where the salary range is not already disclosed in the job ad.


My recommendation- don’t do any of these, and I will tell you why in a sec.


Addressed correctly, the question of salary expectations is a great opportunity for employers and candidates to make sure they are in the same ballpark and avoid future misunderstandings.


So what are your options addressing this question?



Option #1: Come up with a number


Coming prepared to an interview and having an answer for what you expect to be paid is essential. One classic option for this is a number.


Depending on your location in the world it may be standard to discuss salary in annual or monthly rates, and of course- in different currencies, so take this into account when coming up with a number.


Pros-

  • A number gives a simple, direct objective for both sides to focus on and is hard to misinterpret


Cons-

  • A number, removed from any context on additional benefits, growth potential and work conditions can be an unnecessary blocker for future negotiations. You may turn down an opportunity (or be turned down) before you’ve had the chance to fully explore whether it’s a fit or not

  • You might say yes to job-based on an attractive number that doesn’t reflect how happy or successful you will be at a given role


Option #2: Come up with a range


Giving a range that makes sense to you based on your market research already gives you a little more wiggle room, but what does giving a range really mean? Generally, it should include the minimum “walk away” salary, your target salary, and the salary that would make you very, very happy.


Pros-

  • Your range can serve as a legitimate baseline if you would like to correct your expectation estimation further down the process

  • It allows negotiation flexibility within an agreed scale

  • It leaves you open to a wider window of opportunities while sifting out completely irrelevant ones


Cons-

  • Companies may focus on the lower end of the range

  • You may still miss the chance to get more information on what it is the company is offering and what your possibilities within it are


Option #3: Flipping the question


Flipping the question means asking your interviewer to disclose what it is the company is offering rather than providing your interviewer with a range or number.


Pros-

  • If you get a response, you are much better off making decisions based on the information you get than committing blindly to a sum


Cons-

  • Using the wrong tone for this question may sound cocky or unreasonable

  • Many recruiters and interviewers are required to put down a specific answer for salary expectations, so while they may be able to answer you, they might not wish to move forward with a candidate that cannot provide a clear baseline



What’s the bottom line?


Not having any preparation-backed answer for your salary expectations is always a bad idea. Winging it necessarily means you will not show up with the answer that best serves you, and declining to give an answer may put unnecessary sticks in the wheels of your interview process before you’ve even started it.


  • Always base your answers on research prior to the call - about the industry standards, company standards, what friends or colleagues are being paid, and what is important to you.


  • Have an answer ready for each one of the options mentioned (number, range, or range request), as different interviewers may have different requirements to fill, and different information-sharing liberties.


  • Always leave room for context- give yourself the chance to understand the full picture better before committing yourself to a single number.


And on the flip-side, make sure the significance of your number, range, or any other response you give are clear to the person you are speaking to- is it your minimum? Your target? This includes elaborating on any other employment conditions that may help you make the decision whether a company is a fit for you.


Remember that if you like a certain role or company, salary talks should be a discussion, not a one-time hit-or-miss!



For more tips on planning your interviewing process, check out these insights from an interview with a senior Talent Acquisition manager in a leading tech company.



See you next post!



Yasmine Guerin

Founder of Negotiatress









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