Congrats! When someone asks, “What are your salary expectations?” during an interview, this is a clear sign you are nearing the finish line.

Your work of preparing a resume, applying for jobs, and sweating through phone screenings has paid off.

But you’re not there yet.

Unless you are already a master negotiator, it is important to take some time to prepare for this question.

In this article, I will show you the best way to answer “What are your salary expectations?” without leaving any money on the table.

First, let’s talk about why you might get asked this question in the first place.

Reasons Behind The Question

As mentioned above, if you’ve made it to this question, you’re in a good place.

If the hiring manager or recruiter wasn’t jazzed by your previous responses, you likely wouldn’t discuss details about compensation.

This question comes up because the employer:

  • Wants to know whether the company can afford you 
  • Hopes to discover at what levels you value yourself
  • Wants to know what value you place on the work you will do

How Not to Answer

Before discussing a few steps on answering, let’s cover how you don’t want to respond to this question.

Don’t respond with a specific number 

Try to avoid giving a set salary amount.

At least wait until the employer offers an amount or a range.

This will make it easier to negotiate.

Don’t aim too high 

It’s good to have confidence, but don’t price yourself so high that you’re out of the employer’s range.

This is why you’ll want to know the average going salary for your position. (More on that below.)

Don’t respond offensively

Let’s say you have a salary in mind and the offer you receive is $15K lower.

Don’t jump to negative conclusions (and certainly don’t get up and walk out).

Respond politely by asking if that amount is negotiable.

1. Use Salary Checkers

Okay, now let’s jump into how you should answer this interview question.

The first thing that you are going to want to do to prepare is figuring out what salary range is realistic.

You can take advantage of a variety of websites including,, and

These sites often have the exact salary that you can expect from the company you are applying to.

This is typically only the case for larger companies that have a lot of salary data.

If you can’t find the exact company or position, you can look up industry averages based on location.

Okay, have you learned what the average person is making in your position?

Now, it’s time to evaluate yourself.

Think about your education, skills, and experience.

Based on these, do you deserve a salary that is above average or below average?

You should be able to come up with two numbers to help you answer what are your salary expectations.

  1. What is your dream salary that you couldn’t turn down?
  2. What is the absolute lowest salary you could accept before walking away?

Now that you have determined a salary range you can work with, let’s move on to the actual interview.

2. Avoid Answering First

When you are sitting face to face with a hiring manager who asks you “What are your salary expectations?” it’s important to be tough!

In other words, don’t feel pressured to provide the exact amount, down to the dollar, you are hoping for.

By now, you should have a range in your mind that you are willing to work with.

Here is one example of answering this interview question by offering a range:

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Hiring manager: 

What are your salary expectations?

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From researching this position on I found that $80-95K / year is pretty typical. Is that the same for XYZ Company?

This next example does not give a range and instead gives a positive response that places the issue in the interviewer’s court.

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Hiring manager:

What are your salary expectations?

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To be honest, I am more interested in finding a long-term position where I can continue to apply and develop my skills. I am confident that a great company such as yours will offer a salary that is competitive with the current market.

A similar answer can be given for the interview question, “What is your salary history?”

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Hiring manager: 

What are your salary expectations?

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Well sir/ma’am, this position is not exactly the same as my previous job. I would prefer that we discuss what my duties would be here and then determine a fair salary for this job.

In case you hadn’t noticed, salary negotiation is kind of like a game of chess.

You take turns moving until, eventually, one player runs out of moves.

Your goal is to “pass the rock” back to the interviewer each time they ask what is your salary history.

Provide a Range

Often, you will have success just using the two steps listed above.

However, as good a negotiator you might be, you’ll always encounter a hiring manager who is better.

This means there will be occasions when you will need to provide a range first.

Now if you followed the first step, you should have already determined a range that you are willing to accept.

Everybody knows that this question comes with a little bit of negotiation.

  • When giving your salary expectations, avoid stating a single number.
  • Don’t say, “I would like to make $80,000 per year.”
  • If that is true, at least say “I would like to make $80,000 – $95,000 per year.”

This way you are within a realistic range but you might get offered an additional $15,000 you would never have had if you didn’t provide a range!

How do you determine what kind of range you should provide?

First, if you haven’t already, answer these two questions.

  1. What is your dream salary that you couldn’t turn down?
  2. What is the absolute lowest salary you could accept before walking away from the offer?

So, let’s say your range is $80,000 to $95,000 per year.

Be honest with the hiring manager about this.

Being transparent with your salary expectations will get you a long way!

Let them know your range is $80,000 – $95,000, but $80,000 is the bare minimum.

They should be fully aware that $80,000 is a number that you would consider, but the opportunity would have to be perfect.

If you are the prime candidate for the open position, you will have no problem finding your dream salary.

Don’t settle for the company that wants to find the cheapest new hire.

Learn how to negotiate your salary and get paid what you deserve!