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How to Answer “What’s Your Salary Expectation”

Navigate this tricky interview hurdle with confidence and land your dream job offer.

Shailesh Sharma
7 min readFeb 16, 2024


You know the feeling. You walk out of an interview buzzing with excitement, convinced you nailed it. Then, reality bites. The dreaded email arrives, informing you that your application wasn’t successful. What went wrong? Often, it boils down to one crucial question: “What are your salary expectations?”

This deceptively simple question can turn into a major stumbling block for even the most qualified candidates. It’s no wonder you might feel a surge of anxiety when it pops up. But fear not, job seekers! By understanding the why behind the question and crafting a well-thought-out response, you can transform this hurdle into a stepping stone to securing your dream job with the compensation you deserve.

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Why This Question Matters

Let’s face it, companies aren’t handing out salaries like candy. When they ask about your expectations, it’s not just to gauge your financial desires. They’re looking for several key things:

  1. Budget Alignment: Companies operate within specific budgets for each position. Understanding your expectations helps them assess if you fit within their allocated range.
  2. Value Assessment: They’re trying to understand your perceived worth based on your qualifications, experience, and the industry benchmark.
  3. Negotiation Starting Point: Your answer sets the stage for the negotiation process. Saying a number too high might disqualify you while aiming too low could leave money on the table.

But remember, this question isn’t a test or a trap. It’s an opportunity for both you and the company to find a mutually beneficial agreement. A transparent and well-reasoned response shows professionalism and confidence, two qualities any employer values.

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Freshers vs Experienced

Whether you’re a wide-eyed graduate or a seasoned professional, the way you approach this question will differ. Let’s dive into some strategic responses for each scenario:


  1. Focus on Value, Not Just Numbers: Don’t be afraid to mention your research on industry standards, but don’t let that be your sole focus. Instead, highlight your value as a quick learner, adaptable team player, and eager contributor. Mention relevant skills, academic achievements, and transferable experiences that demonstrate your potential.
  2. Show Willingness to Learn and Grow: Express your interest in professional development opportunities and a desire to grow within the company. This indicates flexibility and a long-term vision, making you a valuable asset.
  3. Keep it Open-Ended: Instead of giving a fixed number, consider a phrase like: “My salary expectations are aligned with my qualifications and my understanding of industry standards for this role. I’m also open to discussing the total compensation package, including benefits and potential growth opportunities.”

Example: “Based on my research and the skills I bring to the table, I believe a salary in the range of $XX,XXX — $XX,XXX is competitive. However, I’m more interested in learning about the company culture, growth opportunities, and the overall compensation package before making a final decision.”

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Experienced Professionals:

  • Confidence is Key: Research your worth! Know your market value based on experience, achievements, and industry standards. State your desired salary with confidence, but be prepared to justify it with concrete examples of your accomplishments and impact.
  • Negotiation is Expected: Don’t be afraid to negotiate! Be transparent about your needs and open to a conversation. Prepare some counter-offers in case the initial response doesn’t meet your expectations.
  • Highlight Your Worth Beyond Salary: While salary is important, emphasize your value beyond the numbers. Mention your unique skills, proven track record, and potential to contribute to the company’s success.

Example: “Based on my experience and achievements in similar roles, I believe a salary of $XX,XXX is appropriate. However, I’m flexible and open to discussing the total compensation package, including benefits and potential bonuses based on performance.”

Bonus Tip: Practice your response beforehand! Role-playing with a friend or rehearsing in front of the mirror can boost your confidence and ensure you deliver your message clearly and convincingly.

Beyond the Words: The Body Language Bonus

It’s not just what you say, but how you say it. Mastering your body language and nonverbal cues during the interview is crucial for delivering a confident and convincing response to the salary expectations question. Here’s how:

  • Maintain Eye Contact: Looking directly at the interviewer shows confidence and sincerity. Avoid darting eyes or looking down, as this can portray nervousness or hesitation.
  • Positive Posture: Sit up straight with your shoulders relaxed, avoiding slouching or fidgeting. Project an open and engaged demeanour.
  • Smiling Power: A genuine smile conveys warmth, approachability, and enthusiasm. Remember, you’re not just seeking a paycheck, but an opportunity to contribute to a team.
  • Nodding and Gestures: Use these sparingly but strategically to emphasize your points and demonstrate active listening. Avoid excessive or nervous gestures that might distract from your message.

Remember: Your body language should be congruent with your words. If you’re feeling anxious, take a deep breath and remind yourself that you’re prepared and have value to offer.

Bonus Tips for a Smooth Negotiation

Negotiating your salary doesn’t have to be intimidating. By following these tips, you can approach the conversation with confidence and increase your chances of securing a fair offer:

  • Do Your Research: Before the interview, thoroughly research the average salary for the position and location. Look at industry reports, online resources, and salary comparison websites. Knowing the market value empowers you to negotiate from an informed position.
  • Practice Makes Perfect: Don’t wait until the interview to formulate your response. Prepare several potential answers and practice them beforehand. Role-playing with a friend or rehearsing in the mirror can boost your confidence and ensure clarity in your delivery.
  • Transparency is Key: Be honest and open about your needs and expectations. Hiding your true salary desires can hinder the negotiation process and create distrust. However, avoid blurting out a random number without justification.
  • Value Over Numbers: Remember, while salary is important, it’s not the only factor to consider. Highlight your unique skills, experience, and potential contribution to the company. Demonstrate the value you bring beyond just a price tag.
  • Know Your Bottom Line: Before entering the interview, determine your minimum acceptable salary. If the offer falls below your threshold, be prepared to walk away politely. Remember, negotiating isn’t always about getting the highest number; it’s about finding a mutually beneficial agreement that aligns with your worth.

Additional Tips:

  • Ask About the Total Compensation Package: Don’t focus solely on the base salary. Explore benefits like health insurance, retirement plans, paid time off, and potential bonuses. These can significantly impact your overall compensation and career satisfaction.
  • Don’t Burn Bridges: Even if you don’t reach an agreement, thank the interviewer for their time and express your continued interest in the company. You never know what doors might open down the line.

Remember: Negotiation is a collaborative process. By approaching it with preparation, confidence, and respect, you can increase your chances of landing a job offer that reflects your true value.

Stay tuned for the next instalment, where we’ll delve into:

  • Addressing common salary-related anxieties and objections.
  • Crafting powerful responses to counteroffers and lowball offers.
  • Using salary expectations as a tool to evaluate job fit and company culture.

Remember, with the right information and approach, you can turn the “salary expectations” question into a stepping stone to your dream job!

I hope this helps you continue building your informative and engaging article! Remember, you can adapt and personalize this content to fit your specific audience and writing style.

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