Interview Questions

What is Your Salary Expectation?

It’s natural to want to be paid fairly for your work. And yet discussing your salary expectation with a hiring manager who has way more inside information than you, can feel very unnerving. “What is your salary expectation?” is a straightforward question and yet the answer is so complex. It's difficult to know what to say (and what not to say) so that you receive a job offer that's a win for both yourself and the company.

You should go into every interview with your salary expectations in mind. By researching and preparing an answer ahead of time, you can demonstrate to the employer that you're not only flexible with your salary, but you also know what you're worth. We recommend checking industry salary reports online and tapping into your network to help you negotiate your worth in the labour market.

In this article, we explore why employers ask about your salary expectations during interviews, how to answer this question, tips to keep in mind when providing your salary expectations, and what to avoid when answering this interview question.

Why do employers ask what your salary expectations are?

When an employer asks about your salary expectations, it’s usually for one or more of three reasons:

  • They have a budget. The interviewer wants to make sure your compensation expectations align with what they’ve calculated for the job. If they find most candidates are asking for more than anticipated, it might mean requesting a larger budget for the position.

  • They want to gauge how well you know your worth. A good candidate knows how much their skill set is worth in the market and can share it with confidence. To determine appropriate market value, factor in your level, years of experience and career achievements.

  • They want to determine whether you’re at the appropriate professional level. An applicant who asks for a significantly higher amount than other candidates may be too senior for the role. Alternatively, answering with a salary expectation on the low end could indicate you’re at a lower experience level than the job requires.

How to answer “What are your salary expectations?” in an interview

Here are some tips on how to effectively present your salary expectations during an interview:

  1. Choose a salary range. Responding to questions about salary with a single number limits your ability to make something work with the company. The secret recipe for successful negotiations is to “come from a place of collaboration and service.” By giving a salary range, you show that you’re willing to be flexible and work with your prospective employer. Rather than offering a fixed amount of the salary you expect, provide the employer with a range in which you’d like your salary to fall. Try to keep your range tight rather than very wide. For example: “I am seeking a position that pays between NGN1,000,000 and NGN1,200,000 monthly.
  2. Flip the Question. If you don’t feel comfortable with the option above or want to try to get some more context on the position of the company, try turning the tables and asking them the question. The truth is, every company has a certain budget in mind when hiring for a new position. The budget range varies depending on the size, success, and values of the company.

    Politely asking about the budget range the business has set for the role in question can help you better understand the situation, make last-minute adjustments to how you want to answer the salary expectations question, and signal to the hiring manager that you’re a strong interviewer.

    Once the interviewer answers your question, they’ll expect you to say if the salary works for you. So you still need to do your research, but now you’ll be able to tailor your response to the budget the company has. If the interviewer gives you a number or range in line with what you expected or higher, great! You can talk about how that sounds perfect for you. But if the response is lower than you’re happy with, you have to come up with a plan to respond.

  3. Avert the question. Some hiring managers may ask you your preferred salary early on in the hiring process before you fully understand all of the details of the job and whether it’s a position you’re truly interested in. While you’ll have to eventually talk about your salary expectations, you can deflect the question to avoid having to answer until you are ready. A good answer for deflecting this question is as follows: Before I provide an answer, I’d like to get more acquainted with the position and the company so I can better provide a more accurate salary expectation.
  4. Be open to other compensation options. There are several ways in which you can be compensated by an employer, including health benefits, additional paid time off, more vacation days, and equity in the company. While these types of compensation may not be readily seen on your actual paycheck, they do add up over time and equate to either additional income or a more attractive work environment and work-life balance.

“What are your salary expectations?” sample answers

  1. My salary range is flexible. I would, of course, like to be compensated fairly for my decade of experience and award-winning sales record. However, I'm open to discussing specific numbers once we've discussed the details of the position.
  2. While I am certainly flexible, I am looking to receive between NGN7,000,000 and NGN8,000,000 annually. Due to my skill set and experience level, I feel that this is a comfortable and appropriate range for my work.
  3. Let me start by reiterating how grateful I am for the benefits this job offers such as generous paid time off and health benefits. That being said, I am expecting my salary for this position to fall between NGN10,000,000 and NGN12,000,000 annually. My rich background in client services specific to this industry can play a role in strengthening the organization.
  4. To be honest, I do not focus on the salary offer. I like the job description, your bank, and I would be proud to have this job. But as far as my knowledge goes, average salary for a teller in your institution starts at NGN100,000. I would accept it for the start, and hope to prove my skills and get a raise later on.
  5. I’ve been earning NGN500,000 in my present job, and I would prefer not earning less, considering it goes about almost the same position. However, I am open to negotiation, and would love to hear your thoughts. I am aware that you have your budget for the position and directions from your managers, so I am definitely open to negotiation.
  6. I’ve been working as a software engineer for ten years already. With my level of experience and references, and, of course, the situation on the employment market, I would consider NGN2,000,000 a good start, including benefits. Needless to say, I believe that I can bring much more value to the company with my work, and hence it would be a win-win deal for both parties. At least that’s how I see it.
  7. My salary requirements are flexible, but I do have significant experience in the field that I believe adds value to my candidacy. I look forward to discussing in more detail what my responsibilities at this company would be. From there, we can determine a fair salary for the position.
  8. I'm open to discussing what you believe to be a fair salary for the position. However, based on my previous salary, my knowledge of the industry, and my understanding of this geographic area, I'd expect a salary in the general range of NGN200,000 to NGN250,000. Again, I'm open to discussing these numbers with you.

What to avoid

Here are a few things to avoid when answering a question related to your salary expectations in an interview:

  • An exact amount: Avoid providing the hiring manager with an exact amount if possible. A set amount can give off the impression that you aren’t open to negotiations.
  • Being unprepared: You want to go into the interview with a good idea of your salary expectations. Not being prepared can lead to you asking for or accepting a salary that’s lower than what you deserve or can afford.

Always remember, a great way to prepare for interview questions is to have a friend or family member pretend to be the interviewer who asks you questions while you practise your answers.

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