Salary Interview Questions & Answers

Job interview questions about your salary expectations are commonly asked during interviews. It’s therefore important that you’re prepared to discuss this topic when you’re interviewing for a new position.

Besides being interested in your education and work experience, interviewers want to know more about your salary expectations. Of course, you do not want to low-ball yourself in a job interview; you also do not want to aim too high. Salary interview questions can be tricky to answer. This is because there’s a chance that you and the interviewer have opposing goals. The employer probably has a salary range in mind, and you’re probably looking to take a step forward in your career.

If a question such as ‘tell me about your salary expectations‘ catches you off guard during an interview, it can be stressful to discuss it on the spot. However, you can avoid this by preparing answers to salary-related job interview questions prior to your interview.

In this article, we discuss interview questions about salary expectations. Read everything you need to know on how you can prepare and what answers the interviewer is looking for. Also, read more about frequently asked job interview questions here and check our job interview preparation checklist.

Why Employers Ask About Your Salary Expectations

There are several reasons why employers ask about your salary expectations during a job interview. Below we discuss the most important reasons to discuss your salary expectations

  1. Budget reasons

Before starting the hiring process, employers calculate a salary amount for a job opening. For them, it’s important to get an understanding of what your compensation expectations are and how this aligns with their budget. Employers take into account if they need to fill more or even similar positions. Another factor is how bad they need to fill them and how the company, in general, is doing in terms of revenue, profit, and overall growth.

For employers, it’s important to get a sense of whether they can afford your help and hire you.

  1. Assess how well you know your market value

Strong candidates have an idea of their value in the job market; they understand their worth. They can explain their salary expectations because they know what their skill set is worth. Interviewers want to assess whether or not you know your market value. In general, your market value is based on your job-level, years of professional experience, and career achievements.

  1. Determine if you’re at the right professional level

Another reason for employers to ask about your salary expectations is to determine whether or not you’re at the right professional level. For example, if you ask a significantly lower salary amount that other applicants, this could indicate that you’re of a too junior level or do not yet possess the right amount of work experience. If you ask a significantly higher amount, this could indicate that you’re too senior for the role. Based on your answer, the interviewers try to gauge if you’re at an appropriate professional level to be suitable for the position you’re interviewing for.

How to Research Job Salaries

Before you can answer job interview questions about salary, it’s important that you do your homework. You do not just want to throw a number out there during an interview, but you want to go for a number you actually feel comfortable with. Answering an appropriate salary number makes sure that you stay in the race for the position that you’re interviewing for.

The information you get from your research will help you negotiate your salary. Negotiating your salary is always a good idea, and it works. Demonstrating your skills and value that you can add to the company can help you get a better job offer. However, to start a successful negotiation, you need to know what you’re worth in today’s job market.

Doing salary research can help you get a better understanding of the number to shoot for. Furthermore, this research will help you map out what kind of increases you can expect as you advance in your career. Below we discuss a few steps that you can take to start your job salary research.

  1. What to consider

To start your research, it’s wise to consider a few important elements that can help you determine your market salary. Below we discuss a couple of factors that affect the salary that you should ask for when discussing your salary expectations.

Job title

The job title usually reflects the responsibilities and work experience required for the position. Think, for instance, of junior, senior, or expert positions. It’s therefore important that you have clear what the position that you’re applying for requires in terms of responsibilities and experience to work on the challenges that you will encounter.

Career industry

A similar title in a different industry could mean a different salary. For example, sales managers can work in several industries but are able to ask for more salary in other industries.

Location

If you live in a location where the average cost of living is higher than the national average, such as in cities, you should earn a higher salary. Your research should help you get an understanding of what you’re worth in the market in your region.

Education

Education and a degree, in general, boost your salary expectations. Your educational level and if you went to college or university can make a difference. The level of your education is one of several different elements that employers consider when determining an appropriate salary. And in general the more experience you gain, the less it typically matters to employers

Work experience

As you progress in your career and gain experience, you will increase in value and salary.

Skills

Your abilities, skills, and competencies form your value in the job market. The more in-demand your skills, the more room for negotiation you tend to have.

Note: There are also factors and variables that you cannot control, but that can have an impact on your negotiation position. Think, for instance, of declining market conditions.

  1. Where to get more information

The quickest way to get more insight into job salaries is by looking at job sites or company review sites. A popular example of a company review site is, for instance, Glassdoor.com. Salary-specific sites such as salary.com give you free information about positions and related salaries.

Depending on your location, there might be more specific local sources that can help you get information on salaries, benefits, interview questions you can expect, and more insider info from people who work or worked for an organization.

  1. What to use in your salary negotiation

Based on your research, you should come up with a salary range rather than a specific number. This way, you give yoursel a bit more flexibility to negotiate your salary.

When you determine your acceptable salary range, you need to know what’s the lowest salary figure you can live with. Therefore, before your interview, it’s better to have already figured out what’s the lowest number you would accept.

Once you have set a realistic range, you should aim for the middle to the high end of that range. Always use a whole number when answering questions about what salary you expect. If you provide a range, you show that you’re willing to concede. The interviewer will most likely immediately aim for the smaller number in your range.

Salary negotiations, in general, can be nerve-wracking. However, preparing the right way to make sure you know what you can expect and what others in a similar position make can help you calm your nerves.

Tips to Answer Interview Questions About Salary

Below we discuss a couple of strategies that you can use in preparation to interview questions about salary.

  1. Evaluate the position

The first step is evaluating how the position stacks up against your overall criteria of an ideal job that fits into your career goals. In other words, does the position you want to apply for makes sense at this moment?

Setting certain criteria for yourself can help you make an easier decision further down the line. For example, if you know for a fact that a job will help you progress in your career, for instance, through training and development opportunities, you might be willing to accept a slightly lower salary in the lower end of a salary range that you have determined.

The same goes for a position about which you might have reservations. If a position does not really fit your situation or career goals, you might want to aim for a higher salary in your negotiations.

However, to determine a salary range, you need to take steps discussed in the previous paragraph; by doing your research.

  1. Research

Your research should help you make an estimation of an average salary range for the industry and position that you’re applying for. Going into a job interview with a salary range is better than an actual number. It will give you more flexibility to negotiate while taking your job evaluation results into account.

However, when the interviewer asks you about your salary expectations, and there’s an opportunity to tell them, you should take advantage. This means that you should keep your range to yourself and provide them with an exact number. Giving the interviewer a range gives them the opportunity to immediately steer towards the lower end of that range because they think you are likely to accept since you mentioned that salary range yourself. Also, always ask for a bit more than you actually want to give yourself a better position to negotiate.

When determining your salary range, it’s important that you keep your cost of living needs in mind. For example, will a salary cover your recurring expenses? If this is not the case, you need to have figured out how you will make up the difference. You can weigh the recurring expenses you have against the research you have done about the salary of a particular position. If these numbers don’t match, this could be a sign that the job is not a great match (at the moment).

  1. Play it coy and deflect the question

When an interviewer asks you a direct question such as ‘what are your salary expectations?‘, you can play it coy and deflect the question. This explicitly does not mean avoiding the question. Playing it coy in this case means giving a strategic answer that avoids giving a specific number at first. In other words, you’re only delaying your answer.

A direct question such as those about your salary expectations is an opportunity for you to sell yourself while putting the pressure on the employer to give you a fair offer. If they don’t, you can still take advantage and provide them with a number.

For example, your first answer could be

‘For me, the most important factor is finding a job that’s a good fit for my skills and experience, and where I can really add value. Furthermore, I’m confident that you will offer a salary for this position that is competitive in the current job market.’

  1. Ask the interviewer questions

When interviewers ask you about your salary expectations, you can also ask a direct question back. For example, you could ask him or her, ‘what’s the salary range determined by the company for this position?‘ or something along the lines like ‘what is the established salary range for someone in a similar position with my background?’. You can use this information to your advantage when you want to provide them with the number that you had in mind.

Learn more about the importance and what specific questions you should ask the interviewer.

  1. Be honest

Seasoned interviewers will notice when you’re lying. It can be tempting to provide the interviewer with false numbers on your previous salaries. The interviewers are aware of what the competitive salaries are in the current job market. Also, there’s a chance that an employer will verify your level of compensation at previous positions. However, this does not happen that often. Make sure you provide the interviewer with a realistic salary number that will not lowball yourself but also does not price you out of the market.

  1. Be ready to negotiate

Every job offer should be viewed as an opportunity to give your salary a boost. Eventually, you will have to negotiate a salary; make sure you don’t lowball yourself and get the best deal possible without pricing yourself out. Try to be kind but firm during these negotiations. Through your research, you should have gotten an idea of your market value and what’s a reasonable salary range.

Common Salary Job Interview Questions & Answers

Below we discuss the most common salary job interview questions that you can expect during your interview. Furthermore, we discuss sample answers to those specific questions.

  1. Can you tell me about your salary levels in your previous positions?

This is a pretty direct question that does not need much explaining. However, when you’re asked this question, you can use it to your advantage by also stating any other benefits you received during that time. For instance, performance bonuses or any other perks. By mentioning this in your answers, it gives it more weight and also shows how your value was recognized by an employer.

You can also include promotions that led to an increase in salary. This shows that your (former) employer recognized your worth that led to you earning new opportunities.

Sample answer:

‘When I started at company ABC as an online marketer, my salary was $X. After two years, this was increased to $X. This was in large part because of my successful track record of bringing in new clients. When I got promoted to a senior marketer position, my salary became $X, which excluded performance bonuses and other benefits.’

Why this is a strong answer:

  • It’s a short and concise answer that directly answers the questions.
  • It mentions how you were valued by your employer and that you received performance bonuses and other benefits.
  • The answer included you getting promoted.

Note: When you mention performance bonuses and other benefits, but not specific, you can expect follow-up questions. For example, the interviewer could ask you, ‘could you tell me more about your performance bonuses and benefits you received from exceptional work?‘. Make sure you prepare for these follow-up questions.

  1. What are your salary expectations for this position?

This is probably the most commonly asked interview question when discussing salary; your expectations. The question is very straightforward, but giving the right answer can be tricky. The main reason for interviewers that ask this question is to assess if they can afford you. Furthermore, it gives them insights into how much you value your work and yourself.

Sample Answer 1:

‘My requirements regarding salary are flexible. I do have significant experience in the market, and I truly believe that this adds value to my candidacy. I would like to get to know more about the specific responsibilities within this position and company. From there, we can determine a fair salary.’

Sample Answer 2:

‘I’m looking forward to getting to know more about the specific tasks and responsibilities of this position in this interview. However, I know that similar positions in the current market pay in the range of $X to $X in our region. With my skills, abilities, and experience, I would expect to receive a salary somewhere around $X.’

Why this is a strong answer:

  • Both answers are short and concise. Answer 1 deflects the questions which give another opportunity to discuss a salary after getting more clarification on the position.
  • Answer 2 provides a clear salary number that would be acceptable based on the skills, abilities, and experience you possess. A whole number will give a stronger negotiation position. Providing an interviewer with range shows that you are willing to concede. The interviewer will most likely focus their offer around the smaller number.
  1. Would you accept a position for less pay?

You can expect this question if you’re interviewing for a position of which the compensation is lower than your salary history. Interviewers are interested in your motivation for why you would take a position that pays you less.

Employers could have concerns about this and wonder if you are willing to stay with the company if you receive a better offer further down the line. You can imagine that they would be hesitant to invest in the training and development of an employee if they think that he or she will not be working for them very long.

Example reasons for accepting a lower salary:

Below we discuss a couple of reasons that you can use to explain why you would accept a lower salary.

  • It’s your dream job

If you always dreamed of working in a certain position or working for a specific company, you might consider taking a lower pay than you earn in your current position.

  • Your moving to another region

For example, say you’re moving from an area with a higher cost of living to an area with a lower cost of living you might accept a lower salary.

  • Career or industry change

If you decide to apply for a position in a different industry, there’s a large chance that there are differences in salary levels. A career change to a different industry or different type of role usually involves accepting a lower salary.

Learn more about career change interview questions here.

  • More or different opportunities

If a job provides more or different opportunities that are more fulfilling and engaging, you might consider taking a lower salary. If there’s no room to grow or develop yourself further in your current position, you could choose for a position with (temporarily) less pay but with the right long-term development and growth opportunities.

  • Better work-life balance

There are many people who are willing to work for a lower salary if they have a better work-life balance. A good salary is important, but not everything. Lower levels of stress, a more positive work environment, a better or more flexible schedule, or a shorter amount of time to get to work are all reasons that are considered important by most people.

  • Additional benefits

There’s always a chance that a salary is lower at a company, but the benefits are better. Adding up all these factors could outweigh the difference in monthly salaries. A company could, for instance, offer training and development opportunities such as getting certification or a degree. However, benefits could also be better health insurance or onsite daycare.

Sample answer:

‘This position is different from my current position. Even though I have significant experience that will help me succeed in this position, I understand that it’s a different market in a different area. The reason why I applied for this position is that I have used your software myself for many years, and I’m impressed with the developments and innovation in your products.

Furthermore, I believe that the training and development opportunities are unique in the market and will help me grow as a professional. Therefore, for me, taking a pay cut is no issue to take on a new challenge in a position in which I can help to make a difference and work on groundbreaking products.’

Why this is a strong answer:

  • It’s a short and concise answer that directly answers the question of the interviewer.
  • The answer specifically states why you applied for a job at that specific company.
  • The answer also mentions why you’re willing to take a pay cut.

Learn more about commonly asked job interview questions.

Tips to Negotiate the Best Salary

Below we discuss a couple of tips you can consider when you need to negotiate the best salary deal for yourself.

  1. Know your numbers

The research you performed prior to your interview should’ve helped you determine an exact number you want to aim for, should it come up. A precise number will help you negotiate a better deal.

If you provide the interviewer with a number that you can substantiate through your skills, abilities, experience, and qualifications, he or she will most likely assume that you’ve done thorough research into your market value.

  1. Base your salary requirements on data

If the interviewer asks you to provide a number, you need to make sure you’re able to provide a strong answer. In this case, this means a number based upon the research you did prior to your interview. This

  1. Walk-in with confidence

The way you enter the room for a job interview can set the tone for the rest of the interaction during the conversation. Keep your head high, smile, and convey a positive attitude.

  1. Await the appropriate time

During a job interview, the interviewers are most likely to ask you interview questions about your skills, abilities, experience, and qualifications first. There’s also a chance that salary is not discussed until you reach further interview rounds. Therefore, be prepared to discuss compensation as soon as the interviewer brings it up during the interview.

  1. Ask questions

If the interviewer asks you directly what your salary expectations are, you can ask him or her more questions to get more information. For instance, you could ask the interviewer, ‘what’s the salary range determined by the company for this position?‘ or something along the lines like ‘what is the established salary range for someone in a similar position with my background?’.

More about the importance and what specific questions you should ask the interviewer here.

  1. Take initiative

Once you get all the information you want from the interviewer, you can take the initiative to provide your salary number. This number is very important during the negotiation and is most likely what the rest of the conversation will be based upon. Also, ask for more than you actually want without fear of asking for too much.

Of course, your salary number should be somewhat reasonable, but the worst that can happen to a slightly higher than the reasonable offer is that you will get a counteroffer. It’s important to realize that if you do not negotiate or aim high is that you will get nothing.

  1. Negotiate employee benefits & perks

Besides salary, additional benefits and perks can also be important to discuss. Examples of employee benefits and perks are stock options, performance bonuses, extra vacation time, a flexible schedule, and training and development opportunities.

  1. Think the offer through

As soon as you receive an offer, it’s smart to think the offer through. In other words, you do not have to accept or reject a job offer right away. If you want to think about the offer on the table, don’t be afraid to tell them. If the interviewer is really interested in hiring you, this could even lead to an increase in the original offer.

  1. Don’t fear to say no

If you’re unsure about the job, you can always consider saying no. Even though this could lead to a better offer, it could also lead to the interviewer moving on to another candidate. Therefore, make sure you do not decline a position that you really want.

Tips to Negotiate a Pay Raise

Below we discuss a couple of tips that you can use when you want to negotiate a pay raise.

  1. Preparation is key

If you want to negotiate a raise with your employer, it’s essential that you do your homework. In other words, preparation is key. Do your research on salaries in the market; average raises in your position, and the performance appraisal track record that has tracked your accomplishments. Make sure to include any other relevant information as well that can help you convince your employer to give you a raise.

Also, do your research on the company’s policies on salary and raises. A lot of companies have policies and set moments at certain times a year when promotions, raises, and bonuses are given.

  1. A clear idea of what you want

Your preparation should have given you a clear idea of what you want to ask the employer. Make sure you figure out a salary range that you are looking for. Based on this range, you can provide the interviewer with a salary that you would like to earn. Furthermore, make sure that you have an explanation ready that justify you asking for the pay raise.

  1. Flexibility

Make sure you’re flexible in your approach to negotiating a better deal for yourself. For example, would you consider a higher bonus based on your future performance appraisal? Or would you take extra days off or a more flexible schedule instead of a pay raise?

  1. Set up a meeting with your supervisor

Request a meeting with your supervisor or manager to talk about your salary. Discuss your request with them, supported by your research. Make sure you stay calm, concise, and to the point. It’s essential that you provide your supervisor with a rational request.

Furthermore, don’t ask for an answer immediately. There’s a large chance that your supervisor or manager will need to talk to the human resources department or others before they can answer your request.

Tips to Answer Questions About Accepting Lower Pay

When you’re answering questions about accepting a lower salary, there a couple of factors you can focus on.

  1. Focus on the advantages of the new position

One of the reasons to accept a lower salary is because you will get other advantages in a position. When answering the question of why you would accept lower pay, you need to mention specific elements of the position that are attractive to you.

Explain to the interviewer why the job’s responsibilities and tasks appeal to you. Relate them to your skills and experience and how you can use them if you get hired for the job.

If you’re switching industries or positions, make sure that you do not talk down on your current position or criticize managers or coworkers if you are trying to make a point for how you prefer the position you’re interviewer for above your current job.

  1. Discuss changes in your life

Another reason to accept a lower-paying position if because of changes in your personal life. There are several reasons that you can come up with that led to you looking for a job that’s maybe more in line with your interest or on that have a better work-life balance. Another reason could be that you’re looking for more meaning in your work. Changed family circumstances can also be a reason to look for a different job that might pay less, but gives you more free time or a flexible schedule.

The most important factor to focus on is explaining why the position you’re interviewing for fits better into your life than your current job.

  1. Talk about motivators other than salary

There are always other factors that could have motivated you to look for another job that might pay less. Think, for instance, about positions in which you can help other people or provide excellent service.

Other examples are working for a highly respected company or brand or working on high-quality projects. Just like the other reasons mentioned above, it’s essential that you are able to explain why the position fits you well and why you would be successful in it.

What to Avoid When Discussing Your Salary Expectations

There are a couple of things that you should avoid when discussing interview questions about your salary expectations.

  1. Pricing yourself out of the market

Just as you should not lowball yourself, you should not price yourself out of the market either. If you come up with an irrational number that you cannot support, this could hurt your chances of landing the job. This is what you, of course, want to avoid.

  1. Negativity

If the interviewers provide you with a lower offer than you expect, stay professional. Do not take it as an insult and respond respectfully why you think it’s lower than expected and ask them if there is any room to negotiate.