How to Answer Questions About Salary History

Questions about your salary expectations are commonly asked during interviews. Furthermore, your salary history will most likely also be discussed. It’s therefore important that you’re prepared to discuss this topic when you’re interviewing for a new position.

Learn more about interview questions about salary history and how to answer them!

Interviewers are interested in your education and work experience, but also 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.

Questions such as ‘tell me about your salary expectations‘ could catch you off guard during an interview. However, you can avoid this by preparing answers to salary-related job interview questions prior to your interview.

In this blog, we discuss how you can answer questions about salary history and 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 Are Interested In Your Salary Expectations

For employers, there are multiple reasons why they could be interested in your salary history and current expectations. Firstly, they want to know if they are able to offer what you expect. Another aspect is how fast they need to fill the position that you’re applying for. Also, how well the company, in general, is doing will determine what pay range they can offer.

Another reason for discussing salary history and expectations is to assess how you position yourself in the job market. Interviewers want to know if you have an idea of your value in the market and if you can explain why. Your market value is usually determined based on your job-level, years of professional experience, and career accomplishments.

Also, interviewers want to know if you’re currently 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 experienced for the position.

Where To Start When Preparing For Salary Questions

Of course, to be able to discuss salary during a job interview you need to have figured out ‘how much you’re worth‘ in the market. You do not want to come up with a random number during the interview. It’s important that you are able to give an appropriate salary figure and you should be able to explain why.

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.

Below we discuss a couple of steps you can take to consider when you’re preparing for salary interview questions.

  1. Research the job and company

To make sure you negotiate the best deal for yourself it’s important that you know what factors could affect your salary expectations. Make sure you get a clear idea of the job’s responsibilities and required work experience.

Analyze the job description to figure out which specific level (junior, senior, expert, etc.) of employee the employer is looking for. Furthermore, analyze the industry, the location of the company, required educational level, and required skills and abilities.

Also, take the market conditions into account. Factors that are beyond your control could also influence your negotiation position. Think, for instance, negative or positive market conditions.

Learn more abour researching a job and company to negotiate your salary!

  1. Comparison analysis

The quickest way to get insight into a pay range is looking at job sites or company review sites. Here you can find indications for specific jobs and the salary related to work experience.

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 company.

  1. Prepare for salary negotiation

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

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 salary 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.

Common Salary Job Interview Questions & Answers

Below we discuss a couple of salary job interview questions that you can expect during your interview. Furthermore, we discuss sample answers to those specific questions.

Learn more about common salary interview questions and how to answer them.

  1. Can you tell me about your salary history?

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 job?

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.

Job Interview Topics – Common Job Interview Questions & Answers

Below you can find a list of common job interview topics. Each link will direct you to an article regarding the specific topics that discuss commonly asked interview questions. Furthermore, each article discusses why the interviewer asks these questions and how you answer them!

  1. Accomplishments
  2. Adaptability
  3. Admission
  4. Behavioral
  5. Career Change
  6. Career Goals
  7. Communication
  8. Competency
  9. Conflict Resolution
  10. Creative Thinking
  11. Cultural Fit
  12. Customer Service
  13. Direct
  14. Experience
  15. Government
  16. Graduate
  17. Growth Potential
  18. Honesty & Integrity
  19. Illegal
  20. Inappropriate
  21. Job Satisfaction
  22. Leadership
  23. Management
  24. Entry-Level & No experience
  25. Performance-Based
  26. Personal
  27. Prioritization & Time Management
  28. Problem-solving
  29. Salary
  30. Situational & Scenario-based
  31. Stress Management
  32. Teamwork
  33. Telephone Interview
  34. Tough
  35. Uncomfortable
  36. Work Ethic