Answering: What Are Your Salary Expectations?

Why Do Employers Ask This Question?

This is the one question that many candidates really hate to answer. But let’s face it: at some point in the process of applying for a job, you may well be asked what your salary expectations are.

When you are faced with a question such as this, or a blank box on an application form, it’s difficult to put a value on your expertise, skills and experience. Striking a balance between how much you want the job with your value as an employee can be a daunting prospect for many candidates. Deciding how to approach this question requires thought and a little planning.

If you have applied for your ideal job, it may be tempting to just state the lowest figure you’d accept, to increase the likelihood of securing the position. This is not always a smart move though. Your expected salary can also be an indicator to your employer of how much value you believe you can add to the company.


Answering: What Are Your Salary Expectations?

Negotiate this question well, and it could mean extra money in your back pocket.


When Will I Typically Be Asked About My Salary Expectations?

This question may arise in the recruitment process when applying for a job, but more often it’s asked during the interview - so be prepared for it, as you don’t want to be coming up with a spontaneous response.

The good news is often it’s a good indicator that salary is being discussed, since it may signal that the recruiter is interested in you working for them. However, a poorly prepared response at this stage could still undo all your good work.

Approaching The Question

Providing a response to this question requires both tact and diplomacy. No one likes addressing the salary expectations request, but these three tactics are worth considering if you are asked:


1. Circumvent The Question

If you really don’t want to commit to a figure, you could say that you want to understand the role in more detail before you consider what salary you feel would be acceptable. While this is an OK answer, it isn’t the best tactic. Many employers want to know what your salary expectations are from the outset, so sometimes there may be no avoiding the question, particularly when it comes to filling out an online form. Unfortunately many applications will not let you proceed to the next stage until you have completed this section.


2. Give a Range

Before applying, carry out some research to explore the typical salary ranges for the job and the sector. That way you can give the employer a range, with the lowest still being a figure that you would be comfortable accepting.


3. Give a Single Figure Near The High End of Your Range

If the recruiter is pushing for a specific figure, then choosing a number that suits you can be beneficial. Remember that this figure won’t be set in stone and you can negotiate further once you receive an offer. Negotiating for a salary that is a little higher may even go in your favour, as employers will see that you have faith in yourself and have carried out enough research to understand the true value of what you can bring to the role.

Ways to Delay Your Response

Many recruitment experts would recommend that you delay answering the salary expectations question for as long as you possibly can. There are several strategies that you can use in this regard.

  • You could respond by saying you are more interested in securing a role that is a suitable fit for your interests and skills. Add that you are confident that the business would offer you a competitive salary in the current market.

With this response you are communicating that you know the qualities that you can bring to the role and you are confident of your capabilities. At the same time, you are creating an opportunity to earn respect by being tactful and setting expectations that you would like the salary to reflect your worth. This answer also allows you to let the recruiter know that you are willing to negotiate.

If the recruiter persists and asks you to provide a specific figure then you can respond with something such as:

  • “Well, after carrying out some research and considering my experience, my understanding is that a salary of between £22,000 and £25,000 a year is usual based on the role and responsibilities.”

As mentioned previously, make sure that the lower figure you quote is one you would be happy to accept.

Sometimes the recruiter may ask your current salary, on the basis that if they offer you a salary which is at least 10% higher, you will be likely to accept. However, there are several reasons why this question may prove problematic for many applicants.

Many candidates are underpaid in their current post - hence why they are leaving. As such, they fear that revealing a low salary figure may lead to an unattractive offer, or remove them from being a contender for the post. Others may be making a career change or are presently self-employed; in either case, the comparison isn’t particularly relevant.

If you are earning an above-average wage for your position, the recruiter may think that they cannot afford to match or better your current salary, or that you are overqualified for the role. There are many reasons why people may search and apply for jobs that are lower paid than their current position, such as flexible working, improved benefits, the location or opportunities that the role presents.

If your situation fits into any of these scenarios, say as much. A good response might be that you’d like to learn more about the responsibilities involved, so you can work together to determine a fair salary for the position.

How to Effectively Negotiate on Salary

You’ve been through the gruelling application and interview process, and now you have been offered the job. Congrats! Unfortunately, the salary offered is a lot less than what you were expecting.

Always remember that when you are offered the job, it is simply that: an offer. There is always room to negotiate. Sometimes an offer will be put on the table as a test. The strategy you use to respond to the offer can change everything, and good negotiation at this stage is crucial. Keep in mind these four points as you negotiate:

  • Positivity. Even if the salary offer wasn’t as much as you hoped, show gratitude and enthusiasm for the potential of the job before you start to negotiate.
  • Counter Offer. If you would like to suggest your potential employer make a better offer, make sure that your proposal is well thought-out, fair and tactfully presented. Suggest an improved salary range, rather than a specific figure.
  • Salary Limit. It is always wise to be mindful that some businesses simply cannot offer you the salary that you would like. This doesn’t mean, however, that they can’t offer additional compensation through bonuses, pension contributions, additional holidays, flexible working, childcare vouchers or health benefits.
  • Rejection. If the offer doesn’t seem right to you, be willing to walk away, especially if the offer doesn’t fit with your career goals. Although this option may seem difficult in an increasingly competitive market, it may be better to wait for the right opportunity to come up.

What Not to Say or Do

It’s always a contentious subject talking about money, but it has to be done. As a general rule there are some basic principles that you should follow and some things that you certainly shouldn’t do, such as these:

  • Don’t accept the first offer. The whole point of salary discussions is negotiation, so try not to end it before it has had a chance to gain any momentum.
  • Don’t state your preferred figure straightaway. This is one of the worst tactics that you can use. You want to open up discussions and if you provide a figure immediately you will not leave any room to negotiate.
  • Don’t say something along the lines of ‘is that all you are offering’. The last thing you want to do is to offend the employer, even if the salary that they are offering is far lower than what you expected.
  • Don’t give a flat no. Simply saying no is not the right way to approach things. You need to demonstrate flexibility and provide a counter offer when the offer presented is not what you hoped for.
  • Don’t say something is a final offer. Making this kind of statement won’t do you any favours, and can come across as being aggressive or threatening.
  • Don’t come across as uncertain. Avoid words such as ‘perhaps’ or ‘maybe’. The potential employer wants to know that you have confidence in yourself and your negotiating skills. Never give an answer that you don’t know. Communicate your confidence and demonstrate that you can negotiate successfully.

Salary negotiations are always going to be difficult. If you approach them in the right way, though, there is no reason why you can’t secure the job that you have applied for and negotiate a salary that reflects your worth.

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