It is great to have a job that we love, one that creates value for other people, one we enjoy doing. At the end of the day, however, we have to pay our bills, and nobody (or almost nobody) would go to work if they did not get paid for the hours in the workplace.

A safe way of answering this one is to saying that salary is not the deciding factor for you (even if it is). You can stress that you really want the job, and will accept whatever they offer to their new hires. Needless to say, you can still refuse their initial offer later on, and start the negotiation process. Let’s have a look at 7 sample answers to the question. Do not forget to read also the text below the answers, for additional hints and a guide on how to eventually get as good an offer as possible at the end of your interview.


7 sample answers to “What are your salary expectations” interview question

  1. 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 $33,000. I would accept it for the start, and hope to prove my skills and get a raise later on.
  2. This is my first job application, and I am motivated to learn. I understand that this is an entry level position, so the salary offer won’t be amazing. It will be fitting for the level of job. At the same time, however, the possibilities of promotion are almost endless here. I am ready to accept your standard salary offer for entry level jobs. I am sure that once I prove myself worthy of a promotion, or of a raise, you won’t hesitate offering it to me.
  3. I’ve been earning $70,000 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.
  4. 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 $120,000 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.
  5. I have no expectations to be honest. I’ve worked in a publishing industry for ten years, and recently I experienced a complete burnout. Now I am seeking a simple manual job of a waitress, to recharge my batteries, try something new, and basically to change my career completely. Money is not really a problem for me, and I will accept anything you typically pay to waitresses here.
  6. I do not expect anything from you. But I want to make sure that I make as much as I can, on sales commissions. I have an ambition to become one of the best sales representatives in the company. And I am sure that if I manage to do so, and generate a lot of business for you each month, I won’t be disappointed with the money I will earn here.
  7. To be honest, I need to earn at least $2,500 each month. Not that I am fixed on a certain amount or anything similar, but I broke down of my monthly expenses, and $2,500 is enough to keep my head above the water basically, with a slight reserve, so I can save something each month and treat myself with a nice holiday once or twice a year, or pay if something unexpected happens…


The more they want (or need) you, the more money you can ask for

This is the most simple formula you can follow in your interviews. For example, if you apply for a manual labor (think fruit picking, assembly line, cashier, stock clerk, construction worker, waiter), or for one of the popular jobs (administrative assistant, secretary, pharmacist, receptionist, etc), the employers won’t feel any pressure to hire you--even if they like you.

Why? Because they will always have another applicants to hire. There will always be someone to interview, someone to get on board.

On the contrary, if you offer a unique skill or knowledge, or if you apply for a job nobody else want to get, simply if you are their only option, or one of the very few options, you can definitely ask for more money. It is much easier to negotiate a better salary in this scenario, simply because you have a greater negotiation power in the interview. Keep it on your mind, think about your situation, and adjust your answer accordingly.

Agency recruitment, market situation, first vs second interview

If you apply for a job in an agency (one which leases workers to various companies, or perhaps even to other agencies), you can say anything–any number, but remember that if you aim too high, they may not find any offer for you.

They may try, but none of their clients will be ready to pay that much, unless the situation on the job market forces them to do so.

That is actually another important variable–the situation on the market. If we are in a recession, the budgets are tight, and many people are unemployed, the negotiation power is in the hands of the employers… On the other hand, if you are a programmer for example, and basically companies fight to even get you to the interviews, you can always try and ask for more, and you can afford refusing their initial offer.


Talking to a decision maker

Another thing to consider is whether you talk to a decision maker in an interview, or to an ordinary John from the HR department.

An HR generalist, or trainee recruiter, can hardly offer you more money–they are not authorized to make such an offer. Oppositely, if you already passed two interviews, and find yourself talking to a high executive from the company (CEO, CTO, CFO, you name it), you can have higher expectations, and you can show them.  If the employer invited you for the final interview, it means that they seriously consider hiring you.

As you can see, this question requires some analysis from your side. Analyze the situation, think about your negotiation power,  and decide how much money you can ask for.


Do not forget on benefits

Salary is one thing, remuneration another. Maybe they cannot pay you that much, but they can give you a car (you can use for both work and personal reasons), a powerful laptop, a holiday voucher. Or they will cover your insurance (this is a standard in the majority of good companies), and other expenses.

You can mention these things, or ask about them, just to make sure that you are on the same page with the employer. Because in some cases you may earn less money but the benefits outweigh the losses.  In any case, you should not look greedy, offering little and expecting everything. It is fine to have realistic expectations, but saying that you want to earn $5,000 a month and have a new Tesla at your disposal, when everyone else in the field earns $3,500, won’t yield you the desired results in the interviews…

* Special Tip: “What are your salary expectations?” is by far not the toughest question you will face in your interview for any decent job. You will face questions about prioritization, dealing with pressure, using logic, and other tricky scenarios that happen in the workplace. If you want to make sure that you stand out with your answers and outclass your competitors, have a look at our Interview Success Package. Up to 10 premium answers to 31 tricky scenario based questions (+ more) will make your life much easier in the interviews. Thank you for checking it out!


Have something to backup your claims with

If you say a number, you should have something to back it up. The paycheck from your former employer, the statistics from a website that collects data of average salaries for various jobs, etc. Most often than not, you will find a salary range on the job offer. If they write from $30,000 to $35,000 annually, you should not ask for more than $35,000.

In an exceptional case (when you apply for a specialist job), you can add ten or twenty percent to their offer ($35,000 + 10%). As I already said, you should analyze the situation and assess your negotiation power. The more they want or need you, the more you can ask for…

Ready to answer this one? I hope so! Do not forget to check also 7 sample answers to other tricky interview questions:

Matthew Chulaw
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