When the hiring managers start talking about money, it is always a good sign. It means that they consider hiring you, or at least that you didn’t bomb your interview with some stupid answers, and are still in the game. But what should you say to them? Should you remain humble in your expectations? Or, on the contrary, should you ask for more, and start the eventual salary negotiation in a more favorable position? The question doesn’t always have an obvious answer, but we will try to find out what to do on the following lines.

Let’s start with 7 sample answers to the question. I tried to include on my list answers fitting for different scenarios and situation you may experience in your interviews. Below the answers you will find more notes and hints on how to answer the question. Once you finish reading this one, you can also head to our salary negotiation section, and learn how to negotiate the best possible salary before you eventually sign an employment agreement.


7 sample answers to “What is your desired salary?” interview question

  1. My desired salary is $70,000 annually. I know it sounds a bit high for someone with my level of experience, but at the same time I did my research, I know what people earn on this position in this area, and I believe that the value I can bring onboard your company exceeds such a salary multiple times. Of course, this is my desired salary, and I am open to hear your thoughts and ideas.
  2. To be honest, I do not have a particular number on my mind. Because I do not work only for money. I know that I can learn a lot in your company, and grow both as an analyst and as a person while working here. And you cannot quantify everything. What’s more, reports from your former employees suggest that you treat people fairly, and I am sure I won’t end up underpaid here, as long as I try my best day in day out. And that’s exactly what I want to do.
  3. Well, what’s my desired salary and what I can realistically earn with you are two numbers miles apart. But I do not wear pink glasses, and I am aware of the situation on the employment market, and of my own financial situation. Before getting a job with a desired salary, I need to get any job. Earning $12 per hour does not seem much to me, or perhaps to anyone else in the US, but the situation is what it is. I still prefer earning $12 per hour to earning nothing, and ending up on the street. In such circumstances, the desired salary doesn’t really matter in my view. But I also believe that I can eventually grow in the company, and earn much more over time, perhaps even the number I secretly desire.
  4. The number I have on my mind is 100K annually. It’s a magical barrier, the six figure salary, something I’ve been aspiring to achieve for a long time. Now, having worked as a project manager for twelve years, and accomplishing all I’ve accomplished in my former roles, I believe I am worth such a salary for my next employer. But of course, I am also aware that you have some budget for the position, and would love to hear your thoughts on the salary you can pay me.
  5. $20 per hour is my desired salary, but it doesn’t mean that I won’t accept a lower rate at the start. I try to see the bigger picture. Without a doubt I will learn a lot in this job, and work with some amazing people. What’s more, I can have a positive impact on lives of other people, and that’s something you cannot buy with money. That’s why I am definitely open to negotiations, but if I should say what my desired starting salary is, I would go with $20 per hour, plus benefits.
  6. My desired salary is as much as you are willing to pay me. Now it doesn’t mean that I am greedy, or the only thing I care about is money. But you must understand that as an engineer I get many offers, plus I have a young family I want to provide for. And while I love what you do in your company, and find your engineering projects incredibly interesting, I will have to look elsewhere if your offer is not competitive and does not reflect the situation on the employment market, and the high demand for mechanical engineers.
  7. To be honest, I prefer to start with a lower salary. Because I want to show you first what I am capable of, what results I can deliver. Let’s start with $2000 per month, the bare minimum. But let’s make the agreement in the way that my salary will grow in direct proportion with the results, with the business I manage to bring to your company. I aspire to become the best salesman in your team, and because of that I want to be compensated according to my results. What are your thoughts on this compensation model?


You should be always open for discussion

We do not have to get everything we desire in life. I would love to date Tiril Eckhoff, or Simona Halep, but it’s not going to happen :). Still, I can express my thoughts, just as you can express your thoughts in an interview. But you should always be open for a discussion, because at the end of the day, even if the hiring manager wanted to give you as much money as you desire, they might not be able to do so.

Hiring, like everything else in the corporate world, has some allocated budged. They most likely have a budget for the position, and they won’t be able to pay you more–or at least not significantly more, because certain budget adjustments can always be negotiated.

Give them some room to talk and express their thoughts. And remember that corporate career is a long distance run. The fact that they cannot offer you your desired salary at the moment does not mean that you won’t earn it in a year or two from now, once you prove your skills and bring some value to your employer. In such a case you may earn even more than you desire…

Have something to backup your claims with

It would be nice earning $50/hour for flipping burgers or frying chicken wings. But you can hardly desire so–unless you want the hiring managers to laugh out loud. When all other people having the same job earn $10-$12 per hour, you are not going to earn much more…

Be realistic. Do your research. Understand what’s going on in the market, and how much do people with similar job titles earn in the area. Come to the interview prepared, armed with information. It is much easier to convince them to offer you more than they originally wanted (or at least to consider such an option), once you can backup your claims with real numbers from the employment market.


Salary isn’t everything

The job you have shouldn’t be just a means to an end. A means of surviving, or meeting your basic needs, or buying a new car every few years. That’s a sad situation to find oneself in. What is more, money isn’t the only thing you earn in the job.

You always earn experience, meetings with new people, skills, and perhaps also a good feeling from doing a job with a meaningful purpose, or simply from providing a great service to the customers. Money cannot buy happiness. Actually the suicides are more common in richer neighborhoods, as several studies have proved. So keep it on your mind while talking about money in the interviews.

Maybe it is better to earn less but have a job you really enjoy, one in which you grow as a person, or one in which you do not spend 90+ hours a week, than earning fortunes but feeling miserable for what you do, or having no life outside of work, simply because you are always working…

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

Matthew Chulaw
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