How to answer 'What are your salary expectations?'

Questions around minimum salary expectation sound simple, but in reality it can be difficult to structure your answer in a way that convinces the hiring manager that you’re the right person for the role, while also ensuring you’re satisfied with the remuneration on offer.

As is so often the case, the key to answering it lies in understanding the meaning behind the question. Typically, your interviewers will ask about your annual salary expectation for one or more of the following reasons:

  • They want to know that you understand your value. One element of interview preparation is to assess the market and figure out how you compare to other candidates. That should give you an indication of how much people at your seniority level should expect to earn. So, if you can’t answer this question adequately, it’s a surefire sign that you haven’t done your homework.
  • They want to gauge your seniority. If your minimum salary expectation is significantly higher than other candidates they’ve interviewed, this is an indication that you are simply too experienced for the role.
  • They want to know they can afford you. Every hiring manager has a budget in mind. If candidates are consistently asking for higher salaries than they expected, they may have to request a higher budget or reconsider the job specification.

How to answer salary expectations: UK examples

Just as there are several potential reasons why interviewers might ask about your annual salary expectation, there are lots of ways to answer the question.

None of these approaches is “better” or “more correct” than the others. At Michael Page, we always recommend planning at least two potential responses. That way, you can assess which answer is most appropriate given the tone of the interview.

With that in mind, here are three ways to answer questions around minimum salary expectation:

Provide a salary range

Too much specificity can be a bad thing when discussing salary expectations. Rather than giving an exact figure, it is often easier to give a range of potential salaries. Before coming up with a salary range, it’s important to bear two things in mind:

  • Don’t offer too broad a range of salaries. Try to keep your range relatively compact, with a variance of around £5,000.
  • Hiring managers may aim for the lower end of the scale. So if you have an “ideal” figure in mind, ensure it’s closer to the bottom of your salary range than the top.

💡 Example answer

“Based on my experience and skill set, I’m looking for a salary of between £30,000 and £35,000. Benefits are definitely important to me as well, so if they were especially attractive, I’d be open to something at the lower end of my salary range.”

Reverse the question

Sometimes, the smartest way to offer a minimum salary expectation is to flip the question and put it back on the hiring manager. In other words, when they ask how much money you’re looking for, you ask what range they have in mind for the position.

Assuming they’re able to respond with a figure (or salary range), this gives you two potential follow-ups:

  • The salary is in line with your expectations (or even higher), in which case you can tell them you’re happy with the salary.
  • The salary is below your expectations, in which case this is definitely the time to tell them. Remember, there may still be scope for negotiation (more on this in the next example answer).

💡 Example answer

“Rather than giving you a figure myself, I’d be interested to hear what salary range you had in mind for a candidate with all the skills and experience you’re looking for.”

Offer room for negotiation

Bear in mind that you don’t need to finalise your minimum salary expectation during the interview. Instead, you can answer the question in a way that opens the door for further negotiation.

This is a sensible approach. After all, the charged atmosphere of an interview isn’t necessarily the best place to make a reasoned decision about something as important as remuneration. If the hiring manager believes you are the best person for the role, and has a broad understanding of the salary you’re looking for, it’s perfectly fine to leave the finer details until a later point.

💡 Example answer

“Ideally, I am looking for a salary of £45,000 – £50,000 per year. However, I’m potentially open to discussing this further based on the benefits and bonuses you’re prepared to offer.”

What's next?

Got a big job interview on the horizon? Don’t leave your preparation to chance. Explore the vast catalogue of job interview tips in our career advice content hub, where you’ll find guidance on everything from identifying your strengths and weaknesses to explaining where you see yourself in five years’ time.

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