3 BEST Expected Salary Responses


Your Salary: “What’s your expectation?” Answered Here

The problem:

What is your expected salary? Coming into my master’s program from a startup, I didn’t have one, but if I did, I can guarantee you it wasn’t very high.  

So how to handle this question when it comes up? The short answer is this: expect at least the “market rate”.

Mrs. Market (the job market) is not kind to people who feel like asking for less than they are worth.

The job market rewards winners.

When does this question come up?

It might occur right there on your application. It could come in an interview. 

How to respond to this question?

This is a very clever question posed as a test of your “street smarts”, a test of your maturity in negotiating professional or business topics. 

In traditional negotiation strategy, there is a saying: “the first person who says a number loses”.

Here’s how to apply that: answer this question in a way so that you don't give them a number right away. Instead, give them a range.

A big reason not to get too stuck on a number is this: components of your compensation OTHER than the expected salary are significant, too.  

Salary might even be a minor portion of your total compensation. Given all of the other benefits, to take salary alone and negotiate is risky. 

Research your salary

Before this question comes up, go do some research. Folks that don't do any research, go do some research, find out what the expected salary range is for this business for this particular role. 

If we were to go on to say the internet together here, and I share my screen, we might end up, let's see if I come in here and go to payscale.com.

I would want to go get a data point from payscale.com because it's free. You can price your job and can go find out what an expected range would be from payscale.com. You can get your report for say the range, the mid, the outliers for that particular region all free. And then you can go also to salary.com. 

I believe this is the website and there are some others, but salary.com also will allow you as the job seeker to go identify what is an appropriate range to answer this question by not getting caught on the spot. 

Go into a conversation like a review knowing what the particular range might be for this role, this title, this level of education in this city  - know that range. 

Try out these verbal responses

Then when they ask you, “Hey, what is your expected salary level?” 

You can have a variety of responses, but it is the first one that I recommend is number one, “I am familiar with the range of salaries for this particular role and I'm comfortable being within that range”. Then you just stop talking.

If they say nothing more and they just check the box, then you move on. It's that simple.

“I've looked at the range of salaries available for this role and I'm comfortable working within that range.” 

That's it, nothing more.

Let that be all you say, and then if they press you on that topic, you can let them know:

“I have had a look at the range of salaries, and I am sure that if you conclude that we are a good fit, we can work out what that expected salary should be if you decide to extend an offer.

If they press you on that further, you could give yet another variation on this answer, which is to say:

“I am familiar with the range of salaries for this role, but I also know that salary is just one component of the compensation and that you see what all of those compensation areas may be. So I would leave it to you to put that kind of a package together”. 

The old truth about negotiation

To sum up, if they say, “what is your expected salary?” Don't give them a number, give them a response that reflects that, you know this truth: the first person to say the number usually loses.

Now, if you say a number now, typically a company is not going to play games and try to underpay you. 

If they're a reputable company, they're gonna pay you within that salary band for that role anyway, but there's no reason to give up compensation and there's no reason to get rejected just based on a number that you give because you want the experience, too. 

What was the salary level in your last role?

Now, if someone asks you what your last historical salary was, then you give a number. This is another aspect of this question about salary, but note that it is not asking about your expectations. And this can be a little bit nerve-racking. 

If you didn't work in the US before or only had unpaid internships, the compensation regimes can be different and salary levels can vary greatly. If you get asked a question, you just give them the answer. Do be straight with them, because the question is a simple one, and you are not afraid about getting paid what you're worth - with is within the market range for your next title, industry, location, and years of experience. 

Come to that salary negotiation having done some research. Identify what the expected range of salary is, and if you're happy to be within that range and or above the average, then you're good. And that's what you should shoot for. 

Now, in one of my previous roles, I was asked what my past salary was in terms of trying to price my current role. And when I got the role, my past role salary was already at the top end of the range for the new role. And that's just how it worked out. And I was okay with that. I was okay, making the shift from one role to the next and retaining that income level. That's fine. 

Know what the range is for the market and be honest and be a little bit street-savvy, be a little bit street smart here and reveal information in a way that reflects that you understand this is a test. Don't end up shooting yourself in the foot or stub your foot by just blurting out a number - and resist the temptation to negotiate salary before you receive the formal offer. 

Just want experience and don’t care about salary?

Maybe you don't even care because you just really want to get in and get experience. But this approach tends to not work well. The market compensates people for their willingness to be at their best and earn the market rate. Suggesting you’d accept less puts your whole candidacy at risk. It signals a lack of confidence. 

In summary, don't give a number, give responses that reflect that you've done some research and you understand the range of salary and that you're happy with that range. Use payscale.com and salary.com to build your data set. Use the language I share above when asked how to respond in an interview. 


YouTube Video URL: https://youtu.be/08SWQ1GMxPE


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