Answer That Salary Question Right

By Kinexus on 05 November 2014

Answer Salary Question

‘So Mr Candidate, what are your salary expectations for this role?’


The next thing that you say can have a big impact on your life. I have seen a developing sense of mutual respect and trust shattered in this moment through ill conceived high/low ball numbers.

Preparing the correct response to this question starts days, weeks, or even months beforehand.

Get Advice

As with most things, the first step is to reflect and do your homework. Be clear about what your current financial situation is regarding incomings and outgoings. Speak to your family, accountant or advisor to understand what salary you need to meet current and planned obligations.

As to the salary that you want, I strongly recommend doing some research. Research doesn’t mean basing your sense of worth on what one of your mates at a barbie said he is earning in his new job. By all means speak to friends and people with similar skills and experience, but be very sure to understand what they are basing their numbers on!

Know What Else is Out There

Look into what roles for your skill set are being advertised online or in tailored salary surveys, and I would also recommend speaking to a recruiter – if you are able to identify one who genuinely understands your skill set and industry. Good recruiters are happy to just give advice.

Get a Salary Range

Before going for an interview, make sure that you understand what the salary range is, but try to resist the urge to assume that you are at the top of the bracket! If your expectations are outside of the range, then discuss this before the interview with the HR/recruiter contact, or you may just be wasting everybody’s time by going to the interview.

Now, back to the interview… A first interview is definitely NOT the right time to be throwing numbers about, for eitherparty. Having already established that the salary bracket is aligned with your general expectations, use this time to focus on understanding what the job is and what you can bring to it.

So, How DO You Answer That Salary Question?

If you are asked at this first interview, the response I recommend is something along the lines of:

‘Mr Interviewer, thanks for the opportunity for me to discuss the role with you. I would like to take tonight to think things through, and come back to you tomorrow with a number that I will be comfortable with.’

If pressed, you can also add, ‘I understand the salary range from speaking to … This aligns with my expectations, but I would hate to give you a number now, and upon reflection feel that it is not the right one.’

I give a mirror image of this advice to hiring managers I train in interview techniques, and for exactly the same reason.

The way you deal with this initial question can really set you up for a win. There will subsequently be a time to enter into discussion/ negotiation of an exact salary, but we’ll save that subject for a future blog.

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