How to Answer Salary Questions in an Interview in 3 Steps

The number 3 on a green background.

Negotiating a salary is like walking a tightrope. You have to learn how to answer salary interview questions, to know the value of your labor, and to negotiate for yourself. Without balancing all of those factors in your salary requirements answer, you could end up accepting less than you are worth, or even lose the job offer. But like walking a tightrope, learning how to handle salary interview questions is just another skill that can be acquired with some research and practice.

Step 1. Do Your Background Research

Answering the "how much salary do you expect" interview question is about forming rational expectations. It’s difficult to form salary expectations before you understand the responsibilities involved with the position. So first thing’s first; take the time to thoroughly research the job in question, the company, and even the industry.

If a job posting doesn’t mention a salary, guide your estimates with online resources like Glassdoor, to help you investigate what similar companies are paying. But don’t take these figures as gospel because salary is also heavily impacted by experience and geographic location.

Step 2. Determine Your Salary Range Requirements

After you’ve formed some realistic expectations from your background research, you’re one step closer to knowing how to answer salary expectation questions. But averages can be misleading because we’re all uniquely experienced individuals. And developing salary expectations for internships can be particularly challenging due to the nature of the work.

In order to determine your salary range requirements, you’ll have to consider your experience, education, and additional value you might have that would make you a uniquely qualified candidate. Weigh anything about your experience that might give you leverage in the negotiation with your employers, including soft skills as well as hard skills and any certifications.

Step 3. Prepare for Pushback and Follow-Up Questions

Hiring and retaining employees is expensive. In any negotiation, employers are going to try and get the best deal for themselves. Even if the salary figure that you propose is identical to what the employer typically pays their employees, they may attempt to negotiate a lower price.

Your ability to push back depends on several factors, especially the number of applicants and rate of turnover for the position. Jobs with high turnover and numerous applicants may make forming a salary requirements answer more difficult.

But knowing how to present yourself as a uniquely valuable candidate, or being in-contest with a few other applicants, can give you more leverage. For the same reasons, negotiating your desired salary for internships can be particularly difficult, mostly due to the fact that they call for less experience and applicants are often in high competition with others.

Prepare to Ace Your Interview with MyPath

Answering a salary expectations interview question can be tough. Knowing what you are worth is an important starting point, but it’s equally important to be flexible in your expectations unless you’re willing to walk away from the offer. It also helps to learn more about crafting an effective post-interview follow-up email, and to brush up with some more interview tips from MyPath’s Blog.