Interview Insights | Interview Question: What are your salary expectations?

What are your salary expectations?

There are a few great ways to approach this question as well as lame ones. The best way to tackle this question begins with your expected financial contributions to a firm. The worse way to respond to this question is with silence. This question takes as much self-awareness as it does your ability to research prospective salary ranges in your local market.

Here is how you can think through both ends of the spectrum to land on a comfortable salary range:

Current situation

  • What is your current salary verses what are your current financial contributions?
  • What is your current location and job title?
  • What is your current expertise i.e. are you a thought leader?
  • What is your base salary and what about your benefits, bonus opportunities, intangible perks?
  • What is your current bosses’ salary?
  • How many direct reports do you have?
  • How big is your budget?
  • How much do you travel?

Prospective situation

  • What are your prospective financial contributions in that new role?
  • What is the new job title and location?
  • Does your current expertise translate to the new role?
  • Think about your benefits, bonus opportunities, intangible perks.
  • What do you think your prospective boss is earning?
  • How many direct reports will you have?
  • How big will your budget be?
  • How much will you travel?

Once you evaluate these questions then come up with a 10–15K range that you think is fair given your prospective situation.

Assume the following:

  • You will earn this pay for five years
  • You will be offered a number on the lower end of that range
  • You likely are not fully versed on your prospective new set of responsibilities

This is an example of how you can articulate your homework, range, and invite a prospective interviewer to talk further.

My current annual compensation is $200K. I currently manage 3 directors. I own a $5M budget. Throughout the last several years, I’ve contributed to considerable cost savings as a result of my efforts launching our co-sourcing relationship with Tata. Additionally, my salary includes a bonus potential, free lunch, and extensive health benefits that are harder to quantify. As I understand this role, I would manage 5 VPs, own a $10M budget, and have the opportunity to earn a hefty bonus based on my performance in turning around our plateaued sales. While considering this increase in scope of responsibilities, I’ve done some research and came up with $235K-$250K as a fair salary range. Of course, I’m open to learning more about the role to ensure that I’m clear on your expectations as that is precisely how I came up with my desired salary.

The key insight is that you state a fair range based on what you know to date and reinforce that this range is based on facts not emotions. In the end a company has to earn a return on their investment in talent so expect to own a budget that is considerably less than your base pay.


Melissa Llarena’s craft is coaching top executives on how to strategically dissect and deliver the perfect job interview. Get instant access to a 20-page interview preparation kit that will give you an edge. Join the thousands who’ve read her career insights in Forbes and The Huffington Post. Follow her at @CareerOutcomes.